Cape Wine 2015 puts Best foot Forward, but Skirts Real Issues

It ain’t over till it’s over. But now that Cape Wine 2015 really is a thing of the past, a few insights are rising out of the vinous haze like the sails of Viking boats appearing through the mists of eastern England.

I could not experience the country’s triannual wine showcase as a true visitor as there were business partners to assist and journalists to appease. Functions to host too. And here, business was excellent.

When the halls to the Cape Town Convention Centre opened on Tuesday we sat down with wine buyers from Canada, China, Holland and Germany who had made appointments weeks ago, and all kinds of stuff was briskly sold. Bottled wines of myriad varieties, blends and styles. Bulk by the freight-load, the talk being that South Africa’s bulk wine is of a quality and price not found anywhere else in the world.

On the wine side I think that Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Pinotage grabbed the imagination of the foreign guests I spoke to. And tasting the wines with them the excitement was understandable.

The Chardonnays presented by the South African Chardonnay Forum, for example, were deemed generally immaculate in their quality and site-specific pedigrees, while the golden thread of quality and the resultant consistency blew the crowd away. Of all the feedback I am now receiving from Hong Kong, Montreal, London and Amsterdam, South African Chardonnay is standing out.

Why? Because it is a variety the whole world knows and understands. Ability to present superb quality in this cultivar is deemed a showcase of our general ability as wine nation.

Chenin Blanc is generating a lot of interest, and here the Breedekloof Chenin Initiative took the hall by storm. Nine winemakers from the Breedekloof Wine Valley, generally known for its large co-operative cellars, each crafted a small batch of Chenin Blanc with an individual fingerprint proving style and regional individuality. The wines coming from the likes of Botha, Merwida, Bergsig and Opstal were of the best on show, and here the Breedekloof Wine Valley is quickly undergoing a re-grafting of image. From bulk, cheap and cheerful, to young, bright, quirky and premier wines.

It was good to see and reminds me how much the country has to offer.

On the hip-hot-and-happening front I really enjoyed the Zoobiscuits camp. Here producers of the ilk of Fram, Cape Point, Blackwater, Crystallum and Alheit poured their wares, all of a tastiness and standard I am really proud to call South African.

If you must know, Crystallum Agnes Chardonnay and the Craven Pinot Gris were the wines that sang me a melody and took my mind off the business commitments for a while.

At a show like this you need a lubricant to clean the palate and perk the senses at around 11:00 each day. This was Orange River Cellars Colombard, and I was glad to see I was not alone in this.

This was the best Cape Wine ever for a wine industry media consultant. Due to the proactive communication from the wine industry being of such a poor nature, the media flown in were hungrily looking for stories to fill the paucity of relevant, up-to-date wine information. This meant that any wine industry media consultant worth his or her salt was able to generate reams of pro-active exposure for clients, as the imported journalists did not have a clue where to start in sourcing stories to justify their week-long jaunt to the Cape.

The staid, uninspiring nature of the speeches at the Cape Wine 2015 opening presentation were part of the reason for this media need.

The Wosa speakers really could and should have done better in their respective addresses which was filled with stuff about history and biodiversity and export volumes that any article on South Africa Wine 101 would have forgotten about.

There was, for example, no vision, energy or an analytical explanation of what had happened with Brand South Africa since Cape Wine 2012, nor the sketching of confident future scenarios. Rico Basson from Vinpro should have been included in the line-up. He is a convincing speaker and has an artillery of relevant facts and figures, while oozing a powerful and knowledgeable confidence at the same time.

The inclusion of Franschhoek’s favourite Indian, Analjit Singh, in the line-up for the opening addresses was weird. All he really had to contribute was a bit of boasting – albeit eloquently – about his buying-up of the valley of the French in a way that would make a top Monopoly player blush, sidestepping the issues that frighten off other foreign investors from South Africa.

And his statement that South Africa should be charging more for its wines has been on the Cape Wine speakers’ stage since 2003. It might sound like a confident bit of motivational talk and solidarity, but also displays a shocking ignorance of Brand Wine South Africa.

Having said that, the organisation and logistics surrounding Cape Wine were excellent and team Wosa successfully produced a wine show of international standards. Throw better communication and messaging into the mix and the results will be astounding, too.

But for now, it is over.

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