Tag Archives: Dion Martin

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: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage

Honesty and independence best basis of blogging, food and wine bloggers told!

Bloggers must be honest and independent to have any credibility, the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting was told by wine blogger Dion Martin at its meeting held at French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar last week.  This was echoed by food blogger and restaurant design curator Neil Stemmet.

Dion Martin writes The Travelling Vineyard Blog as a sideline, being a print-on-demand publisher in his day job.  A love for food in his family, a chef qualification he obtained via City and Guilds, a Cape Wine Academy Certificate, and a University of Stellenbosch Wine Evaluation diploma, led Dion to start his blog two years ago, so that he could document his wine experiences.  Dion mentioned that lawyer Robert Parker could be seen to have been the first blogger, in having published a weekly newspaper thirty years ago already, sharing his evaluation of the wines he had tasted.  Dion has observed an increasing ‘noise’ in food blogging, and therefore one should find a point of difference with one’s blog:  it could be humour, it could be its excellent photographs, or its ethics, in declaring when the blogger has received a complimentary product or meal.  Few bloggers disclose freebies, he said.   When he was asked how he deals with freebies, Dion said he would accept them, but would not write about a wine in isolation.  He might write a comparative review about a blind tasting he would do with the freebie wine against two others.   

Dion said that he is an avid Twitter fan (@TVDionysus), but he sees a lot of ‘soulless Tweeting”.  He warned that communication on a medium such as Twitter can be misinterpreted due to the loss in intonation, which one would have in spoken communication.  He warned Tweeters to be careful in what they say, and attendee Dusan Jelic added that one should not ‘Drink and Tweet’.   Dion has seen people on Twitter follow groupings, reflecting a herd mentality.  Twitter is a conduit to one’s blog.  Twitter has a lot of ‘noise’ too, and he filters this ‘noise’ out via TweetDeck, in reading only the Tweets of a select number of persons he follows.  Such a facility is available on HootSuite too.  He is strict in unfollowing those that do not follow him.  Dion said that he does not use Vlogging much yet, but is experimenting with it, as he recognises the value of YouTube videos in Google search optimisation.   He advised bloggers to not make the video longer than 30 seconds.   Dion does not use Facebook much, but recognises that it is powerful. 

Dion brought along a selection of Shiraz wines, for the bloggers to taste: Rusty’s Red from McGregor, made by garagiste John Hargraeves and costing about R40; Rusticus is a Shiraz and Viognier blend from Robertson, costing about R80; Le Marquis de Beau Rond Syrah received the least favourable response; Simonsvlei Toffee Chunck Syrah was also not that highly rated; the Sutherland Shiraz from Elgin, costing about R90, received the most most positive response. 

Neil Stemmet writes ‘soutenpeper’ Blog, the content all written in lower case, to represent his humility and the blog’s simplicity, and is in Afrikaans.  He focuses on the food tradition of South Africa, and his book by the same title will be published in November, and will be launched at the Food Indaba, to be held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and organised by Design Indaba’s Ravi Naidoo.  Neil said that he has no formal training, but he sees himself as a teacher, in wanting to leave a legacy.  He is a ‘survivor’, he says, and says that the more one gets stamped upon in a judgemental society, the more fuel one obtains. He has been the interior curator of the Towerbosch restaurant at Knorhoek, and Cuvee at Simonsig.  He received acclaim for his award-winning stand he curated for the BOS Tea House, and he did so with minimum budget, collaborating with a  number of design suppliers, each of whom brought a display case representing their outlet.  The walls were painted purple, and the food was served in large platters at the symbolic ‘altar’ table, explaining his interpretation of a reaction to religion. 

The ‘soutenpeper’ name reflects Neil’s approach to food preparation, which is adding nothing more than salt and pepper to a leg of lamb.   It starts in obtaining one’s meat from a butcher one knows, and knowing from where he sources his meat.  Neil started his food career with his restaurant Le Must in Upington, which he opened in 1985, and still owns. Here he once served Nelson Mandela.  He keeps his food ‘hearty and simple’, serving it in large platters, and it is eaten with ‘great conversations’.  Neil started ‘soutenpeper’ on WordPress, and asked for help when he got stuck in his early days of blogging.  The publishers approached him about the book after only three months of blogging. He said of his growing reputation:”The more people write about me, the more scared I get”.  He says it takes energy to live up to the coverage he receives, and he is always honest and sincere.  He speaks his mind.  He advised bloggers to write what comes to mind, to be natural in what one writes, and “to trust one’s instinct and to not force it”.  Do not shout, he advised, ‘speak quietly’.  ‘Become more humble, the more success you have.  It is not about you, but about the energy flowing through you.  Do not write for who we think we should be, but for what you are. Always share knowledge, and you will get reward from it’, he concluded.

