Gossip is all very well, but what if I hear stuff that I don’t want to repeat and cause either irritation or problems for the sort of person who’s kind enough to whisper things in my ear? Being a gossip-monger is a delicate business. Maybe especially at a time when buying and selling is a particularly touchy business.
Talk to some people and it seems that virtually the whole of the winelands is up for sale – only not enough want to buy!
Certainly Constantia Uitsig is up for grabs – though I think Tokyo Sexwale and pals are maybe pitching their demands a bit high. Unfortunately, except for some nicer idealists, the only people who really want to buy Constantia vineyards are those who – like, presumably, Sexwale’s Mvelephanda Holdings, a major shareholder in Uitsig – hope to turn some of those lovely vines into rich people’s houses, a vastly more profitable business than trying to persuade rich and middling-rich philistines to spend money on expensive wine. It seems that things were not going smoothly with the suburbanising plans for Uitsig, and the McCay cleverness which “allowed” the original hotel development there, even before our radical-turned-capitalist bought in, does not so easily work any more.
For sellers, the dream remains delightfully evil bankers (aren’t they all evil, really?) or any rich foreigners. I wish I could talk a bit about the buyer of Von Ortloff in Franschhoek. I don’t think he’s a banker, though there’s bound to be banks involved somewhere. Certainly a rich foreigner with big plans – and I rather suspect we won’t be seeing the Von Ortloff name again. But what name will we be seeing? Let’s give them just another few weeks to come out in the open before saying more…
It must have been comforting for many despairing of bankers to hear that the Val de Vie winery has been bought by a Chinese multinational, Perfect China, which is in a joint venture with the Koegelenbergs’ Leopard’s Leap. Franschhoek again! The East again (oops, that second “again” was a slip, but let it stand). Perhaps the days of useful investment from Europe and America are over, and it’ll all be a nice return to input from the sort of exotic quarters which provided some slaves in the heroic early days of our wine industry.
I had heard that Hein Koegelenberg had been sniffing around Meerhof in the Swartland, which is, I’m rather sad to say as it was doing such interesting things, seriously up for sale. Hein was there, along with some other interesting prospects with their faces in the shadows. Perhaps he still is. Perhaps Perfect South Africa will turn us into a Chinese wine-producing colony.
But on a cosier gossipy level, what about the unbelievably eminent European footballer (ageing like me, but unlike me a legend) who’s bought into a farm in … sigh – again I’m not allowed to say more, but if they don’t come clean in a week or two I shall reveal all to a possibly totally uninterested world.
[First published under the now deleted “Widow’s Nephew’ section on this website]