A little more than 20 years ago an Australian wine show organiser came up with the idea of a Tri-Nations Wine Challenge, timed to coincide with the southern hemisphere rugby competition of the same name. It was hosted in Sydney, with one representative from each country charged with assembling their submissions and all three judging them together. None of us was paid: our treat at the end of the three days was a slap-up dinner at Sydney’s most famous restaurant — an oriental fusion food culinary icon called Tetsuya’s.

To say that SA finished third (rather than last) in those first few years is to put a Fikile Mbalula spin to the facts. We won virtually no best-in-class trophies and our overall points tally was an embarrassing distance behind the country finishing second. Not all of this was attributable to the wines themselves: the Kiwi and Aussie judges inevitably preferred certain similar styles. It wasn’t a matter of prejudice — just familiarity — but it hurt SA’s chances, ...

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