Top 100 SA Wines to withdraw libel suit against wine blogger Dionysus


Robin von Holdt, the organiser of Top 100 SA Wines competition, who was planning to sue Dion Martin, the writer of the Dionysus wine blog for R100000 in defamation damages, has offered to withdraw his case if both parties agree to make a R2000 donation to a charity.

Von Holdt organised a Top 100 SA Wines competition last year, and attracted criticism for his guest house Rodwell House receiving an accolade for its winelist in his own competition.  Martin wrote about this on his blog, called Von Holdt some names, and received a summons from Von Holdt with a defamation claim.

This statement was posted on the Top 100 SA Wines blog by Von Holdt on Friday:

“The matter at hand has become distorted and emotive.  Libel is libel wherever it is published and those writing on the internet should adhere to the same standards as print publications.  I have a commitment and passion for the wine industry that is bigger than this matter ius.  I have listened to what has been said and consulted with wine colleagues.  The matter is not contributing positively to the wine industry that I respect, enjoy and promote.  I feel that an on-going adversarial relationship with bloggers is highly undesirable.  It also has the potential to damage our image abroad.  I therefor (sic) make Dion Martin the following ‘without prejudice’ offer to put this behind us and end this fully:

1.  We both agree to each pay Pebbles Project a sum of R2000.00, a needier cause than those of our respective attorneys

2.   I will then drop my libel case against you.

An apology for publicly insulting me would demonstrate character and I leave that to you to consider.  I do hope that you will see fit to rise to this opportunity.  I hope too that some of the more negative journalists won’t see this as another chance to launch yet more salvos of criticism and inflame matters further”.

The last sentence may refer to the Cape Argus calling Von Holdt for input to a story about the planned court case against Martin.  Martin told me that he will accept Von Holdt’s offer, on one condition: Von Holdt’s Rodwell House must not enter any future Top 100 SA Wines competitions, which was one of the aspects that Martin criticised about the competition, given the conflict of interest in Von Holdt being a ‘non-active ‘ shareholder (Von Holdt’s description of his role) in Rodwell House.

Von Holdt must have realised that he had no hope in winning this court case, and must have been surprised that wine writers (and bloggers in particular) attacked him for this attempt to muzzle a wine blogger.  The final straw for him must have been the call from the Cape Argus journalist, to whom we had sent the story.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: Twitter:@WhaleCottage

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