General, Video

Belgians Need To “Fuck Me Rich”

Best wine video I have ever seen. Thanks to Gentleman Pilot Extraordinaire Chris Rawlinson for posting this. He always posts the best ads.

This is how people will drink more wine. Serious.

Thanks Chris, thanks  Duval Guillaume, thanks Vallformosa winery.

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General

Diners Club Enters The Afrikaans Music Scene

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Narina Cloete – lead vocals, David Sadie – bass, Hendrien de Munck bongos, Emile van der Merwe accordion, Attie Louw banjo.

Nobody was quite expecting this. Diners Club have been making their way into the wine industry for a while now. Indeed, with the amount of competitions they are involved with (winelists, winemaker of the year, platter) one could easily imagine they have a side business in certificate printing.

What nobody saw coming was the charge card company’s attempt to break into the lucrative Afrikaans music scene. The plan is simple.  The finalists for their Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year competition were thrown into a studio, and hammered out “100 Afrikaanse Treffers” (For My international readers that’s ‘Afrikaans hit’s) in an afternoon. Continue reading “Diners Club Enters The Afrikaans Music Scene”

General, Opinion, Rants, and Stories

The ProWein Song: Basically Eurovision for Wine (with lyrics)

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From the helpful sing-a-long video on the ProWein site. All that is missing is a bouncing grape over the lyrics.

Oh deary me. Via @thirstforwine today on twitter I came across this song that ProWein – a huge “international…trade fair for the wine and spirits business” – has commissioned for the fair in 2014. It is possibly the worst song I have ever heard in my life. I really think ProWein should submit it for Eurovision 2014.  Continue reading “The ProWein Song: Basically Eurovision for Wine (with lyrics)”

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The Aussie Made Me Do It

Yup, this guy.

Some of you may have noticed that I have not been writing recently. This happens every time I start to believe my own bullshit. When I start taking wine too seriously I get fed up with the whole shebang. This is a terrible attitude for a wine writer.

I have, however, been spurred into action by David Clarke’s recent guest blog on Tim James’ site, where he lists some of his first impressions about the local wine scene. I agree with all of them, but I think they come with added weight, because they are written from an outsider’s POV. We need more stuff like this.  Continue reading “The Aussie Made Me Do It”

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MyBeerHeroes Club Launch

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Apologies for the lack of posts this week. I have moved to Simon’s Town – yes, I am winning with village life, submarines, sea views etc. – and Telkom are taking their time getting to the ADSL line. 

“Craft beers are the new boutique wines,” I overheard a particularly silly person with oversized sunglasses and daunting lipstick say at the Biscuit Mill Market recently. They’re not, obviously, but I do think  the craft beer scene can learn a lot from the wine industry. Most importantly to avoid falling into the same bow-tied, elitist reputation the wine industry has got itself embroiled with over the years.

It was with such thoughts that I attended the launch of the MyBeer Heroes Club last week.

Continue reading “MyBeerHeroes Club Launch”

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Prejudices and History: a trip to KWV pt. 1

kwv

One of the most fascinating and complex wine institutions in South Africa is the Ko-operatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging or KWV. OK, I know they are no longer a cooperative, but that name, in Dutch, is retro-awesome. That last sentence should be read with the required amount of irony by the way. Anyhoo.

Continue reading “Prejudices and History: a trip to KWV pt. 1”

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I’m Writing For RealTimeWine

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Just to keep you all up to date, I thought I’d let you know about a mini wine writing project I have embarked upon.

Andy Hadfield the founder, head honcho, and most technologically advanced wine drinker I know, of Real Time Wine – the South African wine app that lets you easily search, rate and see which wines are trending in the country – asked me to write a series of articles for this community.

Continue reading “I’m Writing For RealTimeWine”

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Racing in the Swartland with Maxime and Roland

In case you missed this. I was with Maxime Graillot – you search this blog for mentions of graillot and you’ll know how stoked I was to meet Maxime and his Dad Alain – point is, we were at Meerhof tasting their ridiculously rad Chenins, and decided a race around Meerhof’s track was in order.

