Snoek: Classic Fish of the Cape

Snoek is not so much a fish as it is a Cape cultural phenomenon. When the large shoals comprising thousands of these lean, torpedo-shaped marine creatures begin to run around the West and South Coast of the Western Cape, there is a buzz in the air. A tangible energy and, for a while, joy and blessing, and that feeling of achievement by the fishermen who set-off on their boats, the mornings dark and kelpy, to catch the snoek. For them it is a livelihood, and a good seasonal one when the snoek shoals run thick and long, as they have done over the past three weeks. And continue to do so.

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Harvest Time: It’s a Wonderful World

Harvest time in the winelands thrusts emotions to the fore, memories of pain and feelings of joy and wonder. Admiration and respect, mucho. This time of year also has me convinced that the bringing in of the grapes, the crush and the seeing of new wines on their way, this is what forges the vocation and skill of a winemaker. Every harvest past and that of now and of each following year, combined into a knotted string or collection of notches, this determines a winemaker’s destiny, will define the legacy they leave behind.

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The Majestic Eternal Classics

Last time I looked, the offering of South African wines was running to over 8 000 different units varying in prices, styles and types of packaging. That is a hell of a lot of wine diversity in a country only making 4% of the world’s wine, but this also gives one an idea of the plethora of wine brands available to the local consumer.

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The Real Great White Hope

In the world of serious wine recognition, South African Sauvignon Blanc appears to be a victim of its own success. In its own country.

During a recent consumer survey done by MediaVision Communications among wine drinkers in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KZN aged between 25 and 50, Sauvignon Blanc was identified by far as the respondents’ “favourite” white wine variety.

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The Force of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc – but is it Culture?

BLENHEIM, New Zealand. – When renowned American wine writer and critic Matt Kramer referred to it as the biggest single success story the modern wine world has seen, he wasn’t kidding. The category known as New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc has in 46 years grown from literally zero vines and nada litres to 24 000ha of vineyard planted in the dry alluvial and clay soils on the South Island’s Marlborough region, seeing 340 000 tons of grapes crushed annually and making 255m litres of wine.

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Producers Should Demand more from Wine Shows

Each year my clients and I sit down and discuss the merits of entering wine competitions in general, and then go through the list of shows on offer before making a decision on which to enter. If any.

Things are becoming more selective in this regard. First, entries fees could see a fairly range-heavy producer forking out R30 000 on four local competitions. What for? Well, for pride and honour, that is one. And then for the marketing punt that serious competitions give wines.

As my mate Thys Louw from Diemersdal Estate likes to remind me when I talk to him about the new trends in wine marketing: “Nothing sells wine like a double gold sticker on the bottle. Period.”

This undeniable commercial interest embedded in wine competitions makes me wonder why many shows are so slack in following through. For most competitions, you enter and you pay. And if you are lucky at the judging you are invited to an awards ceremony – for which on most occasions you have to pay to attend. And then, you win a gong, and then you pay for the honour of being able to buy a few thousands stickers to decorate your bottles.

So besides the bling on the bottle and a bit of hype from your marketing division – if you have one – what’s in it for the producer, except bragging rights?

It has been interesting to note recent developments in the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards. They follow most of the usual rigmarole outlined above, but since last year have shown an almost obsessive eagerness to tie-up the competition with retailers and other outlets so as to “add value”.

First, to add further impetus for entrants by getting wine sellers to stock the Michelangelo winners, the producers of whom would take an increase in sales above the nice warm feeling that comes with winning a medal.

And secondly, by aligning the competition with accessible outlets, the consumer is now able to easily access ranges of awarded wines that generally remain in some lofty realm of unapproachability.

A few weeks back Checkers, the retail giant that knows what booze means to its bottom-line, announced that it is sourcing Michelangelo’s winning wines and spirits for stocking in its ubiquitous stores. And at the week-end SAA came on board, saying it is using the Michelangelo selection to choose wines for on-flight lists as well as in its lounges.

From the periphery this development is going to shake-up South African wine competitions, most who have rested on their laurels assuming wine producers deem the honour of recognition enough reason for entering a show.

Not any more it ain’t. Take it from us on the wine marketing side, the bang is going to have to bet bigger to get wineries spending the bucks on entries, parties and stickers.

New time for showtime, it is.

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Diemersdal Estate Wins 3rd Trophy at Old Mutual Wine Show

Thys Louw at the 2018 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show awards function.

In what is turning out to be an extraordinary year for Durbanville-based Diemersdal Wine Estate in terms of wine awards, the Diemersdal Private Collection 2016 won the Riedel Trophy for Best Bordeaux-style Red Blend at this year’s prestigious Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. This accolade follows the estate’s superb showing at the recent International Wine Challenge where its MM Louw Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 won a Gold medal, one of only two South African Cabernet Sauvignons to do so.

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Riding the Epic with Sauvignon Blanc, and Winning Gold

Thys Louw, left, from Diemersdal with cousin Thys after Stage One of the Epic.

Diemersdal wine maker Thys Louw had just finished the first stage of the world’s toughest mountain-bike race, the Cape Epic, when he heard that he’d won two gold medals. Not on the bike, but at the Concours Mondial du Sauvignon 2018, the world’s premier international showcase for Sauvignon Blanc wine. Diemersdal took gold for the MM Louw 2016 and Eight Rows 2017, two of the wines from this Durbanville estate renowned for its interpretations of South Africa’s and one of the world’s most popular white wine varieties.

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A Dry White Reason for Sauvignon Blanc

So here we are, the first discussion of a wine from the 2018 vintage. That’s right, this is the Dry Year characterised by the worst domestic water shortages in the history of Cape Town, black-bass having to learn the leopard crawl due to empty dams and Premier Helen Zille sporting a water-saving, unwashed hair-do resembling a wombat that had gotten hold of a tub of Vaseline.

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