Commissioned to write 1500 words on “global warming and the SA wine industry. How rising temperatures have affected wines and farming methods locally and what will it bring further” my thoughts have been somewhat focussed of late.
Although writing from a cold and rainy Cape Town, it’s hard to believe in global warming – especially when Peter Lilley writes in the Spectator that global temperatures are not increasing. “There is a legitimate argument that the world should phase out fossil fuels to minimise global warming. The power of that argument has weakened recently. Global temperatures have failed to rise for 16 years.”
Marketing meltdowns in Franschhoek and science aside, there is certainly a perception that the mercury is climbing. Jancis Robinson, to wine what Nana Mouskouri is to Greek music, opined on the weekend that “wine is one of the most sensitive measures of climate change” and that change is up when you read about increasing quality of English wine and those from Canada.
Lenin’s tomb reopened on Red Square yesterday after refurbishment due to water seeping into the foundations. Which was quite appropriate as towards the end of his life, Lenin became a mushroom due to overconsumption of fly agaric according to Russian musician Sergey Sholokhov. Could this be the reason behind the irrational behaviour of the trio of judges at the controversial Franschhoek Wine Writers’ Prize this year? They had transformed from mammal to fruit (below) as painted by Guiseppe Archemboldo.
Is the worm about to turn? Fiona McDonald, SA’s leading international taster with berths at the IWC, IWSC and Concours Mondial, reports that some of the UK’s fiercest Pinotage sceptics are having to eat humble pie washed down with Pinotage. As proof of this, a story on Aaldering Pinotage: straight, white and unwooded called Lady M in today’s De Telegraaf, the leading Dutch dead-tree newspaper (below), edited by the brilliantly named mnr. J.J.M Paradijs:
One of the biggest changes at this year’s Nederburg Auction is to the selection process with a couple of Masters of Wine and foreign palates (below, who dominate Auction video coverage in spite of having faces better suited to radio) added to form a “new look” old look all-white tasting panel of 10 (7 boys, 3 girls). The results will not impress cultural workers, feminists or Pinotage producers with Shiraz outnumbering Pinotage by 2 to 1 if you ignore historical lots from Oude Libertas and the brave ABSA Top Ten Pinotage selection. Which comes as no surprise, given the prejudice shown to the SA USP red cultivar by selectors like Brit “Dr.” Jamie Goode who infamously noted “Pinotage is vile” before going on to say some nasty things about the cultivar. Quite why such bigoted palates are still taken seriously is a mystery. If indeed they are.
What a week for Distell, the elephant in the national tasting room. On Monday CEO Jan Scannell drops R2.2 billion on Scotch. On Tuesday, Business Day calls them a “third world drinks company” and today they refocus the annual Nederburg Auction, biggest event on the wine calendar for four decades. Volumes of wines on offer crash 60% from 28,000 litres to 12,000 with the number of offerings from host Nederburg, SA’s largest premium lifestyle brand, nearly halve from 27 to 15. Confirming a marketing refocus which now concentrates on MasterChefSA and saturation coverage in airports. The event will still be held over two days (6 and 7 September) so proceedings should be less frenetic.
When will politicians realize they are not the main event? 30 minutes of my life could have been better deployed watching the entertainment (below) at the mayoral dinner for World Design Capital 2014 identities in the city hall last night, if the too-many speakers didn’t feel obliged to genuflect to protocol and list the various politicians present, in order of precedence.
A “curator’s immersion workshop” sounds ominously like a CIA-style debriefing involving waterboarding. So when I was invited to my first last week in the Fugard Annex (which sounds like a particularly tender part of my anatomy), I was relieved to have a defensible out, curating wine for Spar supermarkets in Stellenbosch. But with hindsight and a briefing PowerPoint, was sorry to have missed it, this being the first task as a newly minted curator for the World Design Capital 2014 jol which sees Cape Town, centre stage of global design for a year.
Budgets must be under severe pressure when the Nederburg Auction shares judges with the controversial Top 100 SA Wine Competition to select wines for the annual auction, as happened last month. Far better to have asked Mark Norrish (Ultra Liquors), Mark Robinson (Spar) and Mark Antony (Ancient Rome) I would have thought, as these are the guys who buy the stuff. Especially the Mark in Food Lover’s Market as Mark told me “these are the guys with the best retail offering.” No wonder they laughed off a R1.8 billion offer for the business five years ago from a competitor. If you can sell five bottles of Tin Cup wine for R100, you’re clearly onto a winning formula.
But Nederburg probably wasted their money as tasting is not even necessary these days. It all comes down to labels as the Platter guide confirms and Mike Veseth, Auction speaker last year, noted when he told assembled Marks “when I went to the local wine shop [in Washington State] with the most comprehensive selection of South Africa wines I found that 15 of the 16 wines on the shelf were ‘critter wines.’ ”
Poor Lucy Shaw, gaffe-prone hack for DB. After a fab freebee to SA for Cape Wine 2012, her hilarious attempt to pay back host WOSA by declaring then CEO Su Birch (did she or did she not quit yesterday?) 48th most powerful woman in wine was derailed by the shockingly sexist image (below) that had sisters and cross-dressers up in arms. Now her story on Oldenburg was sabotaged by the cheap, attention grabbing headline “OLDENBURG OWNER HITS OUT AT PINOTAGE.”
Three roast chickens from Checkers in Malmesbury (Spar birds were only available from 1pm, go figure) plus taramasalata, tzatziki, hummus and a potted Stilton from Long Clawson constituted lunch for twelve on Lemoenfontein yesterday. To drink, two bottles of Krone Borealis 2001 Rosé. Here are four of the lunchers.