Move over Mr. Glass

OK, so SAB-Miller and their Castle Lager are a bunch of Charlie’s with their Charles Glass appreciation society. Well Distell also have a Charlie in the closet. William Charles Winshaw (in the frame below), who founded the company and invented Chateau Libertas, a red blend for wine drinkers (as opposed to poseurs) that celebrated it’s 80th birthday yesterday, in fine style, at the Big Easy eatery in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch.

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A splendid vertical tasting confirmed the first rule of SA reds – even vintages are better. Wine of the day was a perfumed 1978 stunner. A blend of Cabernet and Cinsault, it confirmed the demise of Cinsault as perhaps an even bigger disaster for SA wine than WOSA, the hapless marketing quango, hiding in their palatial offices across the street. Runner up was a still muscular 1940 while the weakest wine was a 1957, falling apart badly at the seams. As was Mr. Min, who had to depart hastily for the Cape, tired and emotional, clutching his magnum wooden box of 2000 vintage, which nudged ahead of the 1999.

The 1962 was a doppelgänger for the 1940 while 1982 reminded me of those fab Rustenberg dry reds of my long departed student days at Wits. The 1994 broke the 1m liter barrier and volumes peaked around the turn of the Millennium at 2.2m liters. With volumes down substantially these days is the brand running out of steam, even if Tops at Spar can’t sell enough?

Far from it. OK, so it can’t be exported to the bankrupt EU because of the word Chateau on the label. But our African brothers love it and for the Chinese market, what is the difference between Château Lafite and Chateau Libertas, apart from a poncy circumflex? In the taste department, not much at all! While 8 is a most special number in the Middle Kingdom and an 80th birthday, one to be celebrated, indeed.

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