Veritas 2013: Brandy Bloopers?

Let’s be clear about something up front. I have yet to find a South African Potstill brandy that I really do not like. That said, there can be no doubt that some are superior to others, and generally it is the job of the Wine and Spirit Competitions to set them apart at the highest level.

Rated through the well honed eyes of highly experienced and skilled judging panels, our top brandies undergo extreme scruitiny at Veritas and other shows. Which is why in most instances, top awards generally do find there way onto top products.

And for the most part, it looks like this years Veritas awards delivered again. Stunning brandies rightly being awarded in the highest order.  That is, apart from one – not insubstantial – anomaly. Both the KWV 15 and 20 year old brandies only managed to crack silver medals in their potstill category this year.

Veritas 2013: a note on categories

Judging for brandies takes place in a number of age related categories. Age undefined, 3-8 years, 9-12 years and 13 years +. Which is probably my biggest gripe when it comes to the announcement of results, as no category is given with the announcement.

Comparing apples with Apples

The importance of the category announcement along with the award is vital for the results to make sense. To put it another way, one of the 7 double gold medals was awarded to Flight of the Fish Eagle. Undoubtedly a super potstill, and more than worthy of its accolade in the 3-8 year category.

But in the absence of that information, it appears as if it received a double gold medal in the same category as every other potstill brandy judged. Which is clearly not the case.

Back to the KWV question

Granted, palates are different. But scanning across the gold and double gold winners in the 13 years + category, it seems KWV really got a raw deal this year. Not that I would necessarily score any of the winners down, more over that KWV 15 and 20 year old really are on par with those gold and double gold winners. Gold at the least for the 20 year old, and certainly pushing double for the 15. Silver just doesn’t do them credit…

Given the high profile judging panel lined up for the Brandy section of the Veritas awards, its unlikely mistakes were made. And I certainly have much respect for the knowledge and experience of Dave Hughes, who chaired the panel. Which is why the final placement of these two stunning potstill’s is so baffling to me. More so given that the KWV 15 year old won the Worldwide Best Brandy trophy at this years ISC awards in London, and the 20 year took home a gold medal at the same show.

Brandy is new, and it needs new stickers…

I appreciate that brandy is a relatively new category at the Veritas competition. But unlike wine, a different recognition system is required for the category. On the wine front, varietals and blends are judged on that alone, the component grapes in their makeup. So it really is comparing like for like – a gold medal Chardonnay is pretty certain to be one of the better Chardonnay’s judged

But inside the potstill brandy category, results and awarded medals need to be published and advertised based on the age category they are judged in. Its not going to bother your connoisseurs to much, as generally these guys know the categories and judging process. But it will impact a more general consumer looking for a bottle of award winning brandy.

Bling blindness is real when it comes to selecting products from the multitude of quality that graces our liquor shop shelves. And its important that for these buyers, the judging process is reflected in the sticker on the bottle.

That way there can be no doubt, and the quality is being awarded and promoted exactly the way it is being judged.
View the official Veritas Brandy Press Release

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