Chateau Jack Black, Anybody?

Oi, where's da fookin vino?
Oi, where's da fookin vino?

AS,ONE of the sharper tools in the wine marketing shed, my pal Mike Ratcliffe is a constant source of inspiration and quirkiness. Mighty Mike is known as the dude running the Warwick Estate which his formidable Mom, Norma, put on the map. O yes, and then Mike is also behind the scenes of Vilafont+¬, the internationally successful luxury wine brand where Americano Zelma Long makes the vino, while hubby Phil Freese ensure the vineyards (Paarl) are coming along nicely.

Both brands’ success has a lot to do with Mike’s talents as marketer, talents backed by an easy-going, no-stress approach and an obvious keenness in the cerebral department. He can walk-the-walk, talk-the-talk and was a pioneer in bringing the local wine industry closer to the digital era.

That said, Mike’s latest marketing tweet has got me wondering whether I am just stupid or whether Mighty Mike is ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ as he often is – way ahead of the game.

The subject is Jack Black Beer, and the tweet states that Warwick is possibly the first Wine Estate to offer Jack Black Beer.

That’s right: adding to the experience of discovering the Cape Winelands, you can now drop a cold beer while learning about terroir, south-easterly breezes, shale soils and the uniqueness of the vinous experience to be had in Stellenbosch.

Now look, I have never subscribed to the school of anal brand possessiveness and protectionism, one of the lesser features of the Rupert Empire. But there is something about encouraging people to succumb to the temptations of a golden frothy beer in the winelands that I find a bit, well, unaligned.

(By the way, Warwick is not alone in punting its beer fridge ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ Fairview’s Goat Shed is also punting its offering of this during the World Cup.)

For me a wine farm ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ especially a wine farm in the Simonsberg area where Warwick is situated ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ should be wholly committed to the sensual diversity of a good glass of wine or two. That glass represents everything one sees, hears and feels on a wine estate: the smell of must from the cellar, the wine rustling through the broad vine-leafs, the crunch of sandstone and clay that contribute to the nuances of the wine.

This is what separates wine from the other barbaric substances. It has a home and it has nature and it has a soul. This is what causes wine to fascinate people, and this is what we try to tell the dwindling number of South African wine consumers.

Somehow, offering visitors to a blue-blood (or any other wine estate) a brew is not conducive to the overall wine experience. It just has a bit of a zef feel to it, like wearing Crocs to an exhibition of Italian footwear or offering JayZ CD’s for sale after a performance of Madame Butterfly at Artscape.

If it is a new trend, would somebody please let me know? The last wine estate I want to visit is one where some lager lout is trying to pick up the tasting room assistant while slugging back a pint of beer.

Or dare I urge wine estates to, well, Keep it Real?

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6 thoughts on “Chateau Jack Black, Anybody?

  1. This may be a dumb question but as a winery (serving just you own wine for tasting and for cellar door sales) don’t you have to have a different type of liquor license than if you are also selling beer which has not been made on the estate?

  2. Hi Emile, nice story – but not accurate factually.

    Yes, Warwick does offer the facility to allow our guests to enjoy a cold beer if they ask for one. We also offer a world-class espresso if they crave a fix or a cold coke if they fancy something sweet. However, we do not have beer or coffee on our menu, we do not offer it expressly and do not have advertising for beer (or coffee) anywhere on our facility. Contrary to what your article implies, Warwick has not reduced itself to a beer-swilling drinking hole – on the contrary. I would be delighted to invite you (again) to visit Warwick to experience what must be some of the most educated wine staff in the winelands. We take our wine image and responsibilities more seriously than ever before. One could therefore be inclined to suggest that you should withdraw your article as it is baseless in terms of factual acuracy.

    However, given the light-hearted nature of your article, I am sure that me publishing this comment is sufficient.


  3. Mike, I understand what you are saying I think, but coffee or coke are not alcoholic drinks so they cannot be compared really. As a visitor or patron to a wine estate, I would not like to see a glass of beer on any table or in any hand. It is a bit WTF?

  4. Hi Emile,

    As you mention, our Goatshed restaurant has decided to serve a locally brewed premium beer during the world cup. Our regular menu does not include beers, nor for that matter, many other popular drinks including Coke. However I think that one cannot deny the link between beer and football supporters and given the unique circumstances I decided to bend my golden rule! From a purely business perspective I am possibly going to be losing out on revenue by offering a more affordable option, but with the collective effort required from local tourism to make the visitors feel welcome, I think that this is a small sacrifice. I also never wanted a big screen in our restaurant, but have again decided to bend on this during the tournament. Again, it is about being part of the event and having a different group of consumers exposed to your brands.

    If the wine industry chooses to adopt an overly precious approach to the opportunities presented by the tournament, they may well miss out on the chance to ‘convert’ a few beer drinkers and have them seeking out our products when they return home, or when in a different social context.

    I am more than confident that the presence of a few beers will not detract from the Fairview experience, nor from the opportunity that we have each day to communicate our brand to our visitors. If one does not have sufficient confidence in one’s product to sell it without needing to banish any vague competition, there are perhaps other areas where they should be focussing their attention.

    I think that it is important to maintain some perspective on these sorts of issues. We are not going to have peanuts on our tasting pods and pork scratchings behind the coffee machine. And to be frank, in the middle of a Cape winter I am confident that our range of reds will provide more than sufficient attraction. +ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£GòæA pint of Pinotage for you sir?+ô+¦-+Gö£Göñ+ô+¦-úGö£-¦+ô+¦-+Gö£+ª

    Charles Back.

  5. Plying my trade in the hospitality industry – and selling more beer than wine – Charles is incorrect in stating he stands to lose out by selling more of the “cheaper option”.
    Mark-up on beer runs from 300% to 400% (shebeens excluded). During a football game a customer may drink one R50 bottle of wine, compared to 5 or 6 pints at R18 to R25 each. You guys in the wine industry tell me which is the better option, even if it means losing faith in your product, which you seemingly have.

  6. Certainly makes business sense for the World Cup period. Not everybody in the touring party might like wine.

    Just imagine a group of soccer supporters, a big screen, a couple of pints. Should make for a festive setting and I am sure a good catalyst for food orders…. And then they need to buy some “souvenirs” to take back to their hotel/B&B or home….

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