Should SA wine writers go on strike?


Few would doubt that platinum miners have a point: shot dead for dancing in public by the fuzz, paid a pittance to toil in the hot and humid bowels of the earth while their bosses big-note themselves topside in fat air conditioned 4x4s, dishing out fat salaries, fat share opsies and press releases.

But spare a thought for poor wine hacks. This one sent an invoice to a magazine this morning at the same R2.50/word rate as his last invoice to them, five years ago. But thank heavens they’re still publishing, unlike so many other lifestyle publications of five year’s vintage.

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No pay rise in five years. In fact, before Wine magazine folded and the company was sold to Terry Moolman at Caxton and the multiple millions divvied-up between the well-upholstered shareholders – tata ma chance, tata ma millions! – the rate was actually cut. Bowties off to Michael Fridjhon for being the only hack to take his words elsewhere. The loyalty argument turned out to be a wishful thinking.

Of course SA wine writing and wine writing in general has been totally undermined by the interwebs where “amateurs” post brilliant features for free. Far better than the rubbish recycled by the dead-tree media by deadbeat editors ruled by ad sales with the tiny trolls placing those ads, pulling the strings. But does it matter?

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To hacks certainly and to small producers, yes. For who will cover brilliant but unknown brands like Eenzaamheid with zero markeing budget or say that Tim Rands and his carbonated MCC is a scam? When WOSA hires expensive foreign bunga-bunga boyos to ventilate on SA wine in Dusseldorf and Hong Kong and even the Nederburg Auction hires serial Pinotage haters to choose lots, SA wine hacks are facing an Iraqi-style meltdown. It’s Isis, Al Shabaab and Boko Haram for the hacks

The irony is that there are now more competitions for wine writers than wine writers. Vinimark runs a controversial one in Franschhoekfranschhoekcellarwines Should SA wine writers go on strike?
by franschhoekwines
, as does Du Toitskloof. There’s Veritas and Famous Brands have the Responsible Drinking Media Awards so Soccer Moms who hate wine have a chance to bore the judges. Even Platter is now owned by Standard Bank and controlled by Reg Lascaris who owns those brands that dominate restaurant wine lists such as Chocolate Block, Wolf Trap, Boekenhoutskloof and Porcupine Ridge.

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As Ross Sleet, marketing maven at Distell, the largest producer of SA wine in the world, told the reader of Business Day earlier this month “we have a rich heritage, passionate wine makers and brand marketers, and specialist industry advocates of cultivars and types. We should focus on these extraordinary narratives and circumstances and let the commodities take care of themselves.”

The only problem is that self-praise is no recommendation. As Neil Schreuder, head marketer at Shoprite/Checkers, largest retailer in Africa, describes himself in his Twitter biography “marketing man. Big on ideas, small on self-written bio’s.” Paid-for PR, blogs and tweets only go so far.

An independent and vibrant wine writing scene would be “nice” to take SA wine to the Next Level like DJ Hi-Tek of Die Antwoord, a band so next level, they now play tunes for Dior. The scene at the moment is on life support.