Moving on

I have in front of me the first (June 1999) and last (July 2005) issues of the print edition of Grape. Both, curiously, contained articles about “Cape blends” – with pinotage, you remember. If I now have any readers at all, I am sure that some of them will not even know that Grape was once the name of a modest (not to say naïve) little quarterly magazine (24 pages), printed in two colours on recycled paper, with absolutely no advertising (that was one of the points).

Grape last editionThe two little stapled bundles of paper make me nostalgic and sad. It’s not as good an effort as it could have been, but it was quite  good, and deserved to have done better than it did. In my final editorial I quote a British wine journalist (unnamed and even unidentified as such) saying that Grape was always “quixotic and ingenuous”, and had grown to be “an internationally respected commercial disaster”. I’m still proud of that, even if it was over-generous.

Anyway, then Grape went online, and had at least one transformation in coming to be the communal space it is now. And will not be for long. It’s time to change again. A few of the communards have disappeared over the years (including Cathy van Zyl, along with Platter editor Philip van Zyl one of the founders of Grape). Now Michael Fridjhon, a long-time frenemy of Grape (some people, including me, still remember the huge insults and enmities Michael and I hurled at each other before we became good friends) has started his own website www.winewizard.co.za (I wish him well). It will carry his Business Day column (which of course the newspaper site also carries), so it is pointless keeping it on here.

This has prompted a recognition that something needed to happen to Grape.

What is happening is that the remaining contributors are going their own ways. Melvyn Minnaar thrives on being somewhat mysterious – but it is hoped that he will always offer his often quirky views on wine and life. Angela Lloyd is one of the longest partners in the Grape enterprise, with us from nearly the beginning. She intends to start her own website – with a pause while she is travelling in Europe. I will pass on details of her new location when I can.

Angela has, with characteristic generosity, given me her go-ahead to continue with the Grape name for my own website. I would have understood if she thought the name should disappear along with the communality, but she understood my reluctance to let the name disappear entirely, so many years after I first thought of it. (I have a distinct memory of proposing the name, and the scheme, to Cathy and Philip van Zyl, in the garden of the house where I then lived!) Thanks, Angela (and I look forward to our continued friendship and our continued practice of tasting new wines together).

So. At the beginning of June, with any luck, and with a bit of my and other people’s efforts, Grape will be reformed and re-appear as my own blog.

My intentions? I plan to write more often and sometimes more briefly – to be more bloggish, in fact. I’m tossing about my thoughts of introducing a scoring system – I don’t like scoring wines, but many people appreciate them. Perhaps I’ll use a five-star system (less generous than Platter’s, and with no half-stars) – that might be rough enough, and as far as nearly possible from the inappropriate absurdities of 100-point exactitude. I might try to introduce icons for “interestingness” and “good value for money”.

Another possibility – I was approached a while back by the Nephew of the Widow. Some will remember the Widow, as the author of a scurrilous column in both the print and early website incarnations of Grape. A few lawsuits (as well as anger, irriation and laughter) followed her curmudgeonly pronouncements, and I suspect a few more lawsuits were contemplated. Well, the Widow’s Nephew seems a milder sort of person, but thinks that ocasional gossipy contributions from him, less relentless and arbitrary, less vicious and hopefully more truthful and witty than one or two that now appear on the internet, might find a place. We shall see.

Also, I have the firm intention of building, in the new Grape, a serious resource focused on the wines of the Swartland. It’s become possible, and even necessary, I feel, for South African wine journalism to start including some focused attention. While I will remain a generalist, I would like to simultaneously deepen the specialisation to which I have perhaps been tending for the past decade or so. This part of the website will take a while to establish.

But that is the slightly longer-term future. Meanwhile, at the end of this month, please welcome, or at least accept, some changes to Grape. I will regret losing what we have, but it is time to move on.

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