Reporting on a Report




,The word “report” scares the bejezus out of me. Like wine writer-personality-judge Christian (Krisjan) Eedes, I was also at a private school where some poncey senior was always threatening to “report” me for innocuous activities, such as adding Dad’s Single Malt Islay to the tadpole tank in the biology lab. The quarterly “report”, which documented one’s academic progress through the respective term, was often something to be feared. Especially as my grand-father was a former school principal and at the age of 98 was still capable of dishing out a good klap if my Latin dropped below 85.

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New Masters for Cape Wine Industry


Maestros - Raymond Nopp+¬, Lizette Tolken, Derek Ramsden and Dave March

An auspicious occasion does by no means have to be a dull-spirited affair. Actually, the event to mark the inauguration of four new Cape Wine Masters held at Morgenstar could well have been mistaken for a legendary Wine Swines party had it not been for the presence of some members of the fairer sex.

But spirit and va-va-voom are to be expected when you shove a collection of Cape Wine Masters, consultants, industry figure-heads and a few hacks together in one room. Throw some extremely palatable Morgenster wines and the cuisine of Craig Cormack into the mix, and it’s worth undertaking the Cape Wine Masters course just for the graduation party.

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Raving about a Craving


Barton Fink - "I heard a cork call my name...."

So I get this craving, and I must have it. Feel the stirring. The brooding expectation. The sense of “what am I going to do if I don’t get it”?

Drive down to the dodgy part of town to satisfy the desire. Park in darkness. Enter the subtly neon-lit building in one of Cape Town’s side-streets. They are waiting. And yes, there is the object of my want. In front of me. To be had for a few bucks.

The place is DVD Nouveau, the movie Barton Fink. An all-time favourite, the kind of film that calls to be viewed periodically.

It is made by the Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan. Tells the story of an anal pseudo-intellectual playwright whose pretentious writings stir the attentions of Hollywood. Pretty soon this stuck-up pseudo has sold his soul, exchanging the intellectual zone of Broadway for the cheap commercialism of Hollywood.

Pretty much like Tim James leaving the Mail & Guardian for a wine gig with the Daily Sun.

Anyway, got the movie. And heading off to Casa Emilio for cinematic satisfaction, a spot of thirst gets me to stop at Vino Pronto, a cute little wine shop in the Gardens. Despite the shelves of aforementioned Casa groaning with freebies, I decide to drop some cash on the wine industry. Help them pay for their WIETA audits, methinks.

Believe in fate? The zone? In Pronto Wine Shop?

Right there, before me. On the Chardonnay shelf: Crystallum Chardonnay.

Yup, that’s the vino connected to one Peter-Allan Finlayson, a winemaker who has always reminded me of someone who has just stepped out of a Coen Brother movie. Trendy. Cool. Dishevelled in a cultivated manner. Most of all, self-effacing and humorous. Like the Coens, it must also be said that the dude’s bit of an artist.

,Crystallum’s set of Pinot Noirs has built-up a pretty solid reputation since the release of the 2008 vintage thanks to the superb quality of the wines made from Hemel-en-Aarde fruit, with some Elgin stuff thrown into the Peter Max wine. The other number is, of course, the pants-wetting brilliant Cuv+¬e Cinema.

This was, however, my maiden venture in to the realm of Crystallum Chardonnay 2009,which, incidentally carries the name of “The Agnes” who was Peter-Allan’s great-grandmother.


Peter-Allan Finlayson, great-grandson of the famous Agnes.

Having dropped just over R150 on Crystallum The Agnes Chardonnay from Peter-Allan Finlayson I headed off for a date with Barton Fink.

Look, if Barton Fink the writer ever did kick back to talk about wine, he could have told one helluva story about this. Problem is, it would be long and boring and aimed at sparking off a riot by page 23.

But I’ll just stick to the fact that this is one helluva wine.

Made from three vineyards – two Hemel-en-Aarde way and one out towards Greyton ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ there is a lot going on here in terms of expression. The first is a perfumed decadence and the second a trance-inducing broadness. No lean mineral linearity of limestone soils. No calculated intricacies of lees management to coax a featured Chardonnay personality from the fruit. The wine just gushes rich beauty and deliciousness and is a fine example of why Chardonnay remains the greatest white grape on the planet. No other variety is able of deploying this level of sensorial seduction on an unsuspecting movie lover just wanting to concentrate on a favourite film.

I had to stop Barton’s rantings every now and again with the “pause” button, enabling me to get to grips with the wine.

Was that a hint of Meursault-like hot buttered popcorn on the Crystallum? Yes. Montrachet potpourri? Indeed. O look, a bit of Santenay pebbles. Beaune waxiness? Is true, my bru.

Completing the myriad flavours is aforementioned heady perfume. If more wines smelt like this beautiful aromatic number I’d understand why wine-buffs are forever sticking their schnozzes into the glass.

The other is the palate weight. Like a fine silk kimono, it lies lightly, lies softly. Feels fine.

Just to be sure, I went back to Pronto the next day for another two bottles of Crystallum. And was assured that, yes, nostalgia can indeed be what it used to be.

On a factual basis, the wine is wooded, 2nd fill French. Nine months on the lees. Minimal stirring, shaking and prodding.

Less is more, dude, less is more. No matter how big the craving.


Klipdrift and the Balls of the Lion

A quaint Afrikaans-language saying is loosely translated as “don’t scratch the balls of the lion”. Well stuff that. My balls are bigger and I’ll scratch whose I want to. Because my name is Klipdrift. Klipdrift brandy.

