Does wine speak English?


An excerpt from yesterday’s lunch chat with Jorge Monteiro, CEO of ViniPortugal (like WOSA, but with more testosterone) and Pedro Soares, head of the Bairrada wine region (below, on the right). “How is the wine business in South Africa?” “Could be worse.” “Ah, you’re clearly not Portuguese. For us we’d say it could be better.” In restaurants and pastelarias around the Portuguese Winelands, urgent conversations take place (in Portuguese) about how to market wine over platters groaning with suckling pig and salted cod.

20120511 075854 Does wine speak English?

Language is one of the major factors holding back Vinho Luso on the international stage. Heck, the Institute of (British) Masters of Wine are dispatching three Jedi to the Douro next month to peddle their wares. English is essential to hear their promotional spiel. English and shelling out £600 before accommodation, as snobbism never comes cheap although some Portuguese friends have been offered subsidized berths for as low as €150. The cultural cringe assumes SA proportions and I suspect Camoes would plotz.

Thank heavens the Symingtons, of Port wine fame, are subsidizing the mission. A mission being led by our own Lynn Sherriff MW, who was a scholar at Star of the Sea school in St. James; truly a galaxy far, far away. SotS is barely 100m from Rodwell House, the “Death Star” epicenter of the annual Top 100 SA Wines competition that takes vinous opportunism to a whole other level and provides lucrative seasonal employment for several UK-based Jedi.

Master of Winery has got to be one of the greatest wheezes of all times. Invent a pseudo-academic qualification and charge students through the nose of join the club. Although after the well-publicized Pancho Campo MW (now ex-MW) scandal, quite why anyone would want to join, is moot.

But it does make sense for Charles Symington to support the British MW circus. When ViniPortugal presented a Port tasting in Blighty recently and then repeated it in the Netherlands, the Dutch result was the British one, read upside down. Top of the British pops was Grahams (pronounced Gramsh), a Symington brand, which was less well loved in the Low Countries. Perhaps the Dutch need more Jedis, Chas!