Yes. A track. Next year it will be tarred. Then we are doing it in a porsche.

The wines that Johan Meyer is making with the help? Guidance? of Krige visser are incredible. Natural winemaking, offering a really new expression of Chenin in the Swartland.

Freshness and ‘mineral’ is key. “Fuck primary fruit” says Krige. Yeah. Fuck em.

The Koggelbos Chenin Blanc 2011 is a crazy assed wine with layers of flavour. It’s demanding, but ultimately satisfying.

The Antebellum Chenin Blanc 2012 is cheaper at R65, but no less interesting. Far more reserved than your usual ‘unwooded’ (15% is aged in 300l old oak) but possibly because they have fucked the primary fruit so hard.

Full tasting notes to come as soon as I get my hand on a few bottles. Meanwhile, enjoy the video.

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Working out what makes a good wine good

It’s an important question as wine questions go. Not as important in the greater scheme of things, to be sure. But if you are going to stand up and say “This wine is  kak, bile of satan, tears of dying goat” you better be able to say why.

So I wrote a post for 2oceansvibe that tried to put into words what I thought makes a good wine good. 

I started out trying to be as general as possible, but the post got more and more personal. I think that’s unavoidable.

An interesting comment has been posted, asking if we should consider the ethical side of wine production. Worker treatment, I guess, comes before environmental concerns, but they are both part of this.

It’s something I will consider for future posts.

General

Trololololling, Pendock goes after Platter again

I realise that the first rule of the internet is “don’t feed the trolls” but today I just cannot help myself.

I woke up this morning to read Neil Pendock’s post on Times Live
“A dilemma for consumers: ★or ♥?”. It comes across to me as a punt for his wine guide framed as a debate. (I had to wonder if he paid Times Live for the advertorial.)  A debate around which guide consumers should purchase. Why they cannot simply buy both and compare is lost on me.

Pendock situates the debate around the methodological differences between his own wine guide, Neil Pendock’s Winelands Guide 2013 and Platter’s South African Wine Guide guide whose 5 star wines were released yesterday. My thoughts on those wines and the new edition of Platter will be on 2oceansvibe.com tomorrow.

I don’t believe that Platter is faultless. I don’t think anyone does. For example, if the taster assigned to a producer doesn’t put forward a wine for five stars then there is no chance of that wine getting top marks. People make mistakes so there will inevitably be wines that some believe should have got five stars and didn’t, and wines some will think don’t deserve the 5 stars they got. I feel that about some wines on both Platter’s list and Pendock’s. It is the very nature of wine competitions and guides. It is the nature of wine.

We rate, judge, and award points and stars to a product that is appreciated and assessed in an inherently subjective manner. To blindly trust a guide is foolhardy, as we all have our own tastes and preferences.

What irked me this morning was that Pendock didn’t offer a critique of the wines that the Platter guide had picked, but rather dredged up the same old questioning of the Platter guide’s  methodology. Suggesting, among other points, that because John Platter does not taste for the guide anymore, Platter tasters judge sighted and Platter does not consider price, the Pendock guide is superior.

I already foresee a response from Neil saying he was not deriding Platter, but merely showing the differences between the two. I would buy this if were not for the years of anti-Platter sentiment that Neil puts out.

Neil’s post is simply trolling the wine industry to drum up some exposure for his own guide before it is published . If the Platter methodology is so bad, so faulty and misguided, the results would surely reflect this.

I think it is great to see two guides using different methods come up with a list of top South African wines, but if you are going to attack the methodology of one, you have to show how the results are flawed too.

Pendock doesn’t do this, he cannot do this, because there is so little wrong with Platter’s 5-star results.

