Top 100 Wins, Old Mutual Continues to Screw Grape Things

The Top 100 Wines Competition, which has until now generated a lukewarm attitude in the industry, has suddenly been catapulted into the forefront of the South African wine competition scene. The reason for this is the announcement that UltraLiquors, one of the country’s most important sellers of wine, has teamed-up with Robin von Holdt’s Top 100.


The carrot for entrants is that a Top 100 wine award stands an excellence chance of not only being stocked by UltraLiquors but also benefitting from massive exposure in Ultra’s catalogue. How does an 800 000 print run sound?

No other competition offers this kind of retail windfall. Therefore, since this link became public I have been inundated with requests from clients and other wineries wishing to know how they can enter their wines into the Top 100, as a chance to join the Ultra offing under guidance of wine retailer supremo Mark Norrish is not to be sniffed at.

And this is the crux of the matter: wine competitions are supported by wineries because the possibility of winning a trophy a gold or a gong improves the chance of selling more wine. That is what it is all about, and if your competition does not drive the commercial agenda it is as effective as organising a Lithuanian strip show for a bunch of eunuchs.

This bullish Top 100 Competition will now be eagerly watched by organisers of other competitions. Veritas, the country’s largest and most prestigious wine awards event, is still the Holy Grail so chairman Charles Hopkins and his professional team have nothing to fear. The Michelangelo remains a goer due to the predominantly international palates who judge the entries.

The Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show could, however, take a knock with Top 100 offering a much better commercial incentive than this ego-driven show currently does.

But then again, the Old Mutual Trophy has lost focus over the past few years due to the increasing edgy publicity-seeking rants by chairman Michael Fridjhon.

Instead of sticking to the wine narrative and promoting the South African industry, Fridjhon uses the sponsor’s money to pursue and publicise his own agendas. Remember the brettanomyces issue over 10 years ago? And instead of discussing merits of wines entered and judges’ opinion at last year’s Old Mutual Trophy Show, he led a personal crusade against natural closures – complete with an Australian lapdog – belittling wine producers who do not bow down to his propagandizing of artificial closures.

How do winemakers like to be called “luddites” by someone speaking under the banner of respected corporate entity and after entering said entities’ competition?

In the past few months the panel chairman has gone further in insulting the winemaking community. Insinuating that some Sauvignon Blanc wineries are criminals by illegally adding water to their wine. And then there was Friday’s pearler in Business Day when he suggested that winemakers who do not do as he says by using the closures he promotes should be strung up and hang so that crows can eat them.

Well Old Mutual, as sponsors of this competition it is surprising for us in the wine industry that you sit back and allow your reputation to be tainted in such a matter.

Looks like those Luddites Fridjhon referred to are also found in corporate marketing departments who willy-nilly dish-out millions in sponsorship money without knowing what is really going on.

Or is it a case of Old Mutal – Screw Grape Things?

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3 thoughts on “Top 100 Wins, Old Mutual Continues to Screw Grape Things

  1. Disappointed does not even begin to describe my sense of disillusion at a well respected(by me anyway) wine commentator. I have always rated and supported Michael Fridjhon’s opinions and comment and have always ignored opinion that warned otherwise. This latest cork blasting, artificial closure punting by Mr Fridjhon has certainly got me sitting up and contemplating the contrary. Michael, this is not becoming of you Sir. You are better than this level of stooping. Don’t sell your soul for a couple of shekels. Above all, don’t flatten your reputation by thinking you will actually change the thought patterns of the masses. Believe me, I play on that field daily and clearly this is not the field on which you want to expose any selfish motives. This field is awake, contemplating and free of any manipulated “righteous” creeds. You will get stoned and hung out for a fraud. This is a place where reality rules and a false motive gets sniffed out like a loose joint by a well trained Border Collie. Make sure your parachute is correctly fabricated, stitched and packed for I suspect you’ve embarked on a bumpy ride…..

  2. As a Business Day subscriber of some 22 yrs and an avid wine-lover I have noticed an increasing pettiness in Michael Fridjhon’s writing. Thanks for pointing this out. One must remember that Fridjhon is not a journalist but uses his column to further his own interests to which editor Peter Bruce remains oblivious. Blogs such as yours are crucial in highlighting this as the traditional media is not going to. Well done.

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