This week’s Winery Owner of the Week [WOW] is Nathaniel Rothschild (below) whose stake in French First Growth and perennial Chinese favourite Château Lafite was valued at £400m in 2011 by the Sunday Times in their annual Rich List briefing for tax inspectors, kidnappers and the envious. Nat is in the news a lot these days as his battle against the beastly Bakries for control of Indonesian coal miner Bumi (a headline that could have been penned by that alliterating alimentarian Mr. Min) reaches a crescendo in London today.
After his Cape of Good Hope Altima 2012 Sauvignon Blanc from Elandskloof came top at Bartho Eksteen’s annual Sauvignon Blanc Celebration last month, Johann Rupert is asking his friends for Rennies, which should simplify the choice of Christmas present. For Johann used to be a notorious Sauvignon sceptic, preferring his Terra del Capo Pinot Grigio with a less acidic profile.
If the Rolling Stones can stroll their wrinkly bones around the sports stadia of the First World to celebrate 50 years of failing to get satisfaction, then surely Zanne Stapelberg (soprano), Hanneli Rupert (mezzo soprano), Albie van Schalkwyk (piano) and Johann Nel (reader) can take their Kersfees op La Motte show on tour to celebrate the festive season? Hanneli’s husband Hein Koegelenberg offered his services as tour manager and suggested destinations such as Riebeek-Wes (where brother in law Johann Rupert has one of his best vineyards on Riebeek River – if his current vineyards can deliver a 95/100 rating in Wine Spectator, the sky’s the limit when Riebeek’s River kicks in), Merweville (“maar sy vrou wil nie” as Hein joked) and Onseepkans on which Albie commented “no chance of soap at all, there.” The highlight of the Christmas concert was Stille Nag, Heilige Nag sung in German by Hanneli, English by Zanne and Afrikaans by the audience. The festive season was sung in on a high note last night on La Motte.
November was an interesting month for Johann Krige (below), that snoek braaing Harley-Davidson riding seigneur of Cape First Growth Kanonkop. The highlight came on Wednesday when Wine Spectator scored his Paul Sauer 2008 92/100 with the tasting note “dense and chewy, with damson plum, raspberry and cherry skin flavors wound together, along with a floral edge and an iron note. The long, savory herb-tinged finish has matured a touch, but is still vibrant and chiseled (sic) in feel and should unwind more with additional cellaring.”
Today’s winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Mo Yan (below), is a man Johann Rupert can work with. Shown puffing away merrily, Mo is the author of The Republic of Wine which has all the ingredients for an SA best seller/cellar: Yu Yichi a dwarf hotelier, a lady truck driver (no truck strikes in the People’s Republic!) and Li Yidou or “one-pint Li” a PhD candidate in liquor studies at Brewers College in Liquorland. Mo is clearly a man after Johann’s heart as the Rupert family fortune was founded on cigarettes while the closest SA comes to a Republic of Wine is Franschhoek, where the Ruperts are uncrowned royalty.
Prompted by @bohoparadox to write about WIETA (Agricultural Ethical Trading Initiative which somehow anagrams down to WIETA) I made some calls. With the fabulous Olympic Fairtrade Stellenrust wines of Tertius Boshoff making the front page of the Sunday Times, I wondered why the 35 registered Fairtrade producers (representing 40-50 growers) should pay twice to be ethical.
Ten reasons SA wine should take China seriously:
1. Tomatoes are regarded as fruit in China and are served as dessert along with apples, watermelon and giant sweet lemons. So all those tomato leaf characters of Stellenbosch Cabernets are positive features.
2. If it is not already, China is the largest wine consumer in the world, making it an obvious port of call for exporters.
Driving down to Inchanga yesterday to fetch two dozen Simon Stone paintings to photograph for a monograph Smac Gallery are planning on this master of colour, we passed the wrecks of two burnt out lorries and their containers. The nameless bureaucrats who destroyed the SA railways to such an extent that national roads are now tarmac railways with motor cars playing dodgem with these high speed goliaths, have a lot to answer for. Arriving in Cato Ridge, we received the sad news that Remgro CEO Thys Visser was killed in a head-on collision on the N1 outside Rawsonville; a Princess Diana moment. How is it possible that the CEO of one of SA’s largest industrial concerns is killed in a car or a Princess dies in a tunnel in Paris?
The news that COWPe shepherd, Hermann Böhmer, has quit comes as no great surprise. That it was broken by UK trade mag Just-Drinks is par for the course as the company is one of the top five exporters of bottled wine. What does shock is the admission by COWPe chairman Dave Price that “the company has effectively traded at a loss on average ever since it was created (in 2006). There have been significant impairments of operations in order to try to improve the trading results, but that’s never been effective. The shareholders have seen a significant deterioration in equity over that period. They were becoming more and more unhappy.” The understatement of the week.
So the pyramid scheme that owns 29% of Distell, the largest liquor corporate in SA by far, is to be semi-dismantled in the semi-Egyptian style. Holders of JSE listed CapeVin International (CVI) are to be offered 21 shares in unlisted CapeVin Holdings (CVH) which already owns 51% of CVI. CVH will then be listed on the JSE. The deal is confusing, not least as the second page of the SENS announcement preceded the first and was obviously compiled by a dyslexic merchant banker with CHV popping up in clause 6.1. Come on Chris (CVI chairman Otto), does anyone read these releases before they hit return on the keyboard?