I used to really enjoy Pendock’s writing, and I’d stick up for him when other’s criticized. As time has gone by, however, I have seen more and more sniping and negativity aimed at other guides and writers.

So I get really fucking annoyed when I see a post that reads like Neil Pendock is some sort of vinous saint coming to save the South African wine consumer, while Platter is a nefarious, corrupt publication looking to screw the consumer over.

It is very tempting to start going after Pendock’s own guide. But I don’t really care about its shortfalls. I am more interested in the final results. In my opinion (shared by world-renowned and respected wine writer Jamie Goode) the Platter list is superior. This is my opinion based on the wines on the list. Not because I have anything against Pendock, or because of any other specious arguments.

For example, I think Pendock’s list is missing some truly top-class wines. Eben Sadie’s Columella 2010, Beaumont’s Hope Marguerite 2011, Keets First Verse 2010, and the Mullineux Family’s Syrah 2010 are just some of the wines that I think are absolutely spectacular and not on Pendock’s list of 5 hearted wines.

I don’t think that there is anything shady going on. Either Pendock and Coutinho missed them because they were tasting blind – you see, this method has its own particular pitfalls – or, like in the Mulleniux’s case* the wines were not submitted for the tasting.

What is interesting is that Chamonix – Platter’s winery of the year – has their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on both lists. Even though the Pinot’s vintage is different – the 2010 got Pendock’s approval, while the 2011 received 5 stars from Platter – it shows how good the wines at Chamonix under Gottfried Mocke are.

And that, friends, is where the debate should be. A healthy debate about which wines in South Africa deserve the highest praise. A sickly debate about sighted versus blind tasting is a waste of everyone’s time.

I want to know why Pendock thinks the Groote Post Pinot Noir 2009 deserves top honours, and why it didn’t crack the nod in Platter. Was it a style issue? Use of oak? Extraction? Balance? Brett? Labeling?

The debate needs to centre around the wines themselves, not nitpicking about methodologies which teaches the consumer – myself included – nothing.

I have added my response to Pendock’s 10 differences in a separate post. If Pendock were simply comparing the two guides I wouldn’t post it, but he is so obviously trolling by insinuating that Platter is in some corrupt I thought a reply was needed.

*I only mention them because the Mulleniux’s informed me on twitter that their wines were not tasted for Pendock’s guide. This is not to imply the others were. I haven’t asked them.

General

For the Record

Here’s my response to Pendock’s comparison of his and Platter’s guide. I am not affiliated to Platter in any way shape or form, I just feel Pendock’s insinuations and veiled accusations of corruption in Platter should be addressed. I have used Platter on countless occasions, and while I do not always agree with its ratings it is the most useful publication on South African wine. 

Pendock writes:

1. John Platter no longer tastes for the guide, having been replaced by a committee of nearly two dozen tasters including importers, educationalists, sommeliers, commentators and retailers.  Neil Pendock is himself and Aníbal Coutinho, winemaker and buyer for Portuguese supermarket chain Continente.

Alright, there is a difference here. It is not as if Platter covers up for this and it is very clear ‘Platter’ is a brand. Open up Platter and it’s obvious who tastes what. Nothing dodgy here.

2.Pendock insists on tasting blind.  Platter tastes sighted, recommends a handful for the ultimate honour and then re-tastes them blind and calls it a blind tasting.

The 5 star tasting is tasted blind. The tasters do not know which wines are which although they would have an idea that some wines are in the line-up somewhere. Platter is not misleading anyone when they say the five star tasting is blind.

Blind tastings have their own issues, especially when you only have two tasters. You are getting what two people prefer, rather than any attempt at objective results. This is fine, but should also be made clear.

Also, tasting sighted gives the tasters the ability to judge a wine over various vintages. Is it perfect? No. Is it useful? Yes. Can the same be said of blind tasting? Of course.

3. Platter has wines shipped at producer’s expense to tasters.  Pendock travels to appellations and tastes them in situ, even paying wine routes to organize blind tastings, in some cases.

