Wine tasters fly the flag for SA

Team South Africa in Provence, France earlier this month after taking sixth place in the fourth Wine Tasting World Championship. They are, from left, team captain Anita Streicher Nel, Heidi Kritzinger, Stephanie Wiid, Dean Ehrlich and team manager and coach Jean-Vincent Ridon.

Somerset West resident Anita Streicher Nel recently returned from her second Wine Tasting World Championship in Provence, France, where she captained Team South Africa to sixth place in a daunting line-up of 21 countries.

“Our team consisted of four members – Fairview winemaker Stephanie Wiid, Kanonkop administration manager Heidi Kritzinger, Johannesburg attorney Dean Ehrlich and me,” said Anita, the marketing manager at Morgenhof Wine Estate outside Stellenbosch.

The team was selected after regional tasting events in Johannesburg and Cape Town, and a national final blind tasting at The Taj Hotel in Cape Town, which identified a pool of 10 top-flight tasters, from which the final team was selected.

Team coach and manager, Jean-Vincent (JV) Ridon, organiser of the event in South Africa since 2013, played a pivotal role in preparing the team for the competition, according to Ms Nel.

“Once our team was finalised, it was JV who really coached us well from there on and exposed us to as many international wines as possible. We tasted a lot of wines once we landed in France, and JV really made us practis e hard in the days before the competition.”

The competition is open to anybody who enjoys wine – no experience is necessary. What does count, according to Ms Nel, is palate memory.

For each wine tasted, you must identify the grape variety, vintage, appellation, country of origin, and producer, a daunting task by any standards.\

“In the initial selection process we tasted some wines sighted, and then had to go into a room where 12 of them were given to us blind.

“The second selection process was more difficult, no practice run, just 12 wines blind and around 10 minutes per wine,” Ms Nel said.

Team South Africa scored 92 points, coming a credible sixth, behind the likes of France, America, Belgium and Andorra, but the surprise first place went to China, with 106 points overall.

“The fact that China finished first, is incredible news. It shows that the world of wine no longer belongs to traditional countries,” said Mr Ridon.

“South Africa’s achievement shows that we have talent, even if it is difficult for us to access most of the wines of the world, and visit other wine countries.”

He thanked everyone for the support during the preparation and practice in the run-up to the championship.

“We have been greatly inspired by so many people on our journey. Although it was a very tough contest this year, each member of the team brought their invaluable skill and experience to the table, which I believe secured us the sixth world ranking,” Ms Nel concluded.