Soon after my arrival in Peru last May I was asked if I could organize a container of South Africa’s finest wines. Positive in nature and bullish about South African wine as I am, I agreed to the task and immediately started sending emails to SA’s top wineries to engage them in exports to Peru. The selection ended up being a short list of South Africa’s Grand Crus, with a bit of local taste thrown in. As the list of interested people in Peru grew, so grew the list of wines ordered. We settled for eight different wines, which we believed to have stood the test of time, including a newcomer who had been tasted before by a friend in Lima. The list included the Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Rustenburg Peter Barlow 2007 and Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009, the De Toren Fusion V 2009 and of course Meerlust’s Rubicon 2007, and two Pinot Noirs, the Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak 2009 (would never omit this one from a list of SA’s finest) and the Crystallum Cuvee Cinéma 2011, both from Hemel en Aarde. By the way the Meerlust Rubicon was the only brand name known by my Peruvian friends, except for the Crystallum.
Powered by ABSA bank, it makes sense that the Pinotage Association at least should take the Wall Street Journal seriously. And the news that it’s Pinotage-doubting columnist Lettie Teague has seriously grasped the iron banana (so-called after tasting comments at the ABSA Top Ten Pinotage Competition over the years) has energized the Association.
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.”
That the Diesel 2010 Pinotage should trouser the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year crown for Anri Truter comes as no surprise, as the brand has form. It is a critter wine (check out the hound on the label) so should do well in the USA, especially today as they reach for something to toast another winner: Barack Obama who is partial to Portuguese water dogs (below).
That Malcolm Gladwell sure makes you think. His observation in the New Yorker last week “Tyler Cowen, the author of ‘An Economist Gets Lunch,’ argued recently that, out of the dozens of restaurants in Washington, D.C., that aspire to be first class, only five to ten really are at any given time. A restaurant can be great for its first three to six months—as the chefs and the owners strive to make the best possible impression on diners and reviewers” reminded me of a conversation with Anthony Hamilton Russell last month as we were judging ABSA Top Ten Pinotages.
Is SA wine serious about China? The list of 27 exhibitors at next week’s VinExpo in Hong Kong – or Hong Kok as my dyslexic friend Pinky calls it (with Bang Kong presumably the capital of Thailand) concentrates very much on terroir by truck wines. Commercial wines sold mainly on price.
Where are the terroir treasures, the Kanonkops, Vergelegens and Meerlusts? Not a single one of the controversial UCT Top Twenty wineries are attending, although UCT’s self-appointed professor of wine, Tim James, has at last done the decent thing and signed up for a non-UCT e-mail with which to communicate with the industry. Perhaps the Platter guide will send Professor Tim east to present this year’s 5* stunners in the next chapter of the unseemly commercial luv-in between the guide and WOSA, the exporters’ mouthpiece.
The Sanhedrin of SA wine expanded by 15 last night as the Commanderie de Bordeaux intronized the latest batch of Bordeaux worshippers at a glittering function at De Grendel. Sir David Graaff and De Grendel winemaker Chas Hopkins had a home team advantage and their Koetshuis CWG was nailed at the Bordeaux-style tasting afterwards by Arthur McWilliam Smith whose laser-like taste buds detected the serious Sémillon component, as did mining financier Gerard Holden who was amused to be addressed in the Afrikaans fashion: Gheritt rather than Jerard. He flew down to Cape Town from London yesterday, especially to join in.
As expected, the Weekend Argus had to back-track madly from last weekend’s Cape wine farm implosion story quoting François Malan and Johann Krige of Simonsig and Kanonkop respectively who denied their scoop. Wonder if I will receive an apology from the VinPro employee who accused me of “incompetence”, blasting me in bold type, nogal, with “can you really believe for one moment we would have stated something like this!?” But then shooting the messenger is a favourite sport in the Winelands.
Today’s Weekend Argus claims “Cape wine farms fight to survive” in a front page feature quoting producer representative VinPro which singles out Simonsig, Delheim and Kanonkop as three producers “in a serious predicament.” But rather than the financial squeeze occasioned by economic conditions, the serious predicament faced by producers is the amazingly incompetent PR skills of bodies such as VinPro, judged by pronouncements such as these, if they are correctly quoted.