I’ve learnt what the problem is with me, but how to account for the sheer awfulness of Distell’s latest pride and joy remains a puzzle.
Character failure first: Chris Williams, a quietly humorous man (and fine winemaker for Meerlust and the Foundry – no problems at all with his stuff!) kindly sent me a link to an article by Will Self, in the Brit magazine the New Statesman, entitled “I’ll tell you what’s wrong with Wetherspoon’s – it’s run by a man named Tim”. It scathingly tells of a chain of British pubs, and blames their awfulness on the name of their founder, one Tim Martin, who can “never escape the fact of his Timness”.
Introducing his scandalous diatribe, Self says firmly that “there’s little doubt that your life chances will be constrained should your otherwise risk-averse parents have had the temerity to Tim you”.
So, thus explained, I can revert to South African wines, some of which are in the league of the pubs Will Self loves to hate (the pubs being “shit, brown dollops of establishments smeared incontinently across our cities”).
Let’s start with a wine called Red Escape – or, if I allow marketers to dictate my typography, RED ESCape. (Marketers are big in this wine, but it’s the often slightly inadequate marketers of Distell involved, so not entirely convincing.) Apparently this drink is directed at trendy, wired young people, and was launched online and through what has come to be known, bizarrely, as “social media” (print, and even old-fashioned blogs, etc not being deemed “social”).
The wine comes from Stellenzicht, the Stellenbosch property which is a joint venture of Distell and Hans Schreiber, from which pours a lot of big, ripe stuff, and from which came, in a rare moment of glory, Stellenzicht Syrah 1994, made by Andre van Rensburg, and the first ever Cape wine labelled as “Syrah”.
Red Escape also has some shiraz in it, along with pinotage, but there the connection ends. I have rarely tasted such unappealing stuff. Very ripe, with dead fruit into which some acidity has been injected in a vain attempt to give it a bit of life, but no real flavour at all – just thick, dreadful sweetness.
I must, being immensely fair-minded despite my unfortunate name, admit that there are people who like it. Or at least quote the press release to that effect. I know, as I’ve just been aghastly googling the wine, and ended up in all sorts of places I don’t normally go (places, dollops, smeared incontinently across the ether). Places that seem to make money primarily by repeating what PR companies tell them, and by catering to the, er, not very well-informed or demanding.
So Winetimes calls it “plush and juicy” and says “It’s all about connecting, which wine does better than any other drink!”. Michael Olivier calls it “sappy” (I’m guessing that unlike Winetimes he’s not quoting and that this is a heartfelt tribute) and says that “ it’s all about connecting, which as we know wine does better than any other drink!”. Gosh, the gritty independence of thought and spirit evidenced by those added few words, “as we know”, in that sentence. Michael continues with: “We love this wine, which we found warm and certainly perfect for autumn.”
Perfect for a season in hell, in my opinion.
Christian Eedes, on the other hand and in a respectable place that I frequently go, is somewhat weakly ambivalent, it seems to me. He says that “the wine itself leaves a lot to be desired”, yet gives it a score of 14/20, which seems ridiculously generous (at least 3 points more than I’d give it myself), apparently meaning “fair – pleasant enough but not very exciting”.
The maker of the wine, Guy Webber, reportedly “ascribes the great taste of RED ESCape to the farm’s superb terroir, situated in what is locally referred to as the Wineland’s Golden Triangle”. Of course, these are not his words but those of some rather tired, inept and unimaginative PR hack. I’m not generally a fan of Guy Webber’s big, ultra-ripe wines, but he’s a very decent man, I think, and this is surely his worst effort ever, and I can’t believe that he might actually get up in front of his winemaking peers, for example, and “ascribe” this wine to any farm’s “superb terroir”.
Personally, I’d ascribe it to his willingness to churn out ghastly wine because Distell thinks that people who Tweet (etc) are going to fall for the dreadful stuff and, what’s more, pay R54 for it! Sadly, some might, but I hope the wine is a total failure. I believe the “social media launch” was something of a flop, which is a nice start.
Oh dear. I’m too disheartened to speak of more of the rather grim wines I’ve sampled today. Watch this space. Or else just put it all down to my Timness and go and read some cheery hack with neither taste nor principles but who gets money for being nice.