Two things caught my eye this week: the first being a report on an extended visit to the SA winelands by a French sommelier and the second a response to a TIME magazine article on SA wine (http://www.time.com/time/travel/article/0,31542,1918808,00.html).
The impression created by the latter was that South African producers send rubbish wines to the United States, keeping the best for the local market. It all hinged on one quote attributed anonymously (naturally!) to a ‘leading Cape wine exporter’ stating: “We export the crud”. Well, Cape Classics, a recognised South African wine export company immediately took up the cudgels and came out swinging. Molly Choi, senior VP, pointed out that Cape Classics has exported Kanonkop, Mulderbosch, De Toren and Thelema (among others) with great success over the past few years. She also took the opportunity of stressing the positive media coverage and ratings that South African wines across the board have received recently, citing Parker, Wine Enthusiast and a host of others.
Which is all well and good – until you read the original article published in TIME…and realise that it’s actually a positive piece! The article by Alex Perry dated 26 August, sings the praises of SA wines and promotes events such as the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction and the Soweto Wine Festival, as well as recommending a few local fine wine dealers.
Perhaps the reaction highlighted a flaw in the South African psyche – that we’re very defensive and quick to feel put upon. We also don’t handle criticism well.
So I took solace from reading the piece by Frenchman Benjamin Roffet, the sommelier at Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant at the Trianon Palace at Versailles. On the same website he summarised his impressions of a three week visit to the Cape winelands. He tasted far and wide and formed his own impressions of a range of producers and wines. His takeout? There are a few areas – in his opinion – that need attention but ultimately SA wine has far more to offer in terms of interest, complexity and drinkability than either Chile or Australia.
And again, I delved a little further, following the link to his original blogs (http://sawinetasting.blogspot.com/). They are entertaining reading, providing a uniquely charming, French insight into the characters he met and the places he visited. We know we have something very special in terms of scenery, people and wine – so it’s rewarding that others recognise it too.