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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