“Legendary” firsts

Time for another installment in the tawdry story of the wineries that in one way or another publish claims about themselves that are not true. That they should certainly know are not true … that they surely DO know are not true. Mentioned already are De Waal’s claim to have produced the first “Cape blend” (the website still carries this misinformation), and the Two Oceans that are not two oceans at all.

How about “the first South African estate to specialise in red wine”? Do you have a good idea of which that might be? I’m far more sure about which it is not, and definitely on that list is Rust en Vrede. Yet this claim is made very prominently on their website. Where did they get the idea?

Perhaps they don’t keep records – or perhaps they don’t think anyone else does. But simply a copy of the first edition of the Platter Guide (published in 1980) tells enough. There, clearly listed, is a certified  Rust en Vrede Chenin Blanc 1979. By the 1983 edition the Chenin has disappeared, which puts the date of R&V’s red specialisation in the early 1980s. But at the time that they were still producing Chenin there were numerous other producers already going strong with only red wines: Middelvlei only had a Pinotage, as did Jacobsdal; Meerendal, Alto and De Zoete Inval each had just two reds; Allesverloren was red-only, Landskroon had quite a range of reds and no white (according to Platter); Kanonkop was then reds-only (though soon to introduce some whites). And most of these wineries were around specialising in red wines well before Rust en Vrede produced their first wines at the end of the 1970s.

So where did R&V get the idea they were pioneers of red specialisation? Isn’t it about time they discreetly removed the claim if truth means anything to them at all?

On the subject of red pioneers, someone who must know that he is peddling an untruth is Giorgio dalla Cia (isn’t it odd how it’s often eminent people and producers who have a great reputation already who seem to feel the need to pad things out with
misinformation?). The Dalla Cia website says of Giorgio that he was the “originator of the very first Bordeaux-style blend in South Africa (Rubicon)”. Now, if the meaning of “first” has any meaning in this context it must be the first such wine to have been commercially released (otherwise there might well have been dozens of unreleased ones made before). The first Bordeaux-style red blend made here was the Welgemeend 1979. Meerlust Rubicon’s maiden vintage was 1980.

Giorgio’s website modestly calls him a “legendary winemaker” – and “legend” is perhaps about right. A bit of history might serve us better than legends, though the sad thing is that if all these people persist in telling fibs and don’t get challenged, others start believing them.

If anyone out there knows of other untruths in the Cape wine industry that need to be exposed, please let me know.

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