The Cape Winelands’ Indian summer has been heated-up by some frenetic political activity, this being an election year and all. We have had Black First Land First (BLF) folk attempting to occupy Durbanville wine farms, apparently wishing to contribute to the thiol compounds in the Sauvignon Blanc. Those charming ladies from Women on Farms (WOF) marched outside Paarl to object to the eviction of a former cellar worker who had been legally booted-out from an abode that was not his.
This was followed by the WOFs staging a sort of protest at the Stellenbosch Wine Festival which was held at the Waterfront, although this demonstration could more than likely have been fuelled by the nearby KFC having run-out of Chutney Crunch Rounders.
And then this week President Cyril Ramaphosa rolled into Stellenbosch to schmooze a selected array of local farmers, winemakers, businessmen and retired golfers. He had obviously been watching reruns of the Ridley Scott epic move Gladiator where Maximus was told to get the crowd on his side to prevent things going awry, thus the Pres turned on the kind of charm one normally finds pasted on PR consultants wishing to be #hashtagged during wine events.
No land-grabs. Yes, the ANC recognises the importance of the wine industry as a part of South African agriculture ensuring food-security (kudos, Sir) and I, Cyril, personally know the bureaucratic frustrations you guys go through, because I am, too, a farmer. Cape buffalo and long-horned cattle, that is.
The audience clapped, smiled, cheered and beat on empty spittoons.
Neither myself nor my editorial staff were present, but if so the President would have been asked to address the following wine industry related issues:
· Bring Your Own wine to restaurants should be classified a Basic Human Right. This will not only democratise the wine-selection process by ending dictatorial down-speak to customers, but will reinvigorate the vinous retail sector. This is shrinking as in 15% annually. And by not having to fork out another 350% on the inflated wine-list price, restaurant diners will have more to spend on culinary sustenance, leading to an all-round improvement on nutrition and health, which is also a basic human right.
· Make Pinotage the national plant of South Africa. Look, we all like the sight of a protea growing in the wild. But due to the fact that taking a walk among the Cape Winelands’ floral kingdom is these-days about as safe as going to buy a Gatsby in Lentegeur after midnight, most of us can no longer relate to a protea or any other flower growing in the wild. Everyone knows Pinotage, it is a plant created by a proud South Africa in Izak Perold and its multi-edged leaf and tight grape-bunch is aesthetically pleasing. Also, our national cricket team can seamlessly be converted from Proteas to The Red Leafs, while the lady hockey players could be called The Bushvines. The time is now, Mister President.
· Make it mandatory for a national minister of agriculture to learn where the Cape Winelands are, what a grape looks like and that wine is a product of soil, tenure and human endeavour deserving of understanding and support. It provides employment to 300 000 people and is of even more economic benefit to the Western Cape than the Botox, spray-tan and Italian motor-car industries – combined. The superior quality of this thing called wine has endeared South Africa to the international world (outside of Lesotho and Swaziland, even) and wine is a fine thing with which to promote the image of a country and its people. Upon learning this and other valuable insights, a minister of agriculture could at least recognise this part of the South African sector over which he, currently, presides.
· Go wild in promoting a Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon campaign in the United Kingdom, as in now. Fly all relevant winemakers out on your government jet, transport them from the Hebrides to Cornwall to introduce the UK to the brilliance of our Cabernets. This indoctrination will ensure that, come October and Brexit happens, the Brits will be less traumatised, not having to pay 30% more for Bordeaux than they are currently doing. The knowledge that Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon has the depth, complexity and personality to compete with the Left Bank’s best – at 20% of the price – will lead to a stratospheric demand for South African wine, as well as calming the folk from Blighty after the hysteria of Brexit they have been exposed to.
· State Capture is all the buzz, but you are now requested to deploy some Cellar Capture. Former president Jacob Zuma has, apparently, installed an enviable wine cellar in his Nkandla compound, just above the vault used to hide Gaddafi’s cash and to the left of Big Dadda’s Underground Love Room. With the help of those Indian bon vivants The Guptas, this cellar has been well-stocked with thousands of bottles including old Constantia sweet wines, an array of vintages from Meerlust, Kanonkop, Thelema and Le Riche, as well as a mint case of GS Cabernet 1968 and a few bottles of KWV Muscadel 1953. It is vital to relieve Nkandla of these treasures, and bring them back to where they belong, namely the Parliament Wine Cellar.
And then, Mister President, through regular visits to this Parliament Cellar you will realise of what you are sitting in the South African wine industry, and that is a national treasure.
That realisation is all we can wish for.