Another year, another Franschhoek wine writing competition and as expected, another scandal. This time the winning entry appeared in a UK magazine – The World of Fine Wine – whose contributing editor, Andrew Jefford, was one of the three judges.
In fact, Andy wrote a couple of stories in the edition in which the winning piece, a faux touristico-historical recount of the well-known Vin de Constance PR opportunity, appeared, making it into the table of contents of the weighty organ, unlike the winning entry. Do letters to the editor count? Andy’s participation was publicized before entries closed, so clearly no blind tasting this, unless Andy recused himself?
I had planned to boycott (like last year when Tim Atkin was the judge from hell who trashed SA wine writers, calling them barely qualified fans with typewriters, before judging entries) but Marilyn Cooper, Principal of the Cape Wine Academy, beat me to it and entered on my behalf. I thought it churlish to refuse when the organizers asked if the game was on and besides, what a joke if the entry was my Sarie Kos invention of Zef Wine, which is reproduced below in translation from Afrikaans. Quite a change in style to the maiden aunt angst of the winner that I thought US judge Jay McInerney at least, might like.
Ducking charges of Sour Grapes, the real tragedy is that, like last year, the winning entry appeared in a foreign publication with less readership in SA than the journal of Architectural Marvels of Ulan Bator and at £40 a back copy, unlikely to become a best seller anytime soon. Is this really what the sponsors had in mind? And why must there always be suspicions of a scam? Is this an African thing? A Franschhoek (“sunny place for shady people”) thing? A fine wine thing? Other Franschhoek producers are unlikely to be best pleased.
Cape of Good Hope is a new brand from Anthonij Rupert Wines in Franschhoek. The range consists of a “Chenin blanc and Semillon from old vines while the Pinotage is from an irreplaceable block of unirrigated bushvines atop the Paardeberg. There is a Chardonnay from Elandskloof in Villiersdorp, Merlot from a tiny block on Parel Vallei Farmstead and Rhône red blends from special slate soils on our Riebeeksrivier farm to come.” The common denominator being the wines were made from the fruit of “almost 70 blocks of vines which are older than 40 years, with a few of them even older than 100 years.”
A friend of mine was offered a column on Tyler Brûlé’s organ Monocle but turned it down after hearing the pay. A bad mistake I thought until I browsed the March edition. Colonel Gaddafi is upgraded to General and we’re told that “sales to China of Argentine wines costing more than €160 a bottle” are up 233.6%.
So no surprises then that dynamic KWV chairman Thys du Toit has shuffled off the KWV dance floor although the sudden departure of sultry, smoldering director Phillip Retief and the election of Marcel Golding as chairman has broken an unwritten rule at the Paarl producer is that the chairman should hail from Bonnievale as the last three chairs did and Phillip does. That Phillip is brains behind the country’s top selling bottled wine, Four Cousins, made him better suited than most to chair the company.Read More…
One of the many mysteries in yesterday’s rearrangement of the corporate deckchairs on the deck of SS KWV, currently on maneuvers dodging icebergs in the North Atlantic, is who piggybacked their 1.44 million shares on Jannie Mouton’s sale of 21.788 million shares Zeder held in KWV Holdings?Read More…
How much? R100;
Where? Wine Concepts, Newlands 27 (0)21 671 9030;
Why? A cynic might ascribe the continued appearance of four year old Sauvignon Blanc on retail shelves to an inability of the industry to shift stock in a depression: Wine Concepts has stock of this Lomond lovely as well as the 2007 Crios Bríde that so impressed when launched four years ago.
From: Pick ‘n Pay Supermarkets
Why: While “cereal criminals” Pioneer Foods and Halewood Hearties fight for ownership of KWV, astute investors like Jannie Mouton and moi are gobbling up the real bargain of SA wine: CapeVin (which owns a handy stake in the most successful SA Bacchanalian business at the minute: Distell) and currently trades at a 20% discount on the JSE. My spirited script calls for Remgro, sitting on a pile of cash higher than Table Mountain, to take out CapeVin minorities and offer Distell to Pernod Ricard, taking a stake in the international booze conglomerate as payment. Remgro ruler Johann Rupert already has a French drinks business with the Rothschilds and another Gallic investment would fit nicely.
“Two skunks getting together and deciding to open a perfume factory” was one cruel bon-mot on the bombshell that Pioneer Foods plans to gobble up KWV Holdings for a rumoured R500m. The observation follows Pioneer’s widely publicized run-in with the Competition Commission for fixing the price of bread and the milling of mielies while KWV was founded to control the SA wine industry ninety plus years ago and was chief bad apple in the infamous green-peppers-in-the-Sauvignon-tank scandal of 2004. Although as one source later complained “we only added peppers to the show tank”, an admission which undermines the whole rickety foundation of the local competition circus.
Pioneer had to pay nearly R1 billion to clean up its dirty tricks, including R250m for an “incubator fund for small agrobusiness.” Which sounds an awful lot like the cash extracted from KWV to form SAWIT (the SA Wine Industries Trust) a decade ago. Let’s hope the cash doesn’t disappear, as seems to have happened at SAWIT.Read More…
This morning’s R32 billion bid for Massmart by the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, is good news indeed for SA wine. Over half of Massmart’s business is in food and liquor and the group runs over 290 stores in 14 African countries. Makro is the jewel in the Massmart crown and the supermarket chain has long been a leading wine retailer in SA.
The amaretto panna cota with blueberries and almond was served at 1am this morning. But not to me, as cosmopolitan blogger Clare Mack had issued a bread and dessert fatwa against fat and as the Monkees sang, “I’m a believer…” So my displacement activity was a glass of Senza Nome Moscato d’Asti and a chat to Gareth Robertson who handles wine marketing for l’Ormarins. Gareth tells me a whole host of single vineyard wines have been made from Johann Rupert’s various vineyards scattered around the various appellations of the Cape Winelands: a Chardonnay from Kaaimansgat, a Shiraz from Riebeeks River – anglicizing Riebeeksrivier, following the lead of Oranjerivier Wine Cellars who now call themselves Orange River Wine Cellars – Pinotage from the Paardeberg and something from Darling.
Confirming that SA fine wine is becoming increasingly multi-appellation and for a five star tourist destination like Franschhoek, increasingly global. Which sets the scene for last night’s Italian evening brilliantly designed and flawlessly executed by Mont Rochelle GM Erwin Schnitzler who curated (he studied history of art) a dozen Italian vinos to match an eight-course Italian tour-de-force (or rather the Italian equivalent) dinner conmprised of such delectables as asparagus risotto with quail egg and parmesan foam, kingklip with capers and poached veal with truffled polenta plus a totally excellent Pecorino crackling served with one of the dishes.Read More…