MICHAEL FRIDJHON: Price is not a proxy for wine quality
Perceived rarity rather than intrinsic quality drives what you pay for a bottle of ‘icon’ wine
It’s been several years since I visited Vergelegen, long considered to be one of the country’s flagship wine estates, but I’m aiming to rectify this omission soon. There have been significant changes since Michel Rolland became the property’s consulting oenologist several years ago. Ahead of a visit, I thought I should sample the current releases — all blind and lined up against suitably positioned competitor wines. It’s always difficult to take an impartial view of what is in the bottle in the midst of the vaulted cellars.
It turned out to be a useful exercise, partly because it confirmed how good Vergelegen’s serious wines have become under Rolland’s guidance. They have mostly shed the faintly herbal severity that characterised the vintages from 2005 to about 2012. This has been achieved without an increase in alcohol levels, a tribute to a different vineyard management strategy and to Rolland’s role in assembling the cuvées. But the other (unintended) outcome of the tast...