I have taken the liberty of referring to RTM Hutchinson instead of Tim when talking about the head of local drinks conglomerate DGB. “Route to Market” is the lifeblood of this industry, although its importance gets little air-time as distribution and marketing do not have the same sexiness as granite soils, wet northerly breezes, 83yr old vines and a winemaker quoting Camus.
Not in RTM Hutchinson’s world. Brand reps on the streets, pro-actively hustling and ensuring shelf-space is what keeps product in the eye of the public, attracting consumers through realistic pricing, visible branding and, of course, quality wine.
DGB’s stable includes Boschendal, Bellingham, Tall Horse and Brampton on the wine side, with a plethora of cash-generating spirits and panty-dropping liquors such as Jägermeister and Strawberry Lips. And a short bit of research into the availability, distribution and popularity of these elixirs underscores Hutchinson’s belief in the non-negotiable value of RTM.
On the wine side, Brampton has become one of those bottles commanding reassurance and reliability in the face of indecision and limited availability. When faced with a shelf and struck by one of those “what do I feel like?” moments, Brampton has always delivered, be it a steely Sauvignon Blanc, mellow Shiraz or pretty serious Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines express purity of fruit, quality wine-making and non-stratospheric pricing.
After winning the Best Pinotage Trophy at this year’s Old Mutual Wine Show a bottle of Brampton 2014 was opened in a moment of dire Pinotage need, and it truly is a fabulous wine. Note: wine, not just a great Pinotage.
What gripped me is that this wine reaffirms my belief of Pinotage being a work-in-progress, still evolving in terms of plant material, site-specific planting and the winemakers’ understanding of how to handle its fast-fermenting inkiness in creating wines offering character, expression and desirability.
The Brampton is made from grapes down Swartland and Durbanville way, and the first thing about the wine is a coolness that has a pleasant calming effect on Pinotage’s attention-seeking hot-headedness. At R70 a bottle, the wine was obviously not held in new oak. The juiciness, of which there is a lot, is of the just-ripened, black-fruited calmness. Plums dripping with the dew of dawn. Mulberry’s crunched between long chilly fingers. A subtle hint of mushroom. Tannins are broad, but unobtrusive and the coolness on the attack follows through to a calm nippiness in the finish, such as an iced axe flung through northern woods by a Viking.
No, I am not going to get into that thing about the Pinot Noir part of Pinotage eclipsing the Cinsaut element, as Pinotage now fully deserves to be strumming its own tune. What it does show, is the grape’s ability to show a true holistic character – as it needs to be seen. Fortunately this is the case. Demand for Pinotage is growing internationally and the top South African versions are now being seen as among the best reds the country is capable of producing.
With Johann Krige from Kanonkop – like Hutchinson no slouch of a marketer – believing that a one million bottle Pinotage export brand is needed to take the South African wine industry to the next level, the industry can expect a more bullish attitude towards Pinotage overall. The wine world will welcome this new force, just as it is embracing the excellence the variety is now showing on all levels, and climbing still. On that RTM.
- Emile Joubert