Category Archives: Reviews

2011: The more things change

Looking back at the past year it is evident that the South African wine industry has seen many changes, controversies and closures but it is important for us to look ahead to the positives that the New Year brings. As stated by Deepak Chopra “All great changes are preceded by chaos”.

This year was not short on controversy, with the most notable of which being the Coffee / Caffeine Pinotage debacle and media onslaught after the University of Pretoria found high levels of caffeine in a few of the coffee Pinotage wines tested in their laboratory. The information was published as a letter in the Sunday Times on the 7th of August. After the publication everyone from WOSA to Harry HaddonNeil PendockOrielle Berry and Cathy Marston commented on the findings.

Another controversial topic that ignited debate in the wine industry was the release of a 96 page report titled “Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries” by an international company called Human Rights Watch. Once again the online media was abuzz with commentary from WOSAVinpro and Fairtrade SA.

The Backsberg Vino Varsity Challenge saw its third year with popular favourites Stellenbosch University failing to impress the judges and losing their undefeated two year champion status to arch rivals UCT. Also in its third year, the Nedbank Green Wine Awards saw a significant decline in the number of entries from the previous two years. The decline could be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the competition’s new home at Getaway Magazine or the fact that it remains a niche market.

2011 was a bumper year for wine festivals with many established festivals standing strong despite a decline in interest (such as WineX Cape Town) and others joining the party for the first time such as the debut Gugulethu Wine Festival. Though there was not a lot of interest from the producers (with less than twenty in attendance), those that did choose to attend were greeted by many eager locals keen to learn more about wine. Every wine journalist and blogger that could attend did and Neil Pendock and Cathy Marston (amongst many) thoroughly enjoyed the festival.

Though there seemed to be a wine festival every weekend, some managed to attract more attention than others. The second Swartland Revolution proved that the ‘cult’ status of the wines from this region is not for nothing. The weekend saw 250 people of a great diversity from across South Africa (and beyond) converge on the small town of Riebeek Kasteel with only one thing on their minds: wine. The well organised and punctual festival was well worth the money as the tutored tastings added value to what could’ve ended up being only a party.

With the world still trying to recover from the economic recession that shows no sign of letting up any time soon, the wine industry has had to adapt to the situation it finds itself in. The industry has subsequently seen a lot of change in the past year. From wineries finding new owners such as Klein Constantia and Mulderbosch to wineries going under the hammer likeQuoin Rock, there has been quite a bit of shuffling around.

Even the two biggest South African Wine Auctions decided to take on new directions. The 37th Nederburg Auction saw a fresh new look and feel with a comprehensive online strategy that stretched across Social Media platforms and a new website. The Cape Winemakers Guild also announced this year that they have introduced new selection criteria to encourage creativity and diversity amongst the wines from their members. This year’s public tasting already showcased some of the guild members’ more unique offerings which indicated that the members had already started experimenting before the announcement was made. This year the CWG Auction also boasted a record turn over of R5 286 700 (up by R1.4 million year on year) indicating that the updated criteria has stimulated some renewed interest.

2011 also saw the last printed publication of WINE Magazine in September and with many other printed publications going the way of the dodo, it is great to know that at least there is an online South African Wine Magazine in the form of Michael Oliver’s Crush!Crush! was also recently shortlisted as one of six finalists in the “Food and Drink Magazine of the Year” category of the 2011 Digital Magazine Awards. Crush! is also the only South African publication to be nominated.

WINE.CO.ZA saw a few big changes this year, with the move to our new offices in April where our entire team and warehouse is housed under one roof. Judy Brower and Kevin Kidson took a three month sabbatical shortly after the move. The team were left to their own devices but managed hold down the fort till Kevin and Judy’s return from Europe.

This year also saw the addition of two new members to the team. Mart-Mari du Preez joined the online shop in February and proved to be not only great at sales and logistics (our online wine shop continues to grow) but also a budding writer/blogger and wine enthusiast. 

Carla van der Merwe took over as WineNews Editor in April and Social Media maven in August, proving she can multi-task like the best of them. WINE.CO.ZA managed to reach several milestones with our Social Media this year with Dusan Jelic managing to get first 1000 and then 2000 Twitter followers while Carla brought the total up to 3000 in November. Our newsletter subscriptions also increased by roughly 1000 new subscribers this year.

WINE.CO.ZA strives to be constantly ahead of trends and embraces new technology, having released free QR-codes for South African wines in September and spotlight focus areas for our Global Partners and Partners in November.

