Gossip congealed into fact

How nice to hear that Groot Constantia is to reinstate a “Wine Harvest Function” from next year, commemorating that first Cape harvest on 2 February 1659. From 1974 to 2004 the ceremony was held first at Groot Constantia, then at KWV. As well as recalling the auspicious inaugural vintage, the celebration will also be “to honor [sic] an individual for a significant contribution to the South African wine industry”, and to have  “a blessing ceremony on the new harvest”.

Presumably the blessing asked will be that of God, though, looking at the list sent round of people honoured with the “KWV Medal of Honour” since 1974, it might well be the government. There’s been a good deal of political stuff in the past. BJ Vorster was clearly thought in 1978 to have been a Good Thing for the wine industry, as was PW Botha in 1985, and Nelson Mandela in 2003 – one year after, believe it or not, Alec Erwin, then the ANC’s Minister of Trade and Industry.

Most bizarre of the politician honorees, surely, was Jan Smuts … in 1994, 44 years after his death. Was that a declaration of some sour kind by the wine industry in the year of the first democratic election? Perhaps after Vorster, Paul Sauer (a Nat minister, but at least involved seriously in wine) and Botha, Smuts was about as far left as the wine industry could think.

I look forward with something like trepidation to the announcement of the next medallist, to be chosen by the Board of Groot Constantia, following nominations by “the industry”. Please may it not be Helen Zille! (though to have a woman would be a first). And I doubt if they’ll allow organizational nominations, so Human Rights Watch is unlikely to get it.


Talking of honorees … I was struck by the ineptness of what I admittedly only heard at second hand about some of those in the latest  (and last) Wine mag. (I confess I haven’t found it useful to pay attention to the magazine for many years.)

I was told that Eben Sadie had been nominated as a star of the future – which, given that he’s pretty close to 40, and has a substantial international reputation for his South African and his Spanish wines, is a bit like prophesying that chenin blanc might have a future in the Cape.

And George Spies squeezing onto a short list of heroes of the past? When he’s largely known for his initials appearing on two vintages of excellent wine which, however, he probably didn’t even have a great deal to do with.

Ah well, while some of us might think that this is not an indication that most of the Wine mag team have much idea about the past, present or future of South African wine, others (richer than I, certainly, which must mean something) clearly think differently.

For rumours about a new consumer wine magazine to fill the inconsiderable gap left by the old one have congealed into fact. Joburg money has decided that we need (or they can make profitable) more wine tastings, presented in a new wine magazine. Oh dear. Even Wine mag was pushing its tastings further and further away from prominence – trouble was they didn’t have much else to offer in their place. But apparently big competitive tastings, with their inevitably bizarre results, are to be the real focus of the new magzine – expected to appear early next year. And the editorial leadership that saw Wine mag into its death throes is apparently to lead the new one. Oh dear again.

We shall see if anything interesting comes out of it. Let’s hope for the best – it’s a pretty shoddy thing if South Africa can’t produce and support a decent consumer-oriented wine magazine (the respectable Wineland being firmly directed at producers). I feel little reason to be other than gloomy about this, however.

Already, incidentally, the dynamic Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group has got a bank to sponsor a continuation of the Sauvignon Blanc Challenge, without the aid of any magazine. I imagine a bit of a problem looming there.


Two snippets about winemakers, one badly behaved, the other covering himself in glory.

The latter local winemaker (that is a winemaker locally, he’s actually a Brit) has just been announced as qualifying as a Master of Wine, becoming (I think) only the second SA-based person to do so, after Cathy van Zyl. So, well done Richard Kershaw. Richard has just left Mulderbosch, and is starting serious work on his own vineyards in Elgin, I believe. (The pic from www.wine.co.za – thanks.)

The other story is, I confess, wickedly snipped from the forthcoming edition of Platter, which I’m at present proofreading. (Please, Platter bosses, look on this minuscule leak as advertising, and in mitigation of my theft please note that I’m not identifying winery or winemaker.)

This year’s was a vintage from hell for the poor winery owner. First, on the day that harvest began the winemaker sent an SMS – announcing that he was quitting immediately. (Presumably made an offer he couldn’t refuse by some unscrupulous other winery owner). Then, a few days later, the German winemaking student who’d been drafted in to help smashed up the farm’s bakkie, and had to be bailed out of jail…. Shortly thereafter he disappeared entirely.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Are you human? *