All started with our South African minister of health, Aaron Motsoaledi, Guy wants to outlaw the banning of alcohol advertising. Pussy. He reckons South Africans have a drinking problem. Sees the public’s human right to enjoy free access to alcohol as a threat to society. Bring on the Great Dictator! Probably never had a good dop in his life. Party Pooper Central.

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Wine and the Hidden Secret


Just because we are wine critics does not mean we are not allowed to get pissed. There. I said it. Pissed. Drunk. Blotto. Gesuip. Mullered. Moertoe.

Call it what you will, but if you regularly partake in the joys of Bacchus, chances are you are going to get trashed. Not all the time. Perhaps not even occasionally.

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PR Words to Ban

There are many things about press releases that are bound to irritate. But being the patient kind, I have learnt that to survive, one must endure.

However, there are a couple of words found in press releases that are now beyond irritability. Look, perhaps I have used them in the past myself. But to my fellow PR practitioners, I would like to suggest the eradication of a couple of words.

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Seeing the Light of Surprises

Showing an appreciation for wine may not always pay the bills, but it does pay in kind. Rather a lot of it. Hardly a month goes by without some acquaintance of an acquaintance or long lost family member hauling out a bottle of something “that has been lying” around. Being a wine lover, said person then kindly deems you a worthy and appreciative recipient.


The result is not all good. More often than not the wine has been stored in a backroom or garage which reaches furnace-like temperatures. The subsequent effect on whatever wine is in the stash, is devastating.

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Women Wine Judges Told to Cover the Bare Bits


Don't distract me, I'm a wine judge.


Scarcely hours after female chess players were told to button-up or be banned from chess competitions, women wine judges were ordered to dress down during wine competition panel tastings or face being expelled from premier South African wine shows.

“We had to take action against the provocative dress code certain female judges have been following lately,” a spokesperson for the South African Domestic Wine Show Union said.

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Classic Party with a few Gongs Included


Arco Laarman, overall winner at Classic Trophy Show


The Classic Wine Trophy Awards, unashamedly arrogant in its position of only allowing French tasters, is actually a breath of fresh air in the staid atmosphere of South African wine competitions.

I attended the awards ceremony for the first time this year and can report that the Classic Wine is really a fun night out compared to other competitions. No boring, rambling speeches. No elevator music or uncomfortable silences. No self-indulgent, pontificating show organisers. And best of all, not a damn lamb shank in sight.


Hell, there ain’t even any seating plans and if you were lucky enough to have a partner, you had to leave it at home.

The wine is a good place to start.

Some 300 wines were entered and scrutinised by the French judges who included ex bouncers, current journalists, restaurateurs and barrel salesmen. There was even a South African Boerseun-turned-French international rugby player in Pieter de Villiers who now resides in Cape Town and still maintains an interest in two French domaines.

The panel got together and selected 17 wines as worthy medal winners. That’s it: you wine a medal or you don’t. No Double Silver, Silver, Organic Bronze or Double Organic Bronze for Best Barefoot Red Wine Producer.

In typical brasserie fashion, all wines were confidently plonked on each table allowing guests to drink away and make up there own minds as to the competition’s credibility.

Of the winning white wines, Chardonnay led the way. Sauvignon Blanc was not a hit among the judges ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ French journalist and judge Claude Gilois termed South African Sauvignon Blancs as “grotty”, so I reckon Pieter de Waal and the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group will not be including him on their Christmas Card list.

Chardonnays included the Hamilton Russell 2010 and the Julien Schaal 2011, both beautiful wines. The Schaal had perfume and flintiness, while the Hammo was rich, full and satisfying. Just the way we like it.

On the red side, the judges really liked Shiraz,, handing out four gongs in total. But it was the Sijnn Red Blend 2008 led the way on my score sheet, closely followed by Glen Carlou’s Awesome Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 and the Chamonix Pinot Noir 2010.

That Sijnn ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ a blend of Shiraz, Mourv?+¦???+¦?+¦-+?+¦+ëdre, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ has a wonderful savoury freshness and in its point of difference in the South Arican taste spectrum, I rate it as a pioneering wine. Glad it is getting the kudos.

With a,gong for his Glen Carlou Chardonnay 2010 to add to the one for the Gravel Quarry, cellarmster Arco Laarman was a worthy winner of the Classic Trophy’s Best Producer. Arco also got the award for Best Party Trick when, overcome with excitement at winning two fine French oak barrels as Best Producer, he up-ended a full spittoon on one of the tables.


At Veritas he would have been expelled. The French, however, loved it.


All the winners:



Grand Cuvee Brut 2007

Hamilton Russell Vineyards

Chardonnay 2010

Julien Schaal Wines

Chardonnay 2011


Viognier 2010


Reserve Chardonnay Stellenbosch 2010

Teddy Hall Wines

Dr Jan Cats Chenin 2010

Glen Carlou

Chardonnay 2010


Weisser Riesling Reserve 2010

Super Single Vineyards

Mount Sutherland Syrah 2009

Glen Carlou

Gravel Quarry Cabernet Sauvignon 2008

Groot Constantia

Shiraz 2009


Mentors Shiraz 2009

Cape Chamonix

Reserve Pinot Noir 2010

Groot Constantia

Pinotage 2010

Delaire Graaf

Botmaskop Red Blend 2009


Reserve Shiraz 2010


Sijnn Red Blend 2008






Fairtrade’s Winds of Change in SA Wine Industry


Keep on learning in the wine industry, that’s me. That’s the industry.

Headed out to Breedekloof today. Rawsonville central. Warm and clear. Southerly breeze drifting from the, well, south.

Lesson for Today No 1 ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ How about this harvest? Ain’t it great! Ain’t it big and heavy, fruit hanging like the Garden of Eden on steroids. A few weeks ago things were ripening unevenly. Late. Inconsistent.

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