Thursday, June 9, 2016

Ultra Misleading



Recalling my innocent consumer era thrill of a fine wine at a bargain price I dashed off to buy multiple Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show winner Secret Cellar Chenin Blanc 2015 Selection No 235 for a mere R32.99 from Ultra Liquors - Secret Cellar is their buyer’s own brand or BOB as it is known in the trade. In this case Bob is Mark Norrish and the wine garnered no less than three trophies including International Judges’ trophy (highest scoring trophy on the international judges’ ballots).

I first asked Ultra liquors on Twitter about price and where the wine was available and their reply (since deleted) referred to the price and that it was limited to three per customer without mentioning which branches had stock. Goodwood branch is the nearest to Stellenbosch, which is where I managed to buy what I assumed was the award winning wine.  

When I tasted it that evening (1 June) it seemed very ordinary, particularly for the standard of judges assembled by Michael Fridjhon, so I wondered if there was more than one bottling - Ultra Liquors responded on 3 June as follows:

The Secret Cellar Chenin Blanc 2015 has 2 bottlings so far. Both of these bottlings have been from the same tank which was SAWIS approved.

The first bottling certification number on the seal starts with 7525.
The second bottling, which is the winning OMTWS wine, has the seal number starting with 7660.

We are currently not sure what which bottling each of our 16 stores that have in stock.  There is a strong possibility that they could be mixed between the above mentioned seal numbers.

Both bottlings are under the same Selection number which is Selection ‘235’.

Just to mention we are not putting any of the stickers on the winning Chenin as we are sure that most, if not all stock will be sold out by the time we receive the stickers.

The wine will be on show at the CTICC this evening.

I hope that this answers your question.

Regards’

Rather miffed that I had the ‘wrong’, rather ordinary wine, I set off, on 3 June, to their Green Point branch where I found many incoming cases of batch 7525, none of 7660, with floor staff insisting it was the Trophy winner and that I could only buy three bottles.

Off I headed to the Wynberg branch, where I was confronted by an empty shelf with a temporary sign again regarding the three per customer limit for the trophy wine. My first request for the wine produced bottles of 7525, but my second request for 7660 to a more senior staff member yielded three bottles from their backroom storage.

That night when comparing them side by side, it was apparent that they were very different wines – yet being retailed as the same award-winning wine – so on Monday 6 June I had them analysed by the Cape’s leading wine lab which yielded some interesting results - 7525 has a residual sugar (RS) of 1,71 g/l while 7660, the trophy wine, has 4,53 g/l of RS. Other marked difference included extract of 20,73g/l v 24.05g/l and hue (420nm) of 0,06au v 0,10au – no question these are different wines yet Ultra Liquors is clearly retailing them at multiple stores as the same award winning wine.

Following email correspondence with Dale Louwsma and Mark Norrish starting on 2 June, I gained sight of an email dated 8 June to all the stores instructing them to display a sign (including an image of a bottle bearing the correct seal) as follows:

Dear Valued Customer:

Please note that the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show Trophy Winning Chenin “ Secret Cellar 235” has the seal number as shown on the below picture. The seal number starting 7660---

Any other Seal number is not the Trophy winning wine.

Due to limited stock, only 3 bottles per customer.

Thank you for your understanding.

Yours Sincerely
Ultra Management Team

Then, this morning Mark Norrish wrote:

The day after the Award announcements, we checked our stock holding of the total Chenin stock in Stores and our Depot. I must mention that the Trophy wine stickers had not been received at that time to place on the wines for correct identification purposes. Also, based on my experience of sales on a winning wine at this price, I expected all our Chenin stock to be sold out by that same weekend.

There was very little stock of  the 1st bottling left in Stores at the time, so I immediately allocated the new "award winning "stock to the Stores on Wednesday 1st June ( 180 x6 cases)on a 3 per Customer basis.

In hindsight, I fully acknowledge that I should have removed the remaining stock of the 1st Chenin batch to avoid confusion with Managers and Customers, as they automatically accepted that all the Chenin 2015 was " trophy" wine.’

One wonders why they didn’t add this information to their original signs limiting customers to three each?  Is this a case of sloppy stock control, intentional fraud to mislead customers into buying ordinary wine or the reality of FMCG retail?

Although winners can order additional bottle stickers indicating their accolades, Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show organisers print stickers in advance, in anticipation of the first batch of orders.  Anybody want 3 bottles of 7525?  

At the time of publication the writer was awaiting Ultra Liquors permission for SAWIS to corroborate their claims that both 7525 and 7660 came from the same tank while the Green Point store apparently had stock of 7660. 

