Vriesenhof: the Home of Greatness

Everyone needs a bit of yesteryear now and again. And whenever this feeling raises its head, Vriesenhof is my place.

Look, I’m all for progress. And having resided and worked in Stellenbosch for almost four decades I am stunned by the continuous evolution the wine industry has shown. Not only in its incomparable wine quality, but the imagination and initiative wine-farm owners have shown in turning the region into a haven for tourists and other visitors. Gourmet restaurants. Cavernous, shiny venues with gorgeous views offering detailed wine-tastings to rows of eager tour groups. Art collections and play-spaces for kids.

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Cap Classiques from the Museum and into the Stratosphere

If I were to throw one cork into the advocating of the brilliance of Cap Classique, it would be this wine’s remarkable ability to age and develop. Of the many examples I have had of late, I’d say an attentive Cap Classique ages far better than a non-vintage Champagne and a lot better than Jane Fonda – but without the plastic face work and lentil-water intestinal flushes.

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Press Release: VinPro supports collaboration on labour issues

VinPro has given its full support to a plan of the Western Cape Government to rectify shortcomings with regard to farm worker housing, health and safety. The National Department of Labour, VinPro, Wieta and Fairtrade, together with Agri Western Cape resolved to collectively address challenges on wine farms.

This follows after an investigation by the National Department of Labour pointed out unacceptable worker conditions on certain wine farms. Concerned parties held a meeting yesterday at Agri Western Cape’s offices.

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Melania Trump on Juice, Meat and Men

Melania Trump will join her husband Donald as the new residents of the White House on 20 January 2017. As custom wants, First Lady Melania will be responsible for selecting the wines for formal lunches, dinners and events in one of the world’s most elite abodes. WineGoggle got the exclusive wine interview. 

WineGoggle: Congratulations from South Africa. It must be a dream come true.

Melania Trump: Thank you. And by dream come true you are obviously referring to the from underwear-model to First Lady scenario. You naughty boy.

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Fixing SA Wine: No One Said it Was Going to be Easy

Rico Basson and Siobhan Thompson, CEO’s of VinPro and Wosa respectively, write about the troubled journey that is South African wine. 

Recent depictions in the media of the South African wine industry as being rife with injustices are indeed disappointing. Our industry has made significant economic and social progress since joining global markets and has committed itself to achieving transformation and social development targets. There’s still a long row to hoe, but this is a journey that the industry and its stakeholders have embraced.

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Jay McInerney Speech at Celebration of Chardonnay

The sixth De Wetshof Celebration of Chardonnay was held last week on De Wetshof Estate in Robertson. Now one of the world’s leading Chardonnay events, this year’s occasion was addressed by American novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney. Herewith his complete speech on Chardonnay, terroir, Marilyn Monroe and Cape wine quality.

 Chardonnay is the great chameleon of viticulture, or to put it in a slightly less flattering light, more than a bit of a trollop. It’s the world’s most famous and beloved white wine grape. It’s a superstar, beloved of drinkers and growers, famous all over the world. But it’s also an enigma wrapped in a mystery.   

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At Home with Portuguese Appetite in Johannesburg

Try as I might, Johannesburg is just not the place this Capetonian can ever feel at home in. I was reminded of this on a recent visit, two days in which I could just as well have spent on Planet Jupiter, such were the number of un-Capetonian experiences.

Minibus taxis actually indicating before changing lanes on the highway between downtown Johannesburg and Centurion, for example, was a foreign occurrence of the out-of-body kind.

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Please Sir, May we South Africans Have Some More?

A new trend, reeking of self-pity and showing some shaky finger-pointing, has begun to raise its head in the South African wine industry. This extraordinarily naïve theory must be nipped in the bud before it becomes contagious, further damaging not only the image, but also the reputation of our industry’s brain-power.

Twice in the past week various wine authorities have implied that the woeful human degradation on some wine farms are the result of individuals and businesses in the wine game not paying enough for South African wine.

I stand aghast – this is the kind of self-denying blame-game any Broederbond Economist would have been proud of in the 1970’s.

The implication in an uncharacteristically useful post on www.wine.co.za is that were Systembolaget, the Swedish monopoly, paying more for South African wine, local wine farmers would be able to spend more on ensuring that all those doing menial work in the winelands would have a better standard of living.

Wines of South Africa, usually clear-thinking, similarly stated that: “Each litre of wine sold at the right price point contributes to the successful growth of the industry, which directly translates into a flourishing industry where all its stakeholders, including its workers, are supported.

Two things here. Firstly, under what obligation is anyone to pay more for a product than what a seller is offering it at? It is the seller who determines and accepts the price. And the buyer, on the other hand, simply pays the amount he or she thinks the product – in this case wine – deserves.

I would dearly like to see an example of how a self-flagellating bit of piety can be cultivated into customers and retailers making them feel obliged to pay more than what a batch of bottle of wine is being offered at.

This would mean Systembolaget, which largely works on a tender basis, going to the South African producer who was offering the Swedes bulk Chenin Blanc at R7 a litre FOB and saying, “ag no, sorry, we are – in the spirit of generosity and the understanding of your problems back home, going to pay R8,50 instead. Have a good day, and grab a pickled herring on the way out.”

No wine-buyer, big, small, local, international is going to do this because it goes against the grain of Economics 101: willing buyer, willing seller.

Now for the real zinger. Do those who say so really, truly believe that greater incoming revenue is going to create substantial changes on those wine farms that have been outed in the controversial Danish television documentary? Sorry, I don’t. The imaginary largesse will be spread about at a higher level before any drops – if any – reach Viceroy in the vineyard and Saartjie on the bottling line.

There is only one thing that determines the price of wine, and that is what the buyer is willing to pay for it. You don’t ask for the high price first, and then go about improving your image. An overall committed and inclusive action to create a better image for Brand SA Wine is the only way to convince a fairer return.

Charity begins at home, but so does profit.