Barney Simon & the beauty of the Night Zoo
Some insight into The Sommelier Selection Wine Awards 2017
Remember this guy?
The Night Zoo with Barney Simon was an institution. It was a late night radio haven for rockers, metalheads and goths alike. It was two hours of the purest high-energy, low-inhibition, almost-certainly-occultic smashfest that any young South African in the 90s could hope for.
But what’s fascinating about all this (and I know you were beginning to wonder) is that its recipe for success holds a lesson for both wine purveyors and wine consumers alike.
The Night Zoo was a success because no one messed with Barney’s mojo. Partly because no could be arsed, but also partly because station management knew that there was no one in deepest darkest Africa who spent more time tracking down, devouring, analysing, bootlegging, and sharing hard rock and metal music than Barney Frikkin’ Simon. No one. So who better to curate and promote the best of the best of the world of hard rock than that self-same late-night dubious Dobby-esque house elf of harmony? I know, right? No one.
It’s pretty obvious then – and should still be obvious today – that when you leave a single-minded passionate individual to pursue his passion unhindered, the results will almost always be spectacular (even if also occasionally creepy). And this is where The Sommelier Selection has gotten its recipe right.
Wine tips for the people, but not BY the people.
The Sommeliers’ Selection Wine Awards have understood that while every consumer desires great value in the wines they buy, it is almost impossible for said consumer to know whether or not they are actually getting the value they seek. Because to really understand the difference between good value and truly great value requires a heck of a lot of digging and delving and buying and bargaining and sniffing and sipping. It requires disdain for the social order, and a single-minded pursuit of the wine nirvana, at a bargain. In short, the wine industry requires a Barney Simon all of its own.
Save for loaded chronic alcoholics – and Mötley Crüe roadies – there be no brave souls with the budget, constitution, or inclination to do this job properly.
No one, that is, save for our trusty hero, Joakim Blackadder, Commandeur of Commanderie de Bordeaux en Afrique du Sud (and all-round BAMF), accompanied by his army of thirsty somms.
Like Barney Simon to hard rock – the embodiment of undying dedication to a cause – this team painstakingly assessed almost 400 wines across 18 categories, with the express purpose of evaluating a wine’s ability to deliver outstanding value to the consumer – far beyond what is simply deemed “fair” or “acceptable”.
Save for chronic alcoholics – and Mötley Crüe roadies – there be no brave souls with the budget, constitution or inclination to do this properly.Han, while drinking solo
Deciphering The Sommeliers Selection
At its core, the awards programme hopes to inform the customer whenever a wine exceeds the expected quality, given a certain price point. And just to restate it, this process is undertaken by professional sommeliers who, as a day job, are forced to constantly pit hundreds of wines against each other to figure out which products provide the best balance between profitability for their restaurant and drinking pleasure for their patrons.
The point here is that when a sommelier sees a price point, (say R60.00 per bottle) for a red wine, he or she has some very well-formed expectations, based on the fact that they have repeatedly tasted wines in that price bracket when drawing up winelists for their respective restaurants. The wines that make it into The Sommelier Selection are wines that, when only the price is made known, pleasantly surprise the sommelier concerned.
This doesn’t mean they have to be cheap, or expensive. But they do have to be suprisingly good value. Surprising even to a seasoned sommelier. And surprising enough to earn that wine a spot on the ultimate value-driven consumer friendly wine list.
Comparing apples with apples
But the beauty of #SommSelect doesn’t end there. Because the panel doesn’t just compare wines in the same price bracket, but takes into account style of production and flavour profile as well.
By breaking the list down into easy-to-understand categories, the competition not only acknowledges that some wines cost more to produce than others, but it also informs the consumer as to what sort of wines they can expect to enjoy.
Where you may have once told oneself, “I’m into red, not white” or – if you were feeling pernickety – perhaps you’d have professed your allegiance to “big heavy reds”, one can now talk more specifically about “Elegant & Classy Reds”, “Fresh & Crunchy Whites”, or “Full & Rich Whites” (also a demographic group).
Simply by creating the categories, the SommSelect list allows the consumer to better articulate exactly what they are looking for. Which – as any Sommelier will tell you – is a win for both diner and sommelier alike.
If you’re looking for some specific recommendations, here are a few of our favourites from the 2017 Awards ceremony.