by Grant Dodd

As an Australian in South Africa, one needs to be aware of what is going in the world of rugby, more so in a World Cup year, it seems. And with a big game looming large between the two nations, I’ll need to have my wits about me in the event that things go awry for Australia.

Despite the strong ties between the two countries, there isn’t a lot known down under about South African wine. Hoping to change that, I’ve penned a few ‘postcards’ for Wine Business Magazine( Aust). The first of those is published below.

At a Wallabies golf day many moons back, Tony Shaw, the legendary, tough as teak backrower picked me out of the crowd at dinner, dragged me to my feet, and declared that I was his long lost brother. Our identical hair styles notwithstanding, this was, to my mind, drawing a bit of a long bow. However, I wasn’t arguing with a man who looked like he would eat a plate of nails for dinner and go back for seconds.

I thought of Tony Shaw as I arrived in South Africa a few days before the start of the Rugby World Cup to find that the Springboks have signed Vaseline as their official World Cup skin care sponsor. I’d hazard a guess that the notion of applying pre-game moisturiser never entered Shaw’s mind, but what pleasure he might have found in the knowledge that his opponents did. Anyway, if it softens up the likes of Bakkies Botha and helps him get in touch with his feminine side it can only be good for Australia’s chances in the tournament.

Rugby is where it is at in South Africa at the moment. If anything, this country is more obsessed with the game than the Kiwi’s, and most conversations seem to start, or finish ( usually both) with reference to the World Cup. Interestingly, there is quite a connection between wine and rugby here. Rust en Vrede, the estate next to Haskell Vineyards was owned by Jannie Engelbrecht, a former Springbok. The family of Schalk Burger, the current Bok breakaway, own a winery in Wellington where Schalk Snr, also a former national representative, runs the show.

Just around the corner from Haskell Vineyards sits Annandale, the estate of Hempies Du Toit, a famous front rower from the 70’s and 80’s. During a discussion with him a year or so back, we dwelled momentarily on the size and shape of rugby forwards in the modern era, some tipping the scales at over 120kg. Hempies mentioned that at his peak he packed down at 93kg, the same weight as some halfbacks running around during the next few weeks. Hempies, however, was unimpressed. “Weight means nothing if you don’t know what to do with it,” he proclaimed.

The state of the wine market here largely mirrors Australia’s, albeit without the dramatic growth of imports over the last few years. Buyers are cautious, and discounting defines the off trade and on-line markets. With bottled wine exports down dramatically year on year as well, good news stories havn’t been abundant. The results of the 2011 Five Nations Wine Challenge have come as a welcome filip though, with South Africa grabbing a record six trophies, including those of Best Shiraz, Best White Wine and Wine of Show. It is further evidence of the dramatic increases in wine quality that have taken place at the ambitious end of production here in recent years. Touching up Australia and New Zealand on the tasting bench, however, is unlikely to satisfy a nation for whose only focus at the moment is victory over their fierce rivals on the football pitch.

(Grant Doddis a partner in Haskell Vineyards/Dombeya Wines and a wine marketing consultant and strategist to the industry).

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< Sunday 2 October 2011 >

Postcards from Stellenbosch- Part 1

by Grant DoddAs an Australian in South Africa, one needs to be aware of what is going in the world of rugby, more so in a World Cup year, it seems. And with a big game looming large between the two na


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