The Swartland region has deservedly captured the imagination of the local and international wine world. I say this as a boer whose rootstock is still anchored in the dark, sandy hot soils of Paleisheuwel between Clanwilliam and Lambert’s Bay.
This has enabled me to relate to the hype created by the energy, enthusiasm and skill of the new generation of Swartland wine folk. All those interesting wines made from old vineyards the revolutionaries had discovered with the excitement of the early explorers entering the pyramids. The embracing of moody, harsh and enchanting landscapes presided over by leather-skinned farmer ooms straight out of Herman Charles Bosman.. Creating not only excellent wines, the wine guys and girls also developed a narrative unrivalled in uniqueness and originality on the local wine scene.
If wine is – as the marketing talk tells us to death- about story, then this is magnum opus stuff. A story capturing the imagination through passion and initiative, and a story having led to the Swartland getting a reputation among international journalists as being “the most exciting wine producing region in the world”.
This eschewing of convention and avoidance of the mainstream, however, does not mean that the Swartland has no responsibility to the greater South African wine industry. And this responsibility means deploying the common sense of knowing when to keep quiet – for the sake of the industry as well as yourself.
Had Swartland supremo Eben Sadie not been speaking to one of the world’s most influential journalists writing for an iconic wine industry mouthpiece like Decanter, his recent comments about other wine regions would have been brushed-off like a summer horsefly from a bared leg.
Sadie, however, chose to use an audience with Decanter by stating that the Robertson wine region is not suitable for the growing of Chardonnay grapes. “Robertson’s got the perfect soil, but the altitude’s wrong, the lights wrong….When you copy, you should at least copy the right thing.”
This is a public insult to a specific wine region at a time when South African wine regions should be co-operating . This entails promoting Brand SA by communicating it’s own regional fingerprint as well as championing the uniqueness of others.
Actually, the statement in question smacks of a windgat attitude. They don’t know what they are doing, over here in the Swartland we do.
If the message of the importance of putting a united South African wine industry front has not yet reached the Paardeberg, let me know and I shall gladly arrange a crash-course in this as well as a bit of diplomacy and tact in the generic market place.
Aside from this degree of stupidity, Sadie’s comments also insult a number of Robertson individuals who have led the way in bringing Chardonnay to the country, which is currently recognised as making world-class wines from the grape. These individuals’ pioneering work has been backed up by international and local wine makers and viticulturalists who believe the region being ideal for Chardonnay. If you want scores, ratings, Platter’s accolades, no problem.
And if there is thus really a belief that Robertson is not suitable for Chardonnay production, why not contribute by approaching the relevant producers and enlightening them on these erred ways they have been following all these years? Nobody is perfect, and like most other areas, Robertson often hosts work-shops to assess its wines and invite comment.
A throw-away line like that is not only an indictment on an entire region and its producers, but on the South African industry, too.
But most of all, my bra, it is so damn uncool.