Three bits and pieces

An extortionate glassful

I came across something on the website of Artthrob (“South Africa’s leading contemporary visual arts publication”) to make even the greediest, crassest restaurateur think there might be some use in selling wine by the glass – if this bit of egregious profiteering is anything to go by. Leading Johannesburg art dealer Warren Siebrits writing about the recent Johannesburg Art Fair told of inviting someone for a glass of Meerlust Pinot Noir:

My request had been motivated by an advert taken by Meerlust on page 357 of the Joburg Art Fair catalogue that illustrated a bottle of 2003 vintage Pinot Noir with the message ‘Meerlust Supporting The Joburg Art Fair’. This is one my favourite South African wines and I have bought many cases of it over the years. You can therefore imagine my surprise when, on ordering two glasses of Pinot Noir, I was presented with a bill for R224.00. It therefore seemed like a treat to go to Thrupps in Illovo on the Monday after the Fair and pay R167.95 for a whole bottle.

Pretty healthy profit margin there. Sadly, I can note in passing, the pricey contemporary art market is in even worse shape than the pricey wine market. Siebrits, one of the most serious and respected of the dealers, is having to close his gallery this week.


A worthy winner

Joanne Gibson has just won the inaugural Franschhoek Literary Festival’s Wine Writing Award – and I have no doubt that there will be very few eyebrows raised by any of her colleagues and fellow-entrants, who all know her to be an exemplar of journalistic skill, research and taste (not to mention better-looking and nicer than most of us). Her article was in Wine magazine, where she is the deputy editor; let’s hope it encourages her publishers to let her loose on many more substantial wine stories.

Estates and estate wine

Stan Slogrove wrote in to say he was puzzled by Jean Vermeulen’s “reference to the Estate system no longer being legal”, in his comments on a recent blog. Stan says:

I recently registered two wines of the 2009 vintage from a small Tulbagh estate with SAWIS as “Estate Wines” according to their regulations.  The requirements are that such wines must be made only from grapes grown on the estate and must be made and bottled on the estate.  The estate system is still very much legal according to SAWIS, so I think that Jean is perhaps confused on this issue.

It seemed worth responding to this separately rather than it getting lost in a list of comments, as the situation has confused many people, including some who should know better. Unfortunately the confusion is justified, and continues a long history of confusion and ineptness on behalf of the authorities and of the Cape Estate Wine Producers Assocation.

Jean Vermeulen is both right and wrong. The bottom line is that there are no longer any estates, but there is such a thing as estate wine. The “estate” used to be the smallest official production unit within the Wine of Origin Scheme (smaller than a ward), at a time when single vineyards were not part of the Scheme, or even allowed to be mentioned on a back label, in order to preserve the status of the estate. After various other bits of tinkerings, there was a big overhaul a few years back.

SIngle vineyards now have legal status (when qualifying and registered with the authorities). The estate as such, though, no longer has a legislated status. Any producer anywhere, as I understand it, can now produce an estate wine, as long as it is made from grapes grown and vinified, and the wine is then bottled, on a single piece of land. The producer must be registered as a “producer of estate wine” – NOT as an estate. The qualifying wine can have “estate” wine on its label. To repeat, there are no offical “Estates” but there are official “Producers of Estate Wine”. And there is “Estate Wine”.

The producer can also then refer to itself as an estate on that label – but not on the labels of non-estate wine made by the same producer!  Confused? Look at these two labels from Lismore (I’ve just recovered the bottles from my pile of empties, for the photo – I intend to write about the contents sometime soon). The Chardonnay includes bought-in grapes (WO Western Cape) – so no mention of estate (which Sawis would consider might mislead someone into thinking this was an estate wine, which it isn’t). The Viognier is from their own grapes and made and bottled on the property. Its back label states that it is “Estate wine”, WO Greyton.

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