If wineries feel the fee to be included in Platter is exorbitant I would like to hear it. It’s great that the Pendock guide does not charge. As a criticism I would need it  explained to me how the fee skews results. If it did, nearly every competition I can think of would also be at fault. If it doesn’t, why bring it up?

4.Platter accepts paid-for advertisements from restaurants, B&Bs, retailers and producers; Pendock does not.

If this is a criticism of Platter, the insinuation is that these advertisers somehow sway ratings and results. I would expect some evidence if this is the case. Having chatted to a number of tasters asking how they go about assessing wines for Platter, the idea of an advertiser influencing them seems ridiculous at best. If it is not a criticism, again, I wonder why he brings it up at all.

5. Platter accepts wines made from grapes grown in multiple appellations.  In a quest to pin down regionality, an important component of terroir; Pendock does not.

Fair enough. Platter is not a guide to terroir, I have never thought it was. If Pendock’s guide goes some way to helping understand terroir in a South African context I will be delighted. We will wait and see.

6. Platter rates non-vintage wines; Pendock does not as the consumer has no way of knowing which one was tasted.

This is tricky, and Pendock avoids the issue by not tasting the wines. The Platter guide’s assessment of these wines is hardly an attempt to screw the consumer. Surely non-vintage wines are an attempt at consistency by the producer. As platter tasters taste the same producers’ wines for a number of years, the system works well for keeping up with NV wines from year to year. Again, this reads as a criticism of Platter, but I don’t understand how it is.

7. Platter rates tank and barrel samples; Pendock does not as the consumer has no way of knowing if the finished wine will taste like the sample.

As far as I can tell, when a barrel or tank sample is tasted it is made clear in the Platter guide. Would you rather have a suggestion at what the wine is going to be like or nothing at all? Also, the producer has the choice of submitting a tank or barrel sample or not. So really, it is trying to assist the consumer rather than screw them as Pendock makes out.

8. Apart from a good-value swoosh, Platter disregards retail prices; Pendock ranks wines within an appellation by price.

Good for Pendock. I do not see how price has anything to do with quality, so this has no effect on the ratings themselves. Do consumers prefer it? If they do they should buy Pendock’s guide.

9.Platter gives  ★★★★★ to a couple of CWG Auction wines which is totally ridiculous as the auction is ancient history and the wines are not commercially available; Pendock does not.

I am happy to see how the CWG wines are judged by Platter. What if a consumer sees a bunch of CWG wines in a restaurant and would like to see what other tasters have thought of the wines? They will not be using Pendock’s guide, that’s all I can say.

10. Platter is sponsored by Diners Club.  Pendock is not.

So? Again this seems to be another insinuation of corruption by a sponser, if so I would like some evidence. If not, who cares?

General

Cape Wine Seminar Videos

Cape Wine was recently held in Cape Town. It is a biennial trade show. Basically a chance for WOSA to bring a bunch of journalists, influencers and buyers into the country to show off our wines, food, and vineyards. I think they did a very good job and the feedback from those I spoke to was wholeheartedly positive.

I filmed some of the event and that video will go up eventually. I also shot some 40-50sec intros for the “Tomorrow’s Stars” seminar. The idea was to give those attending an idea of where the winemakers are making their wine. It was fun and I was pretty happy with all of them. My favourites were Beaumont, Porseleinberg and Lammershoek. Enjoy.

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I’m Baaaaack

Yup, longest break from blogging ever. I thought I should start again. This may or may not be linked to the fact that freelancing is tough, and I could really do with the free lunches whose invites have trailed off since the blog posts dried up. Probably not though.

I was going to get a new domain, a fancy new design and everything. These cost money and selling words about wine is hard, so I have decided to keep the boring old look for a little longer.

