Dismay, anger and confusion followed a recent announcement that the hugely popular on-line wine gem www.grape.co.za will cease to exist in its current format. Reaction from the South African wine community ranged from sullen disbelief to enraged public outcries, with isolated instances of unrest. In Main Road, Kenilworth groups of wine enthusiasts pelted passing cars with used Stelvin screw-caps, while a fanatical Grape reader and secretary of the Plumstead Palate Pleasers wine club GÇô unsuccessfully – attempted to commit public suicide by slashing his wrists with a broken bottle of KWV Roodeberg 1985.
Despite Grape founder, publisher, editor and contributor Tim James stating in a recent posting that GÇ£some changesGÇ¥ were under way, it appears to be all over bar the shouting. James admitted that the regular contributors who had made such immeasurable contributions to the daily lives of wine enthusiasts were GÇ£going their own wayGÇ¥, in essence meaning that the ship had been jumped.
Michael Fridjhon, whose Business Day articles were published on Grape, is focussing on his own on-line vinous venture, named after new stage name Wine Lizard. Stalwart Grape columnists Angela Lloyd and Melvyn Minnaar are set to continue their illustrious careers elsewhere, leaving James to man the helm as the sole provider of Grape content.
GÇ£It will just never be the same,GÇ¥ said Reginald van Staden, cool climate grape grower and long-time Grape reader. GÇ£TimGÇÖs writing was wonderful, but he was part of a team. Just to open-up the home page and see those sparkling pieces of wine-writing staring at you made the world a better place – especially when they were updated every eight weeks. I just canGÇÖt imagine life without it, and subsequently may just have to give up on wine altogether and go back to moering my workers.GÇ¥
According to Prof Richard Bosworth from the New World School of Wine Journalism in Adelaide, the demise of Grape will leave a GÇ£corker of a big black holeGÇ¥ in world wine writing.
GÇ£You just didnGÇÖt see nothing like it anywhere else on the planet,GÇ¥ he said. GÇ£The hero-worshipping by James of the Swartland region was as sensually sycophantic as the corn field scenes in Patrick White”s novels. FridjhonGÇÖs deft manner of punting his own interests editorial-áspace using-áliterary proseGÇª MinnaarGÇÖs sharp one-line introductions to fantastically riveting Sauvignon Blanc soireesGÇª Grape had everything, and I often referred to it when teaching my introductory courses. I just hope the South African wine industry realises what it has lost and throw them a farewell barbecue or something.GÇ¥
A consultant to Wines of South Africa said Wosa will call an emergency meeting to discuss the loss of Grape once the organisationGÇÖs management team had recovered from the shock.
GÇ£It is a sad day when one loses an ally,GÇ¥ the consultant said on condition that she not be named. GÇ£Grape was one of the few publications to realise the importance of driving a liberal political agenda in the wine industry, something it did with purpose, commitment and transparency. While other institutions belittled those of us wishing to emphasise the importance of political ambitions, Grape was a lone revolutionary voice. Grape-istas should know their work was not in vain. We will carry their legacy with us to the grave. Aluta continua!GÇ¥
These sentiments were echoed by the office of labour rabble-rouser Nosey Pieterse. GÇ£They closing Grape, our peoplesGÇÖ wine publication!GÇ¥ he enthused. GÇ£May those responsibleGÇÖs ma-se-grapes rot in hell.GÇ¥
Police spokesperson Major Dewald Schneider appealed from calm. GÇ£I are also a Grape reader, despite them never drinking Old Brown Sherry,GÇ¥ he said. GÇ£But I ask the publics to remain steady and controlled and not take-out their frustration on innocent bystanders by throwing wine bottles and kicking holes in shop windows. I understanding your grief with Grape. But I also has to put you under arrest.GÇ¥