In a review of Simon Hoggart’s Life’s too short to drink bad wine: 100 wines for discerning drinkers, the blogger By George (WINE, FOOD, CRICKET, ART AND OTHER UNIMPORTANT THINGS) makes the point “I have always believed that it is better to read somebody who knows a bit about wine and can write well than somebody who knows a lot about wine and cannot write. There are too many of the latter” as the Grape communal blog confirms on a bi-monthly basis when the site is updated.
Simon is wine writer for the Spectator magazine and famously once the fourth man in the bed of pregnant publisher Kimberly Quinn when she was having an affair with blind Labour home secretary David Blunkett and his seeingeye dogs Ruby, Teddy, Offa, Lucy and Sadie. SA wine writing is mighty tame by comparison. Last year Simon compiled a list of his top 100 wines and after following his selections for the Spectator Wine Club I was most surprised to see five SA labels in his recommendation. I’d feared a French clean sweep (an anti Fifa World Cup performance, if you like).
The chosen ones include Rustenberg John X Merriman (no wonder Johan “getwine” Wegner is mad for this Bordeaux-style blend), Warwick (twice! with the Professor Black Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage both getting the nod), Mulderbosch Faithful Hound (sold by not-so-faithful Hydro Holdings to American investors) and breaking the Stellenbosch mafia monopoly, Boela Gerber’s Groot Constantia Gouverneurs Reserve Chardonnay. 5% of Si’s favourites is probably about right as in 2009 the San Pellegrino Savants (under captaincy of the late, great Lannice Snyman) reckoned that SA was home to five of the world’s Top 100 Restaurants: Le Quartier Français, La Colombe, Jardine, Aubergine and Rust en Vrede. So the SA quota of hedonism sits squarely at 5%.
The San Pellegrino list of the sainted ones is a rare example of the marketing department of Nando’s Chicken missing a trick. In 2009, the world’s top celebrity chef was Ferran Adrià of El Bulli. Now Ferran is Catalan for Fernando which becomes Nando in Portuguese.
While Simon’s SA selection is safe but snoozy, what does send the eyebrows skyrocketing off the Richter scale is the absence of vintage. Are SA wines vintage independent? – certainly compilers of most restaurant wine lists would agree.