Off the beaten wine track, again


Our three days of filming the TV pilot for off the beaten wine track took place at the start of the busiest week ever in SA wine. Day one was the last day of the Nederburg Auction and the twist in that tale is that Nederburg, 18th century herrenhuis, Vivaldi on the harpsichord and stinkwood armoires in the voorkamer, is one of the most revolutionary cellars in SA.

johan2 Off the beaten wine track, again

Romanian Cellarmaster Razvan Macici, who looks like the lead singer of Gogol Bordello, is rewriting the old patriarchy as he plants Italian varietals out in the former wheat fields of Philadelphia and trousers wine awards galore. The white winemaker, Tariro Masayiti, hales from Zimbabwe and is one of the brightest hopes for relevant wine in Africa. So much for the prediction of a publisher of wine guides that “Nederburg is too big and not sexy enough to ever get a five star rating.” A prediction that will hopefully soon come back to bite Mr. Toad on his not insubstantial pygie.

Sunday morning and we were watching the sun rise over the Simonsberg on Johan Reyneke’s biodynamic farm on the Polkadraai Hills – or “the Polka Drei subregion of Stellenbosch” as Cape Wine 2008 attendee Giles Cooke has it on his blog. Johan and his dog Tabak are living the bucolic dream twenty minutes away from the all singing, all dancing Cape Town International Convention Centre which is where Cape Wine 2008 – 400 wineries, 4000 wines – went down.

Twenty minutes that might as well have been twenty light years as the big thing missing from CW2008 was terroir and authenticity. CTICC is the perfect venue for the suburban supermarket model of wine: winemakers with shoes on, no dogs allowed, commercial, bright and efficient. More Mammon than Bacchus with nothing in common with the SA wine I love. No wonder international coverage to date has focused on squatter camps outside Cape Town International and the security systems in place at the über-bling Westin Grand Hotel. Are these the images that will sell SA wine overseas? Is this our point of difference with Australia and Chile?

If I had the WOSA (Wines of SA, the exporters’ mouthpiece) R26 million annual budget, I’d hire Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Off the beaten wine track, again
by franschhoekwines
for the week and turn the town into a Vinopolis. I’d appoint Marc Kent, Mr. Big at Boekenhoutskloof, chief organizer with celebrity chef Reuben Riffel in charge of food and Ann Ferreira director of social affairs. And yes, I’d change the name to SA Uncorkamorimcork Off the beaten wine track, again
by Amorim Cork
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as Cape Wine 2008 is inaccurate, insensitive and boring. In two years time, the venue could shift to Robertson.

Marc was our Sunday afternoon filming destination and he and Rudiger Gretschel are making the most exciting portfolio of wines in SA. The twist in Marc’s devilish tale is the most subversive of all – he gives away his best wine to date. Called The Journeyman, it’s homage to those medieval guilds of yore and his own family roots in Tottenham, but unfortunately won’t improve Spurs’ cup chances any.