Opinion, Rants, and Stories

Tim Atkin’s 2013 Classification



Well well well, isn’t his all exciting.

Tim Atkin MW has given us a little teaser this morning of his comprehensive 2013 South Africa report which will come out on May 31st, with this classification of South African producers  à la the famous Bordeaux classification of 1855. While he tweeted that most are familiar with this, I reckon many South African drinkers may be scratching their heads.

Basically the French, being the cunning wine marketers they are, decided that the fine wines of Bordeaux needed to be classified so the best wines of the region would be easily found by international visitors and brokers. The wines were ranked in greatness from first to fifth growths (crus). This classification has survived until today, to the point that first growth has developed a connotation outside of Bordeaux.

Enter Tim Atkin.  He has used this language to rank what he believes are South Africa’s top producers. South African wine people are all too nervous to attach these ‘first growth, second growth’ descriptors to our producers out of some sort of modesty, perhaps, even an inferiority complex. Atkin has none of this. He says:

Unlike that famous French classification, however, mine is based solely on quality not price, and will be revised annually. Clearly, this is my opinion alone, based on 23 years of visiting South Africa and tasting its wines. Let the debate begin…

Now Atkin is no Emperor Napoleon III, so his classification is more his opinion than anything else and will hopefully create some positive debate and acknowledgement of South African wines. This is good.  A big, sweeping hat-tip to you Tim.

My thoughts. Well the list undoubtedly highlights some of our finest winemaking outfits. There will be some noses turned up at the likes of Alheit, Porseleinberg and Savage Wines being ranked so highly despite having only produced one or two vintages. But I reckon Atkin is placing the wines he has tasted of those producers against all the wines he has sampled from the Cape over the years. Which, according to him is 26, nearly as long as I have been alive. Also, I agree, those three produce fokken kak lekker wines, so their place is deserved.

Warwick seems too high, KWV perhaps a little low, but on the whole a very interesting list, and a way of thinking that we need to adopt. A list of our top producers that worries more about quality than history, price, reputation, and gold stickers on the bottle.

We wait in baited breath for Pendock’s negative response.

You can get Tim’s list here


4 thoughts on “Tim Atkin’s 2013 Classification”

  1. “We wait in baited breath for Pendock’s negative response.” – that had me laughing out loud. I was genuinely thinking exactly that when I read it. Such a shame, a previously enthusiastic wine writer turned to piss and vinegar.

    Looking forward to clicking on that list Harry, thanks for highlighting its existence.

  2. I’m also not reading Pendock anymore. It’s soap opera material: all gossip and predictable plots (WOSA-bashing, Platter-bashing, fellow wine writer bashing). Maybe I’ll start reading again if the nastiness stops and he actually starts writing about wine again.

  3. Hi Harry. Thanks for the kind words. Glad it’s stimulating debate. I thought long and hard before giving high ratings to wines from producers like Alheit, Porseleinberg, Rall, David and Savage, all of whom are comparatively new operations. I just think they rock and deserve to be recognised as a big part of the future of Cape wine.

    I, too, stopped caring what Pendock thinks a very long time ago. A cross between Liberace and Sir Toby Belch…

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