From their website




Friday, April 22, 2016

Cape Entering New Viticultural Era



The dominance of International varieties in the new world is under attack.  While in many new and old world own countries, an enlightened minority has long bemoaned their colonisation by international varieties, powerful wine buyers and other commercial realities have seen the virtual extinction of local varieties or the exclusion of varieties more suited to local conditions.

Supermarket buyers have long since been on the lookout for something new and now generation Y is on the hunt for the extraordinary to endorse and share on their social networks while winemakers are looking to differentiate themselves in a crowded market. Routes to market have also diversified including the growth in online sales and wine clubs.
 
The Cape is no different. Following last century’s stifling regulations, decades of sanctions and a recent export boom off the back of International varieties, Cape growers and nurseries are preparing for a new reality - and there is much to choose from and contemplate considering the Cape’s diverse terroirs and the number of varieties either currently or imminently available.

Vititec’s contract with French nursery Entav-Inra, Distell’s sale last year of in-house plant improvement facility Ernita to private nursery Bosman Adama (Pty) Ltd, and the likes of leading winemaker Eben Sadie and viticulturist Rosa Kruger, ensure that Cape viticulture is entering a very exciting age.

Following their contract with France’s Entav-Entra, private plant improvement business Vititec are importing 10 new varieties and/or clones every year. New varieties available from 2013 include Macabeau/Viura, Marsanne, Roussane, Petit Manseng, Piquepoul Blanc, Terret Noir and Vermentino; from 2014, Counoise and Marselan; from 2016, Cinsaut Blanc, Grenache Gris and LLedoner Pelut; from 2017, Agiorgitiko, Arriloba, Asyrtiko, Caladoc, Ekigaina and Sauvignon Gris.

“We have suffered from Bordeaux envy for too long,” says Kruger, one of the main instigators of cataloguing the Cape’s old (35+ years) vineyards and the importing of new varietal material from Europe. “We need varieties better equipped to withstand our drought and heat while retaining acids until they reach ripeness,” says Kruger.

Sadie is at the “embryonic stage” of what appears to be a life’s work – and commitment – of trial and error plantings of new and exotic varieties. “I started eight years ago and it’s been a complex task of soil mapping and terroir assessment, plus the frustration of dealing with vested interests, politics and bureaucracy.”

From 2016 Sadie will be planting exotic varieties, new selections and new clones every year for five years up until 2020, with the new varieties – many of them Mediterranean – being tested in up to three different sites. “Once they are planted we will quickly be able to make viticultural notes but notes from experimental wines will take a little longer,” says Sadie.

Kruger has had similar battles in her mammoth project of cataloguing old vineyards culminating earlier this year in her website www.iamold.co.za detailing all of the Cape’s old vineyards. Besides locating the vineyards she was, for example, required by the authorities to contact every single grower to get their permission to publish the details.

Sadie has produced critically acclaimed wines from some of these vineyards known as Die Ouwingerdreeks (The Old Vineyard Series), which sell out on release each year, but is more famous internationally for his red and white blends Columella and Palladius.

Last year Michela and Attilio Dalpiaz, the Italian owners of Ayama Wines of Voor Paardeberg, after working with Italian viticulturist Augusto Fabbro and Johan Wiese of Voor Groenberg Nurseries, planted South Africa’s first commercial block of Vermentino. They believe it to be a good match with Sardinia’s terroir, which includes its tolerance of wind and warm summers, and compatibility with decomposed granite soils. Voor Paardeberg also recently saw the planting of over four hectares of Marsanne. Three years ago Albariño/Alvarinho was established by the Newton Johnson family in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside coastal town Hermanus.

Varieties available from Lelienfontein (Bosman Adama) include Nero d’Avola, Irsai Oliver, Marsanne, Folle Blanche, Prosecco (varieties) and Aubun. There are other varieties that are either planted or in quarantine that are subject to confidentially clauses between the grower and nursery until they are released commercially.

Meanwhile the Cape boasts the largest plantings of Chenin Blanc in the world but given its growing popularity and versatility this is unlikely the change.  Cinsaut – the most widely planted red variety during the United Kingdom’s reign and generously used in the Cape’s legendary red blends of the 70s – is making a return to fashion, via new plantings and highly sought after old vines.

