Dear Sander

I may not have written for winenews this year, having a) been fired as a columnist for being anti-WOSA or b) to give young, thrusting, up-and-coming writers like Graham Howe some space (take your pick), but I still get forwarded the odd email message.

Plus some misguided trolls and haters think I post comments on the site. Like the first one after Richard Rowe’s misgivings on Platter that sparked the most ridiculous Tim James drive-by hit yet. But I would sure love to meet George Burns, who summed up the debate last night with a good dose of common sense.

kk 300x120 Dear Sander

With Biggie Smalls (one of the biggest Jo’burg Mad Men) now controlling the guide through new owners Diners Club as well as some of the most profitable wine brands, the reason for Dick’s unease at La Concorde must surely be shared at Aan-de-Wagenweg. Anyway, back to my inbox:

“Hi Neil, got your name from Phlipip Mybergh from DeMeye, who was doing a tasting in my place in The Netherlands. Yep, you got to travel to sell your wines… and I do travel to SA every now and then, business and leisure (wines..) Anyway, am finishing a course, writing a paper on SA wines, as so much is happening in your area and because SA is SA, special. But am looking for the trends in SA wines: what’s happening? what’s hot? Stellenbosch, being the epicentre, how does it continue to grow and develop or is it standing still? I know about the Swartland Independents, visited Elgin, but what’s more?

Would you mind sharing some insights on actual trends? and/or sites I should visit? people?

Many thanks!!


Well Sander, where do I begin? as Andy Williams used to sing in Love Story. For your paper on SA wine, the biggest event of the decade, century or millennium (take your pick) was the WIETA-guided riots in the Winelands last year. There is now a real chance that the new minimum wage for farmworkers will make the whole Orange River appellation unprofitable for winemaking and see farmers focus on table grapes and raisins, on which they show a tidy profit from Albert Heijn. Well done to WIETA directors who set back race relations and employment prospects several decades.

Turning to WOSA, perhaps follow up with your Department of Foreign Affairs or whoever is in charge of Dutch aid, as to whether they received adequate accounts for the business support funds that seemed to go missing last year. Perhaps Noseweak would then feature your report!

As for wines, there is a big push for Pinot Noir at the moment, with new brands popping up faster than acquisitions at Distell. (As they say in the Tabernacle, have we bought another whisky brand and when will the deal in Brazil be finalized?) The smart money is shorting Pinot Noir like crazy as +R200 a bottle prices are surely unsupportable given the quality of -R100 new releases.

MCC quality is going gangbusters and the latest Mirabilis 2009 offering from Spar, four years on the lees at Graham Beck in Robertson and under R100 a bottle, has blown the goal posts clean off the field. When I tasted it at Kleine Zalze last week, I far preferred it to the French fizz, substantially more expensive. Could it be that it is not necessary to spend more than R100 for a quality bottle of SA wine?

The new on-trade wines from Nederburg with crazy names like Motorcyle Maniac, Young Airwolf and Brewmonster will likewise make restaurant winelists more competitive. Although traditional brands could come storming back when Kokkedoor flights on KykNet this Thursday at 8pm. Did you know that KykNet is the biggest channel on DSTV?

Anyway, if koks can be divided into KinkelKokke and OnthouKokke, I think the same categorization should be applied to winemakers. All very Hollands, don’t you think, Sander? Certainly jokes are not in short supply these days in SA wine. The comedy trend is as firmly in place as bulk exports.