What to write about now? How to be a wine lover on less than $5 a day? I think not. One of the areas that I want to put more effort into is tasting notes. They used to trip so easily off my tongue. I could type paragraphs upon paragraphs of ludicrously  florid tasting notes thinking nothing of healthy doses of anthropomorphism. Wines would turn into all sorts of things; I would marry them, divorce them, ride them into battles featuring alcoholic dragons wielding massive oak stave swords. I would generally save these bursts for wines I particularly liked or disliked. I want to bring them back as I have slipped into a terrible rut of using almost Platter like notes. While there is nothing wrong with these sorts of notes, I try not to bore.

I woke up recently with the desire to start blogging again. I decided not to moan about how I have not blogged. That’s like starving yourself and then moaning that you’re hungry. Luckily I also woke with an idea for a first post. I would start again by telling a story featuring all the new Hermit on the Hill wines. Personifying the wine, I would have them band together and embark on a misson to save South Africa from boring, mass made wines. Each wine would have its own persona based on their individual tastes. It would be like Lord Of the Rings, but with wine. Lord Of the Vines? Wine of the Lords? There is even a real Hermit to use. It would be brilliant I thought. THERE BE FLAGONS!!

A short story where all the characters are wines. Genius.

I recently attended a little lunch at the Wild Fig restaurant (There is a smoking bar, it’s close to town, the food is always delicious and well priced. Love it) with Peter de Waal to taste some of his new releases. I got up early ready to write my tale of small wines slaying Goliath-like brands with natural acidity, interestingness and their secret weapon, ludicrosity.

I sat at my desk and took out my tasting notes.

I tried to read them.

It all looked like some complicated doctor’s script.

Shit.

I then tried to piece the lunch together in my mind.

There was a lot of wine. I ate springbok with a ripe wine from the Rhone. There was a crazy Rose from Abingdon in KZN. And really Good Rhone wine (I remember this one, Saint Cosme Cote Rotie 2008). The Springbok potjie was delicious.

There was a lot of wine. Some dodgy Sauvignon Blancs. Some brilliant Sauvignon Blancs.

The one wine that stands out is Peter’s White Knight which last year was nominated for 5 stars. This year the blend is more conservative, without the splash of Muscat Blanc – like a cute dimple – that had me fall in love with it. Now it is a more straight-forward Sauvignon Blanc Semillon blend.  It may represent the Hermit himself becoming less of a hermit and now having to sell more White Knight to pay for nappies. Like my reason for blogging again, it may well not be the case. It’s still delicious.

It’s a bit blurry. Also, this may be the real reason for lunch invites drying up.  I possibly have to dry up first.

OK. I got drunk and wrote indecipherable notes. I am now going to have to buy all of Peter’s wines and taste them again, so I can offer you the real story told in a world where wines are alive and have super powers. Until then I will be blogging regularly. The next tale is one where I try to convince a person that wine is not pretentious, and fail terribly.

General

OK. Let’s go.

It’s funny. I have been putting off posting here for a while because I was waiting for something decent to write about. Then, realising nothing exciting had happened to me wine-wise lately, I thought I could kick things off with a bright, sparkly little post about my change in career.

I tried that a couple times and just couldn’t get the bloody thing sparkly or bright enough.

Sod it, I thought (about 40 seconds ago), let’s get this thing moving.

So what’s going on? It has been a while. I hope you are well. You look great, did you do something with your hair? Dahling, you look tremendous.

Me? Well. I am trying to make my way as a wino of all trades, tasting here, writing there, spot of radio, trying some video work, maybe even a stint of waitering to get those ends meeting. (My ends, currently, are not even talking to each other so much work needs to be done.)

I also hope to have a bunch more activity going on here. This will in all likely hood  be chronicling my journey in wine (aka Harry Avoiding The Gutter).

As I mentioned I have been a little out of the wine social/writing/free lunch scene for a bit recently. Ho hum. But I will be getting back into it with the abandon of YMCA. So expect many more posts, wines, and shenanigans.