Pink Ladies or Pinot Noir?

That Bacchus is under pressure in Elgin is a no-brainer. With profits of R250,000 per hectare to be had from pink lady apples and a tenth of that if you can sell Pinot Noir at R50 a litre to the Finnish liquor monopoly, why would anyone but an optimistic alcoholic bother growing grapes?

No wonder 40% of Distell’s profits come from cider – in fact, the wine producer is the world’s second largest cider maker. Even Almenkerk, whose Chardonnay is so cool a Belgian Princess will visit later this year, are planting apples. And don’t forget, the Garden of Eden is more famous for its apples than wine, even if eating the apple did cause more trouble for Adam than any amount of irresponsible drinking.

IMG 0839 1024x576 Pink Ladies or Pinot Noir?

For apples are a commodity, whereas the hardest thing about wine is selling the stuff. Well quality wine at least. Of course followers of WOSA CEO Su Birch (another kind of pink lady) will regard wine as a commodity to be exported in bulk and then it’s just simple economics of yield and selling price. Which pink ladies win hands down.

But sinking ships can be great fun. After all, who still talks about the hundreds of thousands of ships that made it safely across the Atlantic? Titanic still rules the talk shows.

So hallo! the Elgin Valley Red Wine Retrospective held under salubrious circumstances at the Vineyard Hotel on Thursday. One piece of good news is Oneiric, a new producer in the valley. The name refers to dreams and this is a wet dream in red velvet pants. The three wines tastes: a Shiraz, Cabernet and Bordeaux blend have a delicious berry-dense character. They are dreams from the bed of Mexican film director Guillermo del Toro whose Pan’s Labyrinth could have been filmed in Elgin. These are wines of character and well worth waking up for.

The biggest surprise of the tasting is the leaps and bounds taken by Shiraz from the valley. Elgin has an unbeatable USP of minerality without greenness. Although minerality is a red flag to a bowtie or anorak, Elgin Shiraz are a potent antidote to those big and booming numbers from the Swartland. Where is the retail Paladin to take a six pack of Next Level Shiraz to Strubens Valley? Three from the Swartland and three from Elgin so the sinuous charms of pink lady Shiraz grown in a cool climate can compete with the wet T-shirt appeal of the May Wests from Riebeek Wes. A raunchy knock-down and drag-out affair that will make the Swartland Revolution look like a Rodean tea party.