Two magnificent events took place in what could be called Wine Week last week, CapeWine 2012 and the Nederburg Wine Auction running back to back, bringing the world’s leading wine writers, buyers, sommeliers and wine lovers to Cape Town and the Winelands. For an industry prone to criticism and politics, there was all-round applause and recognition for the hard work that Wines of South Africa (WOSA) put into organising CapeWine 2012, in making this what some called the best wine show ever held in the world!
Even the ever WOSA-critical Neil Pendock, who had begged to be invited to the opening CapeWine 2012 Green Tie Event when he was understandably left off the invitation list initially, was meek and mild in his reporting during the week, and no salvos have been fired at WOSA this past week, which is a tremendous achievement in itself, the reason for his boring repetitive attacks on WOSA not being understood by most.
German wine writer Mario Scheuermann is known as a critical writer, and wrote about the German media group’s disastrous SAA journey to CapeWine 2012, but he has waxed lyrical about his week-long visit to Cape Town and the Winelands, which included dinner at The Round House; lunch at Waterkloof; taking a leaf out of Mike Veseth’s Nederburg Wine Auction keynote address emphasising the importance of Braais in marketing South African wines, a braai was prepared by Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist George Jardine at Jordan, which he described as ‘the best Braai I ever had in my life’; a show at another Eat Out Top 19 Restaurant Finalist Bertus Basson’s AmaZink; wine tasting at Glenelly; visits to sustainable organic and biodynamic wine estates Backsberg, Avondale, and Reyneke; visits to Babylonstoren and to Leopard’s Leap; lunch at Pierneef à La Motte; and a meal at new Green Point located Café Dijon. He highlighted the following wines/wine estates on his Facebook page: David, Paradisum, De Toren Fusion V, Philippi, Hamilton Russell Chardonnay, Mulderbosch Sauvignon Blanc, Allee Bleue Isabeau, Springfield’s Méthode Ancienne Cabernet Sauvignon and their Wild Yeast Chardonnay, and Rickety Bridge’s The Foundation Stone. Scheuermann Tweeted about the power of Social Media as follows:“Cape Wine 2012 is the first big wine fair in the world driven and powered by social media”. The cherry of praise for our country’s wine industry was the following Tweet: ‘After this 3 days of Cape Wine 2012 we must clearly say: South Africa is today the most interesting wine country in the world’!
Scheuermann’s German writing colleagues Michael Pleitgen and Angelika Deutsch have been equally complimentary, while Eckhard Supp complained about the long queues for food at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and the meagre snacks served at a function on 25 September, consisting of a few pieces of sushi and dim sum, not enough to soak up all the wines tasted, he wrote. The complaint about the Convention Centre food was echoed by a number of attendees at CapeWine 2012, and was the only criticism of the event.
Locally, Melvyn Minnaar described CapeWine 2012 on Grape as a ‘jolly good wine show’, which left him feeling ‘pretty upbeat about the local wine industry’. He praised the ‘experience, talent and adventurous dynamic out there in the winelands’. Even greater praise went to WOSA: if they ‘can organise such a fine event, we can clearly trust the team to take the business into the world’. And the final accolade: ‘Feedback from visiting journalists and agents – many who know the business pretty well – confirmed my own impression that this was a jolly smart event. Viva SA wine’!
British freelance and award-winning wine writer Rebecca Gibb praised the quality of the wines she tasted during CapeWine 2012, writing ‘I’ve been really impressed with the quality across the board’, and she highlighted our country’s Cabernet Sauvignons, and the Oldenburg 2009 in particular. She also praised the Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends, and Tokara Director’s Reserve 2011 in particular. The Swartland also received praise, and The Sadie Family Palladius 2010 in particular. Other wines on her ‘top 10 wines of Cape Wine 2012‘ list are Cartology 2011, The Sadie Family Pofadder Cinsaut 2011, Glenelly Lady May 2009, Mullineux Syrah 2010, Vergelegen GVB 2005, Miko Chardonnay 2009, and Porseleinberg Shiraz 2010. She did criticise the reaction to her question about the future of Pinotage in a seminar, which waxed lyrical about Pinotage’s past rather than address its image problem and export decline.