French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar is jointly owned by Karen Visser and John Harrison, and opened last year. They generously hosted the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting next to their cosy downstairs fireplace, serving bruschetta, as well as a surprise Chocolate Fondant.

The next meetings of the Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club take place as follows:

   *   20 July : Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert of Batonage Blog, at What’s On Eatery

   *   17 August:  Nikki Dumas of Swirl Blog, and Matt Allisson of I’m no Jamie Oliver Blog, at Den Anker, wines sponsored by Jordan wines

   *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro1682, and a wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery, and Anthony Gird and Michael de Klerk from Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting and talk on blogging, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Saturday lunch visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com  E-mail: whalecot@iafrica.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage  @FoodWineBlogClu Food & Wine Bloggers Club now on Facebook

‘SoutenPeper’ blog ‘paired’ with ‘The Travelling Vineyard’ blog at June Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club

The June Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meeting will ‘pair’ Neil Stemmet, interior curator and writer of the Blog ‘SoutenPeper’, with wine blogger Dion Martin, who writes the Blog  The Travelling Vineyard, and will be held at French Toast on Bree Street on Wednesday 8 June, from 6 – 8 pm.

Neil Stemmet  of KONCEPT attracted attention with his restaurant interior curation at Simonsig’s Cuvee and Knorhoek’s Towerbosch restaurants.  More recently, he curated the BOS Tea House at Decorex, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, and has very specific ideas about the Restaurant of the Future.  Neil’s focus in his ‘SoutenPeper’ blog is to go back to the traditional South African recipes, and to document them for future generations.  He is working on a book by the same title.  Neil is a dynamic and very entertaining speaker.

Dion Martin is a Capetonian who grew up on
“Vleis, rys, aartappels, brandy and rugby”, he writes.  He became obsessed with food, and how it connects people.  He did a part-time Chef’s diploma with City and Guilds, and passed with distinction while doing his day job in running his digital book printing company. He also completed the Cape Wine Academy Certificate, and the University of Stellenbosch Wine Evaluation diploma.  He started The Travelling Vineyard Blog to share his food and wine experiences, leading to Tweeting as @TVDionysus, and also Vlogging (video blogging).

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club was formed to reflect the tremendous growth in and power of food and wine blogs in forming opinion about food, restaurants and wines.  Most bloggers do not have any formal training in blogging, and learnt from others.   The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club aims to foster this informal training, and to serve as a social media networking opportunity.

Each of the two bloggers will talk for about half an hour about their blog, and what they have learnt about blogging.  The Club will give fledgling as well as experienced bloggers the opportunity to learn from each other and to share their knowledge with others.  Attendees can ask questions, and get to know fellow bloggers.  The Club meetings are informal and fun.

   Future Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club meetings have been organised as follows:

   *   20 July : Hennie Coetzee and Maggie Mostert of Batonage Blog, at What’s On Eatery

   *   17 August:  Nikki Dumas of Swirl Blog, and Matt Allisson of I’m no Jamie Oliver Blog, Den Anker venue, Jordan wines

   *   21 September:  Chef Brad Ball of Bistro1682, and wine speaker from Steenberg, at Steenberg

   *   19 October:   Roger and Dawn Jorgensen of Jorgensen’s Distillery and Honest Chocolate, with a chocolate and potstill brandy tasting, at Haas Coffee on Rose Street. 

   *   12 November: Visit to new Leopard’s Leap tasting room and cookery school in Franschhoek   

Wines are brought along by the wine blogging speaker, and Dion will lead bloggers through a wine tasting.  Tapas snacks will be served by French Toast.  


Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club, Wednesday 8 June, 6 – 8 pm: French Toast Wine & Tapas Bar, 199 Bree Street, Cape Town. Bookings can be made by e-mailing Chris at whalecot@iafrica.com or call (021) 433-2100. The cost of attendance is R100.

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com.  Twitter:@WhaleCottage