Since the launch of our new website development option in July 2010 our entrepid developer, Garth Hapgood-Strickland, has developed 40 new websites for our clients. Some of the wineries that the sites were designed for include BadsbergBramptonDeWaal Wines,ExcelsiorKen ForresterKleine DrakenLourensfordMiddelvleiRaats Family WinesRaka WinesRidgeback WinesRooiberg WinesRuderaRustenberg WinesSteenberg Vineyards and Waterstone.

Here’s to a festive season filled with good wine, great conversation and amazing memories!

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

T-time with Ken Forrester

It’s not every day that one gets the opportunity to be in the company of an iconic winemaker such as Ken Forrester, and therefore I was quite elated at the invitation to spend the afternoon with a group of journalists having ‘T’ at the Mount Nelson.

The story of the Ken Forrester ‘T’ is an interesting one, as this Noble Late Harvest came about as a birthday gift for Ken’s wife Teresa in 1998. Sadly the first vintage of the wine was never produced.

The current vintage, the 2009 T Noble Late Harvest, therefore marks a decade of the wine’s existence and was the reason for celebrating at the Mount Nelson.

The ‘T’ is produced from a single vineyard Chenin blanc block on the estate and is very labour intensive to produce as many successive pickings (except for the 2001 and 2009 vintage) are done throughout the harvesting period. Ken notes that the picking starts at the end of February “when the botrytis starts to form a ring in the center of the grape” and has continued as late as the end of May in previous vintages.

The production techniques that are used to produce the ‘T’ are very intricate and labour intensive as only 40kg of grapes are pressed at a time in a 400kg press. The wine then gets placed in a large 4000 liter barrel where it is allowed to start fermenting before being showered with dry ice.

The start-stop process of fermentation allows for layers of complex flavours to form as a result of the layers of multiple wild yeast at work. This tireless process does not always yield positive results as it is a bit of gamble, and as Ken muses “this is the kind of wine, that if you were to make it for a boss, you’d get fired as it’s an all or nothing wine”.

After understanding the process of production in the wine, we were all treated to a veritical tasting of six vintages of the ‘T’ from 2000 to 2009.

We started our tasting with the youngest of the lot and worked our way back:

2009 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 12
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.7
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 135.8
Ph – 3.61

On the 2009 vintage Ken noted that it (along with the 2001) was a great year for Chenin Blanc in South Africa with favourable conditions for botrytis similar to that of the Loire Valley.

The 2009 was very fresh with guava and baked apple characteristics.

2008 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 11
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 154
Ph – 3.54

The 2008 vintage was never released due to limited quantity.

The flavour profile was very similar to the 2009 with the bit of bottle aging aiding in the wine opening up with a fuller fruit component. With characteristics of honey, apricot and baked apple.

2006 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 137
Ph – 3.68

The 2006 vintage had started to develop the deeper honey colour and was quite a developed wine, though it had no cloying or stickiness.

The bouquet was one of biscuits, caramel and vanilla with the taste resembling that of ruby grapefruit, with the sweetness and acidity in balance.

2005 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13
Total Acidity (g/l) – 7.8
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 137
Ph – 3.68

The 2005 vintage was beautifully fresh with a screaming acidity and the colour only just starting to set into a rust coloured hue. Ken admitted that the 2005 vintage was currently his favourite.

2001 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13.51
Total Acidity (g/l) – 8.2
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 132.2
Ph – 3.53

The 2001 vintage was a perfect year for noble as their was an early onset of botrytis which resulted in only one picking of the single vineyard. The quality of botrytis was also similar to that found in the Loire which made this vintage a stand out year. The colour on the 2001 vintage was also much lighter than it’s younger 2005 and 2006 counterparts.

2000 Ken Forrester T Noble Late Harvest

Alcohol % – 13.2
Total Acidity (g/l) – 8.0
Residual Sugar (g/l) – 131.7
Ph – 3.53

The 2000 vintage was a very hot year which resulted in over ripe fruit and therefore a very sticky and sweet noble. The colour was also extremely dark on this vintage with the defining characteristics being treacle and molasses extract on the nose and burnt / caramelised apple on the pallet.

The distinguishing differences in each of the six vintages that we tasted just further proved the significance that varying vintage conditions have the wine that is produced, especially when the wine is made from a single vineyard.

The beauty of each bottle of wine is found in the fact that it is the photograph of a vintage.

This article was first published as a blog post on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

Theatre Review – Waiting for Godot

The Fugard Theatre Cast:

Estragon           Ian McKellen

Vladimir           Roger Rees

Pozzo               Matthew Kelly

Lucky               Brendan O’Hea

Boy                  Khathutshelo Khangala

                        Hisham Ryklief

Today sees the close of the South African leg of Sean Mathias’s production of absurd playwright Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for the Godot. The local production has been on stage in Cape Town’s Fugard Theatre since 29 July and was sold out early on.

