Grapes und Golf

It’s ironic that the two biggest threats to the Cape fynbos biome – vineyards and golf estates – are two of the largest employers in the Western Cape. A handy economic reality to counter any calls by hairy sandals for an eco boycott of SA wine. Those green monocultures (as Swartland surfer Eben Sadie honestly calls them) and neat fairways, greens dotted with tees and wrapped sarong-like around the coastal mountains have displaced whole plant communities and insect niche biomes with their associated dependencies such as birdlife. Water usage has been seriously affected and touristic amenities have transformed the landscape. Fortunately for golfers and winos, development started three centuries before the advent of Google Earth or the Western Cape would have been overrun by Greenies from Kew Gardens who recently discovered the Garden of Eden around Mount Mabu in Mozambique.

gw Grapes und Golf

Golf and grapes work well together. The ongoing Santa travel special laid on by WOSA (Wines of SA, the exporter’s association) for UK wine writer Tim Atkin (recently rated 16th most heard-of wine writer in a survey of UK wine drinkers by Wine Intelligence) has been described by one consulting winemaker, as a golf tour with some wine tastings thrown in. Indeed Tim’s hectic itinerary included games with Johan Bestbier of Kleine Zalze, Ken Forrester of the eponymous brand, Mike Ratcliffe from Warwick as well as director and EXCO member of the WOSA board plus Niels Verburg of Luddite who presumably eschews the use of an electric golf buggy.

WOSA are so in tune with their golfing genes, they even arranged for a two hour lesson at Kleine Zalze for Tim’s companion Olly Smith (rated second most heard-of wine hack by Wine Intelligence) who tagged along for the first week of Tim’s tour.

Golfing wine brands are a given even if some confusion surrounds the launch earlier this year of a Gary Player wine and the availability or otherwise of The Goose wines from Retief Goosen which scored a hole in one for a local wine guide when it appeared as if sighted assessments of the 2007 Cabernet in Co-op clothes commanded a ½ star rating (tasting room spittoons usually crack one star) while the same sample was assessed as four stars when it was sprinkled with celebrity golf magic. The David Frost and Ernie Els brands seem to be nice little earners for their respective principals.

Some golf estates even have their own wineries – with perhaps Steenberg in Constantia the most famous, while some have famous wine identities in residence, like Rhône-Ranger Remington Norman who lives on Erinvale and was part of Tim and Olly’s grand tour. Rem was memorably described by a famous wine hack as being possessed of a pair of swivel-hips in admiration of his abilities at teeing off.

So it comes as no surprise to report that glossy German language magazine Golf & Wein are media partners for Jörg Pfützner’s Under the Influence of Riesling Festival 2009. Billed as “the ultimate SA lifestyle magazine for the European market” and available in first and business class cabins of the European airlines servicing SA, G&W have clearly picked up on the synergies between grapes and golf.

As for the Riesling Festival, hailed as showcasing “the world’s best Riesling producers” French hackles are sure to rise at the pointed omission of anyone from Alsace. No one would disagree that Egon Müller, Ernst Loosen, Willi Bründlmayer, Hermann Dönnhoff, Philipp Wittmann and Robert Weil make some of the finest Riesling on the planet. Which makes the absence of Alsatians Albert Boxler, Jean-Christophe Bott, Séverine Beydon-Schlumberger, André Ostertag, Marc Kreydenweiss, Julien Meyer and Olivier Zind-Humbrecht all the more noticeable. But then perhaps their handicaps were just too high.