Haven’t we been here before?

It’s like old times when we read about Karl Lambour taking up a new job and then abandoning it after a rather short time. When he became winemaker at Constantia Glen in late 2006 (not very long after getting the job at Meerendal, where he moved to just as he was imposing his stamp on Zevenwacht, where he’d moved after doing some great work with Fleur du Cap’s white wines) some of us were not surprised to hear rumours that Constantia Glen were tying him down particularly hard with a contract.

In fact Karl stayed there till last year, when he apparently abandoned winemaking as his focus (a pity, as he did it well – albeit more clinically than passionately, perhaps).

So Karl moved more into management. He took a job with a grand title at Holden Manz in Franschhoek – rebranded, with new owners, from Klein Genot (the memory of whose wines still causes the tastebuds of many who sampled them to quake). That’s Karl in the middle of the pic alongside, towering over everyone else, as he virtually always does (the photo is still on the Holden Manz website, from where I stole it).

Lo and behold, scarcely had he settled down there, when he was off down the Valley to become general manager at Grande Provence. I can’t guess at the motives of all concerned, whether there was pushing or pulling involved, or just a Karlish restless searching for greener grass. How long will he be at Grande Provence, one must wonder? I think, as I write, that he hasn’t moved on yet, anyway.

A sort-of-connected bit of déjà vu (or “déjà bu” if your French can cope) appeared recently with a bottle of wine from Holden Manz with a picture of an elephant’s head on it, and called, rather dreadfully, Big G. Big G, yes. Huh? I wonder if the makers of that ludicrously expensive wine called G have noticed – but maybe the others got in first, anyway. (G is an even sillier name, in fact – hard to refer to in practice; and I think there’s meant to be a fullstop after the G, but I’m not going to make my sentence look as though it’s finished just to please their marketing department).

There’s not likely to be a confusion once you’ve tasted the two wines, however. G (fullstop) is a very good wine of its plush Californian-cult type. Big G is not.

Poor Holden Manz obviously had to take on the existing stock of Klein Genot when they bought the place, and Big G 2009 (which costs R145) is a rebranding of the cab sauv-cab franc blend previously known as Black Swan (maybe they should stick to French in Franschhoek as they don’t show much flair in English).

Now, we at Grape never cared for Klein Genot wines in the past and it must be admitted that Angela Lloyd, Ingrid Motteux and I raised our glasses of Big G to our lips with a modicum of apprehension. And yes, we found it oaky, with a medicinal character, rather weedy and thin despite some sweetness, with drying tannins from the excessive oak. Not very nice.

In fairness, let me point out that the wine got a gold last year at the Decanter Awards. Perhaps something has happened in the year since then, perhaps it was just a lucky break in the competition roulette. We all make mistakes, especially big competitions.

But I must say that I’m pleased to see that Holden Manz has a new winemaker under the new regime (Schalk Opperman – the black-bearded, black-shirted guy in the pic). Even if they’ve lost Karl Lambour, as so many others have done

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