Interesting to see Michael Fridjhon reminisce about his role in the Great KWV Flavourant Scandal of 2004 in Business Day last week, which reminded me of Spike Milligan’s incomparable Adolf Hitler: my part in his downfall. Alas, I promised former KWV CEO Thys Loubser I would let sleeping dogs lie after buying some bottles of tainted wine (which we were told was all destroyed) in Malmesbury Spar some years ago and writing about it, ad infinitum.
At the end of the day, flavourant issues shine the spotlight on authenticity. Wine is not the only artistic pursuit to come under investigation by the Authenticity Police. Famous former feminist Germaine Greer had some hard word for Aboriginal Art in the Guardian and declared a “pervasive anxiety that it might be a con.”
Seems that collectors require that a dinkum Aboriginal paint each one of the millions of dots on a dotty painting, while permitting Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Damien Hurst roomfuls of assistants to create their art. It’s just like insisting that the flavours in wine come from grapes and grapes alone whereas we cheerfully drink artificial flavourants in just about everything else. Not that the flavourants in the Great Sauvignon Blanc Flavourant Scandal were even artificial – green peppers (capsicums if you’re a snob) were the culprits and improved the taste of the wines they pepped up, no end. Would Hong Kong wine entrepreneur Paulo Pong detect a whiff of hypocrisy? I stumbled into Paulo’s dazzling champagne etc. store in Hong Kong last month, with mining mogul Michael Solomon in tow. ”Which is the best Champagne here?” asked the mogul and I replied Jacques Selosse. A choice confirmed by the inscrutable assistant, as the mogul is a sucker for a second opinion.
Scandals are definitely of an era. Some years ago, unlamented Wine magazine tried to magick up a scandal to increase sales by claiming unnamed winemakers were adding water to their wines to bring down swingeing alcohol levels. A sort of a reverse wedding at Cana, if you will. Such allegations must have brought a smile to the lips of Erica Platter (the prettier half of the local wine writing franchise) who frequently adds water (in the form of ice) to her glass. But O tempora! O mores! as Cicero was want to say. Water is now a permitted additive.