Rumours abound in the wine industry. They do in all spheres, I suppose, but in some ways the wine industry is a particularly fertile breeding ground for spreading tales, particularly in that there are always the industry reps going from farm to farm (as they hawk their barrels and corks and chemicals, but never flavourants), picking up a bit of truth or half-truth and regaling their next customers with an elaborated version of it over a cup of coffee or glass of wine.
I heard recently that a well-known winemaker had resigned. That was an easy one to check as I knew him. Insofar as you can sigh in an email, he sighed heavily. It had been rumoured before, and the farm had been rumoured sold behind his back two or three times. No, it still wasn’t true.
Just occasionally, of course, rumours are true. Ever since Cordoba shut down its label, got rid of its winemaker and went on the market, there have been various rumours. It seemed at one stage likely that it was being bought by capitalists from Dubai (as a sort of inland colony of the Waterfront). More recently there has been a good deal of talk – with undoubtedly at least some truth in it – of interest from the good folks that own Screaming Eagle, one of California’s ultra-pricey cult wines. The deal was definitely on; no, it was definitely off, all depending on whom one spoke to. Fifty million was the rumoured price. Then Mulderbosch came into it, somehow or other: Screaming Eagle was also going to buy that.
Of course, an investment in the Cape wine industry from Screaming Eagle would be a most interesting development, so everyone hoped it was going to happen. The latest reports are in: the deal is definitely on. Unless, of course, it’s definitely off, which also seems likely.
The great pity of it all is that Chris Keet is no longer making Crescendo, Cordoba’s fine cab franc-based wine. One of the best Bordeaux-style blends of the Cape many people, including me, thought: elegant, restrained, seldom more than 13% alcohol, not over-wooded, not over-ripe or over-fruity. And under-marketed, so widely under-rated. A few weeks ago I had a bottle of the 1999 (often, I think, a fine, subtle vintage for many properties and also generally under-rated because of its unshowiness) and was astounded just how good it was to drink.
Last year that marvellous cab franc from the vineyards that Chris Keet had worked at so diligently disappeared into a big blend, which it no doubt improved (I promised the buyer, when he told me, not to start any rumours about which label it was lurking behind!). This year the grapes have a better chance for glory, perhaps, as Vergelegen is buying it for André van Rensburg to do his thing with. And that’s for certain; you can spread the news around with equanimity.