Cape Wine’s Creative Drought: can an Octopus Change it?

This morning’s announcement that the heart-felt documentary film about a man striking-up a mutually rewarding relationship with an octopus had won an Academy Award – Oscar – for Best Documentary Film has set Cape Town and South Africa abuzz. My Octopus Teacher, which earlier in the year also got its tentacles on a Bafta – the British version of the Oscars only with less political correctness and fewer winners making arses of themselves by dancing in the aisles – is a major achievement. Not only in terms of the two awards’ underscoring this being the most incredible natural documentary in recent history years, but also because it gives viewers an intimate look into the unique, pristine natural environment found off the Cape Coast.

Now the most important thing about the above, is the word “viewers”. Here we are talking millions of people from around the world who have already seen My Octopus Teacher and the tens of millions more who will watch it – or revisit the film – after today’s Oscar victory. And in viewing Craig Foster’s courting, flirting and playing with this octopus beneath the ocean of False Bay, it is a sure bet that said viewers will not only be captivated by this unusual relationship, but also by the place where Craig and octopus find themselves.

The Kelp Forests of the Cape, just off the winelands.

Now, what does this have to do with wine, besides the fact that the second viewing of the film had me salivating for an octopus paw – grilled Portuguese style with thyme, olive oil and garlic  – accompanied by a brisk glass of Durbanville Sauvignon Blanc? It is all relevant because here, once again, there is a cosmic opportunity for the South African wine industry to align itself with something that is garnering mass attention for the country. In this case, the Cape’s extraordinary ecological character so viscerally beautifully shown in the film.

Precisely how this link between the charming underwater inter-play of species and South African wine should happen, I do not know. But with the captivating showing of the drama that lies beneath the Cape coast and said coast being one of the unique traits comprising South African wine terroir, a smart creative mind or two would surely find the right chord to strike.

Ask any New Zealand winemaker as to what led to Kiwi wine’s stratospheric growth in America and Europe, and one of the reasons is sure to be the fact that the Lord of the Rings films were shot in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Just by looking at that scenery, the pure green ruggedness that you can taste, people who previously could not point-out New Zealand in an atlas wanted to get their hands on anything from that country, including wine.

Charlize Theron revealing her enjoyment of wine.

Crocodile Dundee, the 1986 film starring Paul Hogan as a jolly Australian wild-man from the Outback, led to a surge in all things Australian around the world. The increased wine exports at that time neatly show this.

This leads me to my conclusion in wondering if the South African wine industry does not lack some out-of-the-box thinking in the creative department? I see some creativity as an opportunity, one which is now more needed than ever due to the current perilous state of wine South Africa, the future of which is dependent on premium, solid export markets.

Winning the hearts and minds of the esteemed international media has not been enough. No other New World wine country gets as much glowing air-time in the global media space as South Africa does. The top wine scribes and judges, with an audience running into the hundreds of thousands, continue to drive the quality, the excitement and the excellence of Cape wine, the country and its people in a manner that one can only appreciate. This glowing and credible media support has, unfortunately, over the past decade done nothing to grow the value proposition of the country’s wine offering among the world’s wine-consuming public.

Bonding with octopus.

South Africa can align itself with things that are admired by hundreds of millions of people from across the globe. World Cup Rugby Champions. The paternal countries to global icons Elon Musk, Trevor Noah and Charlize Theron. And now, a world-beating film about an octopus off the shores of the Cape winelands that is being watched by millions, as we speak.

The power of association, if recognised and used proactively, is an opportunity of gigantic proportions. It just needs some out-of-the box creativity and the spirit to activate it.

Otherwise we’ll just have to continue paddling without oars and rudder, now and again stopping to look at an octopus garden or two.

  • Emile Joubert

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4 thoughts on “Cape Wine’s Creative Drought: can an Octopus Change it?

  1. This would have been a great article had you not mentioned salivating over an octopus paw. The whole point of this documentary was to demonstrate that these beautiful creatures that inhabit our oceans are so much more than objects to be plucked out of their natural environment, fighting against all odds to ensure the continuation of their species in a cut-throat underwater world, to be dismembered and chopped up and served on a plate, drizzled with olive oil.

    Conservation and not consumption is what’s key here. Let’s not forget that.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Phillipa. Conservation is key. So is, I think, a bit of humour every now and gain. Regards. Emile

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