The Real Heroes in SA Wine’s Darkest Hour

It could have been the recent visit to the cathedral just off the market in Palermo. Or perhaps it is just the Christmas spirit that’s giving me this warm fuzzy feeling. Where one wants to pour a glass of Sancerre, put on a Paul Weller ballad and think of all the good people that are out there in the world. Like the chicken peri-peri griller at Dias Tavern. Minki van der Westhuizen’s personal trainer. And the person who first started chilling Jägermeister.

But the heart is, now, beating even stronger for a different kind of person. And who knows, perhaps you – one of the 19 people who read these modest missives – may be worthy of love, recognition and perhaps a cold martini, shaken. For, there are unsung heroes of the South African wine industry whose praise needs singing. These are those folk who have helped keep the industry going over the past 21 months of hell resulting from lockdowns, bans, isolation and other Covid ills by keeping the word and the magic of wine alive. They did it, and continue to do it, through there writing. Photographs. Commentary. Social media engagements. Freaky tik-tok videos and scantily clad Instagram photographs. All involving the subject of wine. Showing a finger to the authorities by stating on various levels that wine is alive and kicking.

While the local wine industry was in a deep pit of despair, some of it which still is, these journalists, bloggers, influencers and social media warriors showed that their deep-rooted and genuine passion for wine would only inspire them to broadcast and enthuse on the subject. Cellars were closed. Restaurants were either shut or banned from serving wine. The prohibitionist-minded “medical experts” and falsely puritanical government were doing their best to remove wine and the industry from the face of the earth.

But would the broadcasters let them? No-fucking-way.

In the depths of the wine ban, which hopefully will never come again, the printed articles on wine were published by Suzaan Potgieter and Samantha van den Berg in Die Burger, and Michael Fridjhon in Business Day. Dan Nicholl was busting his arse making video on a staggering frequency and putting it out there, engaging with winemakers and industry players. Christian Eedes and Cathy Marston were reviewing as if the wine was still flowing free, while Malu Lambert continued to essay away in her prose, as enlightening and inspiring as a Montrachet 1993. Blogger-influencers Elvina Fortuin and Leanne Beattie (“Through my Wine Glass” and “The Wine Girl Cape Town” respectively pumped out sparkling content on frequency that bordered on wine-obsession. Sam Linsell cooked and drank, posting it for all the world to see.

Of course, there are tons of other examples, but you get the message.

The point is that the wine industry itself has – quite rightly – received praise and gratitude for its resilience. Industry bodies Vinpro and Wosa were and are applauded for communicating with producers, churning out press-releases condemning the government’s arrogance and pursuit of economic carnage and standing tall in hard times. All commendable.

But the selfless work of those wine-infatuated media, blogger and influencer types deserves some sort of recognition. For keeping the brilliant world of wine and its people alive and positive, chatty and hopeful in a time when we truly were close to the edge.

From my side, the first drink of Christmas is on you. And only you.

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4 thoughts on “The Real Heroes in SA Wine’s Darkest Hour

  1. Pour yourself your favorite MCC…….toast yourself as well.
    Your humour is infectious and may it, like the wine industry, never dull or disappear!
    Next year will be better!

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