Standard Bank hedges its bets

The nifty Master Card we were given today to pay for fizz at the bubbles festival in Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Standard Bank hedges its bets
by franschhoekwines
, bears the stiff flag logo of Standard Bank.  Is Standard hedging its bets when it comes to wine?  For last night at the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year Award at La Residence, a Standard Bank director popped up and reminisced about making love to his wife on a farmer’s electric fence.  No Viagra necessary.  At last!  A bank manager with a sense of humour.  Something he’ll need to cope with being a sponsor involved in SA wine.

MC and Diners offer alternate marketing visions and the point was driven home at the MC Gourmet Theatre today which saw Duncan Doherty, Neil Jewell and Chris Erasmus whip up some amazing culinary creations, egged on by Colin Moss. How’s this Louis Bourgeoise spider light? You can see Ross Douglas from Art Logic was in the room.

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As part of a strategy to broaden the acceptance of Diners in restaurants coordinated by director Reg Lascaris, Diners recently bought Rossouw’s Restaurants and Platter. So quite how Rossouw’s can call itself “the independent guide to SA restaurants” when its owned by Diners and Mr. Rossouw gets a monthly salary cheque from Standard Bank, is a mystery.  To me at least.

What a conundrum for a restaurateur: “if I don’t accept Diners will I get a fair rating in Rossouw’s?” This could easily be confused with commercial blackmail. Mr. Rossouw’s position as restaurant columnist on Business Day looks likewise morally fraught, although their wine columnist, the Wine Lizard, has been juggling his own extensive commercial interests with gusto for years.  A moral morass an academic like Professor Ian Glenn from UCT may want to look into as the public must be very confused by all these competing agendas.  After all the Lizard is a fellow professor at UCT. Although quite how this academic miracle occurred deserves a public explanation from the UCT Senate.  Or should the Competition Commission investigate the dominant position Diners has suddenly assumed in writing about SA food and wine?  Diners is a whale in the fish pond of SA food and wine writing and I’m not talking about the cottaging whale troll here.

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I’ve judged Winemaker for several years now, but I can’t help but think that MC are perhaps on the right track with their involvement of chefs in their sponsored food theatres. Although pairing locavore ingredients with Veuve Clicquot Champagne from France as happened today, although great fun, is not ideal. Especially when so many bubblies are made in the Hoek. But then as Gerhard Claassens from JC Le Roux commented, the activation budget for a single Veuve bash is likely larger than the annual spend of a local brand.

If MC can have a Gourmet Theatre, surely Diners can have a Bacchanalian Review in which the six finalists are presented to the public for judgement.  A jury system rather than the current trial by experts.  Heck, if Judge Judy is the best thing on American TV imagine the potential for taking Winemaker to Kyknet.

Already Diners’ dynamic new PR Elzilda Becker has DEKAT-TV on channel 144 and a presenter like Aleit Swanepoel would take Diners and Winemaker to the Next Level.  Just look at what he has done for weddings.

Someone else constantly reinventing herself and getting it right is Susan Huxter at Le Quartier Français. She sent to London for a barman, Matt Roberts (below) and his cocktails are enticing. Exotically erotic I think the term is.  All the wines he serves in the Lounge Bar are local, a locavore lesson MC may want to embrace for their theatres. Although the celebrity charge French champagne emits is probably too strong for a commercial director to withstand.

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