Regardless of the outcome, there is no question that Sadie and Kruger are doing pioneering work, not least because nobody else is doing anything like their scale of experimentation. “Given the Loire’s climate, who would have thought Chenin Blanc would be so suited to the Cape? We have never been in a better position to experiment and we can find varieties that are far better suited to our terroirs than what we currently have. I will be very happy in 20 years time even if only 10% of the plantings prove a success. Too many of our varieties are out of spec. We need varieties that better retain their fruit and acids.’ says Sadie.

Jonathan Snashall

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Cape Winemakers Guild Auction 2015

A case of six bottles of Kanonkop CWG Paul Sauer 2012 fetched the highest price ever paid for a red wine at the auction with a top bid of R12 200. White wine prices also soared with AA Badenhorst Family Wines Graniet-Berg 2013 setting a new auction record of R7 000 for a case of six.

This year no less than six red wines fetched higher prices than last year’s record of R8 600 per case. Hartenberg CWG Auction Shiraz 2013 peaked at R11 000, Boekenhoutskloof Syrah Auction Reserve 2013 sold for R10 000, Etienne Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Auction Reserve 2011 for R9 600, and Beyerskloof Traildust Pinotage 2013 and Rust en Vrede CWG Estate 2012 both on R9 200. Amongst the whites four beat last year’s record high including Ataraxia Under the Gavel Chardonnay 2014 at R6 400, the AA Badenhorst Family Wines “Geel-Kapel” Muscat de Frontignan 2013 at R6 000, and Jordan Chardonnay Auction Selection 2014 at R5 800.

“Through our auction events we have been able to plough back into the industry by raising over R1,6 million this year alone to support transformation and the development of talented young winemakers and viticulturists through the Nedbank Cape Winemakers Guild Development Trust and our Protégé Programme.”says Andries Burger, Chairman of the Cape Winemakers Guild.

Over and above the main auction, a record amount of R231 500 was raised on the day in aid of the Cape Winemaker’s Guild Protégé Programme, a mentorship initiative for young, upcoming winemakers and viticulturists. This year’s special item sold at the Charity Auction, a one-of-a-kind 18-litre 2013 Members’ Reserve comprising a blend of top wines from all 46 members of the Guild, was purchased for R40 000.

Tsogo Sun was the biggest buyer for the second consecutive year with total purchases of over R2 million. Other top buyers included The Butcher Shop and Grill, Restaurant Mosaic, Rouseu Wijnen of Belgium, Singita and a number of private collectors. 

The bulk of the wines, 84%, was snatched up by local buyers with 16% bought by foreigners – 6% more than last year. Amongst the foreign buyers, the most bids came from Germany followed by Belgium, Denmark and the Netherlands.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Cape entering new viticultural era


The Cape is embarking on an era of great viticultural exploration. Following decades of sanctions, stifling regulations and export demand largely based on the so-called international varieties in more recent years, Cape growers and nurseries are starting to behave like the proverbial kid in the candy store – and there is much to choose from and contemplate considering the Cape’s diverse terroirs and the number of varieties either currently or imminently available.

Vititec’s contract with French nursery Entav-Inra, Distell’s sale earlier this year of in-house plant improvement facility Ernita to private nursery Bosman Adama (Pty) Ltd, and the likes of leading winemaker Eben Sadie and viticulturist Rosa Kruger, ensure that Cape viticulture is entering a very exciting age.

“We have suffered from Bordeaux envy for too long,” says Kruger, one of the main instigators of cataloguing the Cape’s old (35+ years) vineyards and the importing of new varietal material from Europe. “We need varieties better equipped to withstand our drought and heat while retaining acids until they reach ripeness,” says Kruger.

Sadie is at the “embryonic stage” of what appears to be a life’s work – and commitment – of trial and error plantings of new and exotic varieties. “I started eight years ago and it’s been a complex task of soil mapping and terroir assessment, plus the frustration of dealing with vested interests, politics and bureaucracy.”

Following their contract with France’s Entav-Entra, private plant improvement business Vititec are importing 10 new varieties and/or clones every year. New varieties available from 2013 include Macabeau/Viura, Marsanne, Roussane, Petit Manseng, Piquepoul Blanc, Terret Noir and Vermentino; from 2014, Counoise and Marselan; from 2016, Cinsaut Blanc, Grenache Gris and LLedoner Pelut; from 2017, Agiorgitiko, Arriloba, Asyrtiko, Caladoc, Ekigaina and Sauvignon Gris.

From 2016 Sadie will be planting exotic varieties, new selections and new clones every year for five years up until 2020, with the new varieties – many of them Mediterranean – being tested in up to three different sites. “Once they are planted we will quickly be able to make viticultural notes but notes from experimental wines will take a little longer,” says Sadie.