Swedish wine writer Erica Landin described South Africa as ‘flippin’ heaven on earth’ on her blog and asked why so much of South African wine sold in Sweden is bulk wine going into ‘Bag-in-Box’. She enjoyed the Shiraz and oaked Chenin Blancs in particular. British Master of Wine writer, broadcaster and judge Sarah Jane Evans described CapeWine 2012 as ‘Best ever!‘, and Tweeted a photograph of Cartology, referring to it as ‘a wine that got everyone talking’. Swedish blogger Anders Öhman Tweeted ‘The WOSA organisation at #capewine2012 is amazing. So many guests, bags, places, buses, tours and parties. Running flawless’. Dutch wine dealer and writer Lars Daniëls Tweeted: ‘Grote complimenten aan WOSA en in bijzonder Sara Chanell voor geweldige beurs en programma!’. Award-winning UK wine blogger Jamie Goode attended the Chenin Blanc Association’s ‘Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar and lunch at Nobu at the One & Only Cape Town the day before CapeWine 2012 started. He posted a number of blogposts during his stay, and no doubt there will be more. He is a great supporter of our wine industry: “Cape Wine 2012 has been brilliant. I have discovered some very exciting new wines, caught up with some cool people (and made new friends)”. He braved the crowds to attend the Hermanus Whale Festival over the weekend.
Tyler Colman, an award-winning American blogger writing as Dr Vino, praised the Western Cape, as a ‘stunningly gorgeous region that has exciting local vintners as well as an international flair’. He raved about the calibre of wine VIP’s he had bumped into in Stellenbosch prior to CapeWine 2012, including Charles Banks, Bruno Prats, and Hubert de Bouard.
WOSA’s media release praised itself in hosting its ‘best ever’ international trade exhibition, the sixth in its history, quoting its Chairman Johann Krige. The number of producers attending had increased by 15% since the last CapeWine 2008, and had the highest number of delegates ever, and especially from Asia, Eastern Europe, and other countries in Africa. This makes CapeWine the ‘most successful international wine business show in the Southern Hemisphere’. This praise was echoed by Amorim Cork CEO Antonio Amorim of Portugal, who described the event as ‘one of the finest wine industry events in the world‘. The South African quality wines, and its leadership in eco-sustainability and energy efficiency, has been recognised internationally, added Krige. Kuseni Dlamini opened the CapeWine Business Seminar, and focused on South Africa’s poor infrastructure in getting to African countries, some only reachable via Europe. If there was more investment in innovation and product quality, South Africa could become the world’s top wine producing country in the world, he said. The provincial Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Gerrit van Rensburg, said that 3600 wine farms have 100000 hectares of vines in the Western Cape, reported the Cape Argus.
The CapeWine 2012 website provides a break down of the show’s 3000 visitors: 588 South African trade, 464 international trade, 317 importers, 140 South African media, 106 wine educators, 80 international media, 32 MW, 31 international sommeliers/chefs, 12 hosted press buyers, and 12 press media. The balance of attendees was ‘unclassified’.
The Nederburg Wine Auction held this past weekend was attended by some of the international CapeWine 2012 guests, but was mainly a local affair. It raised close to R 4,7 million, down by 30% relative to 2011. Forty percent of wine sales went to international buyers, and wine buyers from African countries and Mauritius represented 22% of sales. One third of the sales went to local supermarket groups, led by Tops at Spar. Buyers played it safe, by buying ‘mainstream varieties’ such as Cabernet Sauvignon, and avoiding lesser-known cultivars. The star of the Auction was the case of Chateau Libertas, with 12 vintages ranging between 1959 – 1970 selling for R16000, in the year which celebrates the brand’s 80th anniversary.
There can be no doubt that CapeWine 2012 rejuvenated the local wine industry, created new challenges, identified new upcoming wine and winemaker stars, created new connections, and attracted heaps of praise for WOSA’s flawless organisation of showcasing our country’s prime wines! Vindaba, held at the same time as CapeWine 2012 in an open space opposite the wine exhibition venue, was an unfortunate failure, in what was an excellent wine week.
POSTSCRIPT 7/10: Mario Scheuermann has documented his impressions of CapeWine 2012, on his blog The Drink Tank.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage