A hell of a funny thing happened on the way back from the recent Stellenbosch Wine Festival: going through my tasting notes it struck me that many of the wines poured at the gig were not Stellenbosch wines at all. That’s right folks, at a wine festival purporting to showcase wines from the premier and prized Stellenbosch region, a hog-load full of the product swirled and sipped was made from grapes or wine trucked in from regions outside the boundaries of Stellenbosch.
To put it in abbreviated format: W…T….F.
Here I confess to having an inside lane. Helped draft the founding document for the Stellenbosch Wine Routes in anno 2000. The brief was for the Wine Routes to promote the image, quality and value of wine made and grapes farmed within the boundaries of Stellenbosch Wine of Origin. That’s why – in a novel move for wine tourism at the time – the region’s grape-farmers were also made members of the route and accordingly slapped with levies to finance Brand Stellenbosch. Origin was everything.
Okay, so things have slipped a bit with many producers now sporting a Stellenbosch address whilst bottling wine originating from outlying regions where them yields are higher and grapes and wine come cheaper. This passing off and basically exploiting the brand Stellenbosch is not tasty, but seeing the authorities that be are OK with it, it ain’t going to change until John Wayne comes back to Dodge – despite the potential harm it can do to Stellenbosch’s reputation in the long-term.
However, seeing this disrespect for regional provenance bandied about at an event called the Stellenbosch Wine Festival where people expect to experience wines grown, made and bottled in the area from which the festival takes its name left a bit of a taste.
Should I honestly be served Chardonnay from Bonnievale and Chenin from Malmesbury at a Stellenbosch event when the region still produces such an amazing selection of wines from its own soils?
Either the folks at Oak City think the wine public are a bunch of idiots or they have given up on the initial valiant cause to promote Stellenbosch as South Africa’s premier wine region. For if this habit of using a Stellenbosch address to flog wine from other area’s, that credible and valuable regional brand is going to be diluted pretty damn quick. Which will be a hell of a pity as Stellenbosch is still the producer of the largest and diverse selection of premium wines in the country and South Africa can’t afford for the region to lose its magnificent track-record.
Where is that ball-busting spirit Stellenbsoch producers showed 10 years ago? Then certain members on the board of the wine route threatened to name-and-shame Stellenbosch-based restaurants which had wine-lists not showing enough loyalty to the area’s wines. These days it would appear that self-same wine-lists have more wine offerings from the Stellenbosch region than many local producers have in their wineries.
That’s the thing with bubbles. They are empty. And one time or another, they are going to pop. I truly hope this is not going to be the case here.
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