The eagle lands elsewhere

A year-and-a-bit ago we were all expecting (after a lot of on-off rumours) the imminent purchase of Cordoba and perhaps Mulderbosch by Charles Banks, a rich American who had recently severed his relationship with the Californian cult producer Screaming Eagle (click here for my April 2009 story about that). Well, it didn’t happen, and poor old Cordoba continues in limbo.

But it appears that Mr Banks has been looking elsewhere, and he – or at least a consortium led by him – has bought Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards, one of the most ambitious new wineries in the ambitiously re-discovered area of Tulbagh. TMV had made an early splash – rather more, it must be said, with the range of wine made by Chris Mullineux from bought-in Swartland wines than with their home-grown stuff – although that was looking very promising, given the youthfulness of the organic vineyards.

Then two things happened: The first was Chris Mullineux and his assistant winemaker and new wife Andrea leaving to set up on their own and become a rising star of the Swartland – but leaving behind an excellent infrastructure in cellar and vineyards and emerging tradition. Callie Louw stepped into the breach – but didn’t stay long before also packing his bags for the Swartland – (Boekenhoutskloof’s interesting new outpost, now called Porcelain Mountain, where they are going to make a small range of biodynamic wines and are also planting large hectarages of shiraz which is likely to end up with a famous Boekenhoutskloof label one of these days).

The other thing that happened was the international financial crisis, which, it seems, had a predictable effect on the London bankers who owned TMV. Although rumours to that effect were, predictably, denied, I rather gather that the winery and vineyards were subsequently starved of necessary investment and started going into decline – although Rebecca Tanner was appointed as the new winemaker exactly a year ago.

Then along came Mr Banks and his partners, and it seems that the last details have been worked out – although no announcement of change of ownership has been made. A substantial dollop of depreciated dollars into the business is just what is needed to bring Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards back on the track to serious quality on which it had seemed established.

As to Cordoba – if anyone can report on the latest state of the rumours there (is Banks still interested? Is anyone?) please let us know.

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