FT's dodgy facts

Do facts matter at all when it comes to wine? Flying to Paris from Amsterdam on Friday, I spent a couple of minutes reading the special report on wine in the Financial Times. The lead story was by Jancis Robinson and punts her new book Wine Grapes heavily. Check out hosemaster for a hysterical blind review. Entitled “A taste for heritage boosts local varieties”, a paragraph on SA caught my eye.

wg 198x300 FT's dodgy facts

“Although the sensory quirkiness of South Africa’s very own 20th-century crossing Pinotage has been a bit too much for Cape wine exporters to promote this variety above all others, with white wines they have certainly played the Chenin Blanc card for all they are worth. There is now twice as much Chenin planted in the Cape winelands as there is in its homeland on the Loire. South African vintners are with reason particularly proud of the intense, ageworthy produce of their country’s old Chenin bushvines.”

Come again? Sawis informs that over the past five years 800 ha of Chenin has been grubbed up. Plantings have decreased from 34% to 32.8% of the national white vineyard. Sauvignon Blanc, on the other hand, has increased by over 1200 ha from a far smaller base. Five years ago, the Chenin ratio of SA to the Loire was likely even more impressive.

The sideswipe at Pinotage is likewise a fashionable position adopted by many frothy commentators such as Lettie Teague, the American JR on the Wall Street Journal. Pinotage gets by far the largest marketing sponsorship of any cultivar (over R1 million from ABSA bank) and has the most active producer group in the shape of the Pinotage Association, so this statement is also incorrect. While playing fast and loose with the facts may be fine in lifestyle organs, one would have expected better from the Pink Pages.

JR’s mistakes come as no surprise as its clear that the Chenin Blanc Producers’ Association has won the battle for perceptions (at least overseas) while the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group and Pinotage have a marketing mountain still to climb.