I had this little fantasy: Wine industry in trouble! Unappreciated quality! Despairing producers look up to the empty skies for sucour. And lo, a hopeful shape appears somewhere over Muizenberg. Is it a seagull? (No, more like a flying shark mutters someone.) Is it a plane? Is it Batman?
It’s Robin von Holdt, owner of a fancy seaside guesthouse, the self-appointed Chair of the Industry Executive. What’s more, he’s bearing a new wine competition that “will re-position South Africa’s top wines” – not only with “clarity” (oh, good!) but also with “vigour” and, you’d better believe it, “integrity”. Yes, well, that’d certainly make a change, despite the cries of horror and “oh no, not another!” that rang out from exhausted, impoverished toilers among the vines and tanks.
If by any chance the scheme succeeds it’ll make him a lot of money too, but of course that’s not the point.
And who am I to say it’s not? Maybe it not easy being called Robin. Apart from people confusing you with a little bird with red breast-feathers when (as far as I can tell from the moody online photo) you’re a middle-aged man with grizzled stubble on your chin, you’re also bound to suffer from the inevitability of Batman’s Robin being a role model – and who wants to fail by comparison with a mere, albeit mighty-thighed, boy-assistant?
The solution is revealed on the website of the “Top 100 SA Wines” competition: “We are pleased to announce the first Industry Executive: a forward thinking and strategic team of SA’s fine wine players.”
With Robin as the most forward thinking and strategic player of them all, presumably. Robin, our leader. His qualifications are not mentioned. Nor how he and his team are to achieve their aim “to assist in the global repositioning of South Africa’s fine wines”. Or is the competition intended to suffice? After all it is “the Olympics of SA winemaking designed for you who will be regarded as our champions”. Nothing if not ambitious, our Robin, and grandiloquent about it. He makes Michael Fridjhon come across as a pretty modest, reticent sort of guy.
Enough of fantasy (mine, if not his). We’ve heard no more about the Industry Executive yet, and I’m actually wondering quite how much more we will hear of the competition. Of the dozen-plus leading producers I’ve asked, none confessed an intention to submit wines or knows of anyone who will – though one or two think they might enter next year if this year goes OK. Yes, well….
The excitement building up at present, though – as far as I’m concerned, anyway – is whether Robin will have managed to get a full team of judges together by 18 February, when “Early bird” (birds again!) entrants should have booked a place. As I write this, the website still shows a blank outline for an international judge and another for a local one. [But see my “Update” below.] I wonder if panel chair Tim Atkin realises this.
Somewhat eccentric, perhaps, to praise your team of judges when they haven’t yet all been confirmed. But presumably the last two will also be “without historical burden”, which is one of the more compellingly mysterious judging qualifications mentioned on the website.
And we can look forward to “the internationally acclaimed ‘judgment day’ of SA’s finest wines”. All power to Catwoman, Bane, Gunhawk and the rest, I say.