South Africa scores an upset in Semifinal A
Semifinal A started with a bang as we opened bottles of bubbly to celebrate reaching the first Semifinal of the series. True, they weren't French or South African bubbles, but since we had a full contingent of judges to pack into my kitchen, it seemed appropriate (or probably necessary) to get everyone relaxed enough to squeeze in and get cozy before official proceedings began.
Some of our wines had left lasting impressions when they last performed in Quarterfinals A & B, and again the wines polarised the judges.
Once the Semifinal was truly under way, we started as usual with light whites. France's Mas Peuch Picpoul drew very different opinions from our judges, with some saying "light and fresh" and others simply "Yuk! But nice label." Competing against the Picpoul was South Africa's Iona Sauvignon Blanc. Here the comments were more consistent, with the judges saying "fruity smelling", "goes well with goats cheese" and "more flavoursome".
Our second white round saw La Baume Voigner go against Front Row's Chenin Roussane. The Voigner drew comments like " clean, fresh taste", "effervescent" and "nice and round", while the Chenin Roussane was judged as "crisp" and "young and affordable".
Without further ado, we cracked open the reds, starting with France's Domaine de Caribiniers (Lovely, so frickin delicious, the love of my life" wrote one judge) versus South Africa's Niel Joubert Pinotage ("nice dark plum colour, fruity smell"). Then out came the big guns, with a Chateau Barade Bordeaux against Simonsig's Cabernet Shiraz. "Yum!" and "Yum" wrote one judge for both wines, while others were slightly more discerning, commenting that the Bordeaux was "smooth, full bodied, dry" and the Cabernet Shiraz was "dry and fruity" or simply "dry as feck!"
I think it's fair to say that we all expected France to dominate. But revisiting these wines proved to be a whole new experience for most. In fact two of our judges couldn't call it and scored both countries evenly when the final scores were tallied. South Africa came out tops with only one more vote than France. We were so horrified we had no choice but to drown our sorrows in the last remnants of the wines on offer, and then go to Black Ivy to find more remnants to assist with this process…