As SA wine becomes increasingly and perhaps unavoidably politicized, its worth considering pressures on that silent constituency: the winemakers. At a splendid lunch at Societi Bistro yesterday of pork neck and brocolli soup with final year Elsenburg student Adriaan van Ellewee (below) to discuss August’s Wagu & Wine fundraising lunch and auction at Alan Pick’s The Butcher’s Shop & Grill, the state of the national cellar came up for discussion. Adriaan and his colleagues are resucitating the annual Elsenburg Auction, last held in 2005, to raise funds to send 22 students to France for an end-of-year study tour. A worthy cause, if ever there was one, if SA wine is serious about breaking out of the “cellar palate” death spiral to start focusing on wine styles the rest of the world is buying.
Relying on e- rather than voicemail has one disadvantage when traveling overseas: huge backlogs of messages, many deleted by your service provider – in my case MTN – as they exceeded their lifespans, like perishable foodstuffs in Woolies. What fresh rubbish is this? Buy another hard drive MTN and save them all! After the trip to Portugal to taste wine for Anbibal Coutinho’s People’s Guide, the messages were from BMW (the Big Man of Wellington wine), relating how the WOSA dirty ops manager (sorry “communications director”) had attempted to blackmail the appellation into cutting ties with yours truly after Uncorked blew the whistle on their self-serving porky pies claiming bottled wine exports “showed a positive trend” in the first three months of 2012, when they actually continued to fall off the cliff. Like WOSA’s credibility.
A Brumby is a free-ranging feral horse Down Under, but from the looks of the Brumbies player cradling the Balthazar of Viljoensdrift River Grandeur Merlot 2007 at a Wine Charity Auction at the yearling sales in Germiston last night, there is nothing feral about the Brumbies touring SA at the minute. Stabled at Monte Casino, let’s hope they are free-ranging, for the sake of the SA gene pool. The Merlot was knocked down for R5000 by racy auctioneer Graeme Hawkins, who makes Rael Levitt look like a rank amateur. If SARS had given Quoin Rock to Graeme, the SA University of Wine would be celebrating the end of the first semester already.
The UCT Top 20 poll of SA wineries as reported in the Mail & Guardian today speaks way more to the competence and conflicts of interest of the judges than in does about SA wine quality. The poll was solicited on the digital equivalent of a UCT letter head: sent from an academic e-mail account with a UCT office telephone number by a member of the staff of that institution – that infamous barefoot agent provocateur Tim James. I refused to participate for various reasons. If bag had a sense of humour, I’d say today’s poll was Sunday’s list and the real one would be revealed later.
Charles Banks, who used to manage the money of basketball players in the USA, uses Jerry Maguire-speak to describe the future of SA Chenin and calls it “a game changer.” In fact he calls the whole SA wine game “delicately poised” and remarked over a cornucopia of gourmet pizzas on just how badly the stuff is marketed overseas.
Auctions are flavour of the month in SA wine with Rael Levitt from Auction Alliance a major force. As he mentioned before knocking down Quoin Rock to Wendy Appelbaum late last year “I want no funny business. You’re dealing with the Cape Town mafia.” And as one interested party noted wryly “he wasn’t joking.” Another auctioneer well acquainted with the wine business is Stephan Welz who knocked down the Nederburg Auction a couple of times.
Is Saturday’s Quoin Rock deal about to unravel? While auctioneer Rael Levitt may tell radio jocks he’s fighting off gazumpers like crazy, was there even an underbidder in spoeging distance when the hammer fell on Wendy Appelbaum and registered bidder Dougie de Jager for 55 big ones? It seems unlikely to have been Shoprite Whitey (in spite of media reports of him offering 50 bananas) who was nearly blown off his feet when he visited the property – and he’s no lightweight. And it wasn’t Dave King.Read More…