In irritating corrective mode

I can only too easily understand how you can get something wrong in an article – but how can you get wrong the very thing that was the basis for you writing the article in the first place?

Earlier this year, the Wellington area made a justifiable little song and dance because it had gained “independence” from the district of Paarl, of which it had been a ward. It became a district in its own right. Easy enough to understand, surely? So how does Classic Wine (the December-January issue, recently out) manage to have a splashing (not to mention clumsy) title for its article about this change: “Newly awarded: The ward of Wellington”? And it’s not just the title, the same basic mistake about Wellington being a ward is repeated in the article itself – along with, it should be said, quite a few others.

No, Classic Wine, Franschhoek and Tulbagh have never been “assigned as wards of the Paarl region”. Franschoek, yes, but Tulbagh was never included in Paarl district.  And no, it is not the “new status” that “allows Wellington producers to label their wines as ‘Wine of Origin Wellington’” – they could always do that, and many did. And no, Dr Perold was born at Dal Josafat in Paarl, not in Wellington…..

Oh dear, clearly the author of this article (apparently eight years in “the industry” and, among other things, “a qualified wine taster” whatever on earth that might mean) just doesn’t understand the basics of what she was trying to deal with in her over-enthusiastic, clumsily written puff for Wellington. She could do with acquiring a dictionary too, and learning, for example, the difference between “personal” and “personable”.

One of the good and interesting things that Classic Wine has done over the year of its existence is to make use of a whole range of new writers. But some are better than others, and some should, frankly, get a bit more practice, not to mention education, before venturing into print. And why doesn’t the magazine, if it wants to make use of non-experts and the sort of unprofessional person that gets things wrong, why doesn’t it employ someone who does know something about wine (and the English language) to sub-edit the articles before making an embarrassing fool of itself in this way?

Interestingly enough, Harry Haddon writes an article about the Wine of Origin system in the current issue – and that is (not surprisingly) an engaging, intelligent and well-informed read; Harry is always an asset. But the double-page spread map that accompanies his article is something of a mess. Not even very pretty, it seems to have been specially commissioned, and claims to draw info from the maps on the SAWIS website – but does so without evidencing much understanding of what is significant. Boberg is presented as a region of the same status as Breede River Valley, Olifants River, etc – which it is, but only for the minuscule production of fortified wines; for everything else the Boberg districts are part of the Coastal Region. The key to the silly map also puts Overberg in the wrong region – though the map gets it right.

A rather fascinating and well-researched article is Norman McFarlane’s recounting of the story of Lieberstein. Although, while I’m in this irritating corrective mood, I should point out that he – and Duimpie Bayly – are interestingly wrong in claiming that no variety has dominated a country’s wine production as much as chenin has dominated South Africa’s. Germany has a larger proportion planted to riesling (over 20%) than chenin’s current figure, and I suspect it once reached at least 30% before the days of Muller-Thurgau et al. And what about grüner veltliner in Austria, which is also about one third of total plantings there?  Sauvignon blanc in New Zealand represents, as far as I can work out from a bit of googling, something over half of the total plantings there – which puts Cape chenin firmly in its place.

Talking of Classic Wine writers, it’s good to see Christian Eedes at last represented in the successor to Wine, the magazine he was involved with for so long. Xtian snootily initially boycotted the present mag because of the modest fee it paid its writers – either he’s lowered his standards and swallowed his pride or he’s getting paid better by the mag than the rest of us hacks! He writes about the new regime at Klein Constantia (though somehow ignoring the grand bordelais gents from Anwilka who now have an ownership share) – but I’d bet a lot that he didn’t write the caption to a pic of a bottle of Vin de Constance describing the wine as “infamous”!

I wonder if the Czechs, Swedes and Frenchies now ruling these historic vineyards speak good enough English to realise that Classic Wine is saying that their pride and joy has a notoriously bad reputation, is detestable, etc….

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