[Formerly published under the Widow’s Nephew rubric]
A new association of wine-producers has been formed, I see from Fin24 (my host on this website wasn’t invited to the launch so I couldn’t get any inside info, and no press release has as yet been received either). Called Cape Vintner Classification (CVC), it brings together a number of undoubtedly top-class wineries (Kanonkop, Hamilton Russell, Tokara, Vergelegen, Delaire Graff, etc) with some rather more second-ranking ones in high-flying terms (Welbedacht, Vriesenhof, DeWetshof, Anthonij Rupert, etc). It seems the desired aim is “to build South Africa’s reputation as a producer of world-class wines and to promote the Cape’s distinctive site specific wines”.
Great, and some of those producers can do, and are doing, just that. Fantastic. But haven’t they heard that much of the real, cutting-edge excitement about South Africa in the outside world is about what the Alheits, Sadies, and Mullineux are doing – and the other young, revolutionary people missing from this worthy group of mostly rich landowners. Old-school rugby heavies like Schalk Burger and Boland Coetzee, and once-important people like Danie de Wet, have their place, but not in any vanguard, surely?
There appears to be something of a fixation about “estates”, suggesting that nostalgia is as significant for some of these people as thoughts of the future. According to Fin24, “Criteria for membership include ownership of a registered wine estate as defined in the Wine of Origin Scheme in terms of the Liquor Products Act”.
I’ve just been to the Act again to check, and cannot find that the law any longer has a place for the “estate” as such – not since some of those abovementioned producers squandered and spoilt the whole idea of estates (in the process refusing to allow the concept of single-vineyard wines).
What’s allowed these days is “units for the production of estate wine” (though there must be few winedrinkers that know what that means, and even notice the meaning of “estate wine” on the label. There is no such thing as an estate in terms of the Act. I hope they manage to sort that out. The days of the estate are over.
Another aspect that Fin 24 dwells on is the role that Johann Rupert played in the launch of the CVC. I can almost hear the suppressed groans of some of the more enlightened members of the CVC as Rupert trotted out his strange wish to “depoliticise the industry” – by which he seems to mean that it’s fine for him “have severe problems with some members of Wieta”, but presumably not fine for some members of Wieta (and a legion of others) to have severe problems with him. Depoliticising anything at all in South Africa, let alone something as divided by race and class as the wine industry is, seems a naïve aspiration for someone as presumably generally astute as Rupert.
Apparently, “Rupert said in California Mexican workers on wine farms are treated the same as in South Africa”. Treated wonderfully well, he presumably meant. What a useful contribution to make at the launch of an organisation wanting to bring world attention to the Cape’s best wines! Bravo Johann! Viva CVC viva!
It would be nice to be more positive about an effort like this. Let’s hope that Rupert shuts up a bit, that the CVC loses its nostalgia for estates, and that it manages to get rid of some of the old-guard and bring in a few of the less land-rich wineries that have been spearheading progress in making Cape wine. But anyway, let’s see what the CVC actually does, beyond existing.