Memo to Adrian Botha
executive director of the industry association for responsible alcohol use
I was watching Africa Business Report on the BBC last night. The booze business in Botswana was featured and it was glum faces all round after the government imposed a 30% levy on alcohol, since raised to 40%. The largest beer distributor in Gaberone reports volumes down 30% while the Linga Longa bar downtown noted that premium brand patrons were buying down, bigtime. Quite how many punters have switched from commercial to homebrewed shibobos and skokiaan was not reported, but taxed teetotalism runs the risk of making the health problems alcohol can bring, even worse, as budget supplies are driven underground.
Perhaps a little finesse is called for and as cigar aficionado Theo Rudman used to say before he died of cancer “it’s not a question of smoking less but rather of smoking better.” Wine is a fortunate tipple in that alcohol levels can be reduced through careful site and cultivar selection as well as vini- and viticultural and cellar practices. Chatting to Gary Jordan at Paul Cluver’s fairytale wedding on Saturday, Gary called 2010 “the alcoholic vintage. Some of my friends made reds at 18% and I didn’t even know there were yeasts that could survive such alcohol levels.” As to adding water, Gary reports “we were given the green light to open the taps, but then halfway through the vintage, we got a letter banning water.”
But let’s leave technical issues to the technocrats and suggest another angle. A responsible drinking campaign targeted at wine drinkers requires a proactive rather that nanny-says-no approach, rewarding those wines that get it right. How about a case of six moderate alcohol wines called A Little Light Relief, perhaps, to showcase the pleasures of lower alcohols and to make the point that moderate alcohol does not have to mean weak and wimpy. As the ancients showed us in the eighties before the prophets of ripeness and profit started singing their Australian siren songs, full flavour, complexity and balance can be achieved at 12.5% and lower and the proof is available for tasting.
Use the case as a case study and show it at ProWein, VinExpo and the Soweto Wine Festival. Heck, go the whole hog and smuggle it into the “beer & biltong” get-together WOSA is planning at the London Wine Trade Fair in May, like a teetotal Trojan Horse.
My first candidate wine for A Little Light Relief:
LAM 2010 from Lammershoek (geddit?) is a cunning blend of Chenin Blanc and Viognier, but at an abstemious alcohol of 12.5% and a cellar door price of R55, this fruity beauty will make neither your wallet nor body, lam (paralyzed). The jaunty diagonal fin de siècle label is shades of Adi Badenhorst and a bottle bought now will be around long after Barack Obama, Julius Malema, Jacob Zuma and Sepp Blatter have relinquished their presidencies.
I think this is a great idea and should be suppported by the industry (retailers as well as wholesalers and producers). I am often asked to provide wine for functions but please can I choose something light…it’s so difficult to find anything!!! If there were an initiative like this I’d have no problem……
had a bottle for dinner last week at the newly opened Maria’s in Dunkley Square. It’s delicious. Any idea where I can buy a case?