The International tour saw the cast travel across the UK, Australia and New Zealand, and finally end in South Africa. The production at the Fugard was however not done with the same set that had been used in many of the international performances as it proved to be too expensive and large for the intimate venue. The stage at the Fugard Theatre is a quarter of the size of the stage used in the original production which ran for two years on London’s West End.

I personally felt that the Fugard was the best possible choice for the production as it is a return to the manner that absurdist theatre was meant to be performed, in an intimate setting with none of the trimmings of conventional theatre. The Fugard embodied this with the signature exposed beams and light fixtures which one has come to expect and associate with the theatre of the absurd. The tree which is central to the action (or lack thereof) in the play was done to appear as though it grew out of the floor and blends in with the rest of the simple décor in the theatre. The seating was done to encircle the stage thus further removing the fourth wall.

Another striking aspect of the play were the costumes which were strikingly authentic that I now see how it was possible for passersby in Australia to mistake Sir Ian McKellen for a tramp. The bruises on his legs and sores on his feet are also done with such accuracy that I did a double take to make sure that it was indeed make-up.

The lighting design at the Fugard Theatre was done by South African local Mannie Manim, who is also the Executive Director of the Fugard Theatre.

Book Review – Seth Godin’s Meatball Sundae

Title: Meatball Sundae

Author: Seth Godin

Country of origin: United States

Release date: December 2007

First published: 2008

Genre: New media marketing

Publisher: Portfolio (a member of the Penguin Group USA Inc.

Price: R182 on loot.co.za and $16.29 on amazon.com

ISBN: 978-0-7499-2948-0

I must admit that the first thing about this book that caught my attention was the title. The quirky combination of words immediately caught my interest. I mean, no person in their right mind would combine the two components, so I decided to give the book a chance.

As you flip open the book, Seth Godin explains that a Meatball Sundae is a messy, disgusting and ineffective marketing approach and the result of combining two marketing aspects that have nothing in common.

Godin’s metaphor of meatballs is used to describe the basic staples of marketing, the things people need, the products or services which used to be marketed quite effectively with television adverts and other mass-market techniques.

The toppings on the sundae are explained as being the New Marketing revolution, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, websites, permission marketing and viral techniques.

Godin explains in the book that companies are all trying to catch on to the hype of the New Marketing revolution but often fails dismally. He states that what often happens when companies force sundae toppings onto meatballs is one big marketing failure. His suggestion to fixing this problem is for organisations to stop producing the same tried and tested items and to create something fresh and new which can be complemented by new marketing.

What I enjoyed most in reading this book is Seth Godin’s quirky sense of humour. His relaxed and informal writing style makes this business book a joy to read and it also helps you to remember what you read and to internalise the point he is trying to make.

In his introduction for instance Godin writes: “You think I’d learn a lesson. My short books sell much better that my long ones. So why not make this book really short? Two reasons. First, because there’s a lot of juicy stuff here, tactics you can use right now, stories that can inspire change. Second, because I’m asking a lot out of you once you’re finished reading.”

The book is divided into three parts, part one is titled: Thinking about the Meatball Sundae and explains the world of marketing, first as it was with a brief and interesting history, and then continues to paint a picture of the current marketing environment.

The second part of the book focuses on the fourteen trends that are remaking what it means to be a marketer. The trends are explained and discussed with relevant examples of how they have been implemented in companies and how they changed those companies for the better.

The fourteen trends as listed in Seth Godin’s book are:

1.  Direct Communication and Commerce between Producers and Consumers

2.  Amplification of the Voice of the Consumer and Independent Authorities

3.  Need for an Authentic Story as the number of sources increase

4.  Extremely Short Attention Spans due to Clutter

5.  The Long Tail

6.  Outsourcing

7.  Google and the Dicing of Everything

8.  Infinite Channels of Communication

9.  Direct Communication and Commerce between Consumers and Consumers

10.  The Shifts in Scarcity and Abundance

11.  The Triumph of Big Ideas

12.  The Shift from “How Many” to “Who”

13.  The Wealthy are like us

14.  New Gatekeepers, No Gatekeepers

The final part of the book is aptly titled Putting It Together where Godin explains that though the fourteen trends may seem contradictory, or too diverse it is important to leverage at least a few of them in an organisation. He then provides practical examples of how this has been done.

Godin concludes the book with the message: “if New Marketing can be characterized by just one idea it is that ideas spread through groups of people are far more powerful than ideas delivered at an individual”.

If you’re still not sold on this amazing book that will revolutionise your perspective on New Marketing, then check out some other reviews.

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