Kruger has had similar battles in her mammoth project of cataloguing old vineyards but early next year she will launch a website detailing all of the Cape’s old vineyards. Besides locating the vineyards, of course, she was, for example, required by the authorities to contact every single grower to get their permission to publish the details.

Sadie has produced critically acclaimed wines from some of these vineyards known as Die Ouwingerdreeks (The Old Vineyard Series), which sell out on release each year, but is more famous internationally for his red and white blends Columella and Palladius.

Last month Michela and Attilio Dalpiaz, the Italian owners of Ayama Wines of Voor Paardeberg, after working with Italian viticulturist Augusto Fabbro and Johan Wiese of Voor Groenberg Nurseries, planted South Africa’s first commercial block of Vermentino. They believe it to be a good match with Sardinia’s terroir, which includes its tolerance of wind and warm summers, and compatibility with decomposed granite soils. Voor Paardeberg also recently saw the planting of over four hectares of Marsanne. Three years ago Albariño/Alvarinho was established by the Newton Johnson family in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley outside coastal town Hermanus.

Varieties available from Lelienfontein (Bosman Adama) include Nero d’Avola, Irsai Oliver, Marsanne, Folle Blanche, Prosecco (varieties) and Aubun. There are other varieties that are either planted or in quarantine that are subject to confidentially clauses between the grower and nursery until they are released commercially.

Regardless of the outcome, there is no question that Sadie and Kruger are doing pioneering work, not least because nobody else is doing anything like their scale of experimentation. “Given the Loire’s climate, who would have thought Chenin Blanc would be so suited to the Cape? We have never been in a better position to experiment and we can find varieties that are far better suited to our terroirs than what we currently have. I will be very happy in 20 years time even if only 10% of the plantings prove a success. Too many of our varieties are out of spec. We need varieties that better retain their fruit and acids.’ says Sadie.
– Jonathan Snashall

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Afrasia Auction Bidding by Gavel & Grand


THE AFRASIA BANK CAPE WINE AUCTION ONLINE BIDDING NOW LIVE


The AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction, which set a philanthropic precedent in the South African wine industry when it raised an astounding R7.045 million for education in the winelands, at its inaugural 2014 event, is set to raise the bar this year when 34 ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ lots go under the hammer at the historic Boschendal Estate on Saturday 14th February.

2014 Barrel tasting & Auction Preview at Waterford
Gavel & Grand, based in New York, partners with charities across the globe, expanding the audience of bidders, using state-of-the-art technology to ensure a seamless online bidding experience. Access is provided to international luxury items and remarkable experiences to raise money for charities worldwide. 

Anyone in the world will be able to place online bids in the weeks leading up to the Auction, from 15th January until 13th February: 12h00 South Africa (CAT), 05h00 New York (EST), 10h00 London (GMT) and 18h00 Hong Kong, and then via telephone on the big day.

With only 350 Auction tickets available at R3 000 per head, the 2015 Auction’s sophisticated online bidding platform, will extend the bidding to international wine aficionados and philanthropists, creating a new high-water mark for a charitable fundraiser.

The 2015 Cape Wine Auction lots, generously donated by the Auction Ambassadors, include extremely rare local and international wine collections, gourmet dinners with world-renowned chefs, exceptional art pieces, international travel to exotic locations, exclusive private weekend parties, luxury cruises and access to the inner sanctum of the South African wine industry. These opportunities come along only once, for one Auction, and are never repeated.

All the proceeds from the Auction, without offset or deduction, go to educational charities in the South African winelands. Charity beneficiaries to date include the Pebbles Project, the MAD Charity, the Click Foundation as well as 10 other charities.



To join the excitement of The AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction and to make a difference, place your online bid at www.gavelandgrand.com/thecapewineauction



For more information


Auction Director: Jessica Henrich

Email: jess@thecapewineauction.com

twitter @capewineauction 
 

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Platter's Wine Guide 2015 - Year of the Blends



Winery of the Year
Sadie Family Wines
White Wine of the Year
DeMorgenzon Reserve Chardonnay 2013
Red Wine of the Year
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013

Wines rated Five Stars:

 Méthode Cap Classique
Graham Beck  Blanc de Blancs Brut 2009
Chardonnay
DeMorgenzon Reserve 2013
Iona 2013
Richard Kershaw Elgin 2013
Sterhuis Barrel Selection 2012
Chenin Blanc
Alheit Vineyards Magnetic North Mountain Makstok 2013
Fram 2013
Kaapzicht The 1947 2013
Grenache Blanc
The Foundry 2013
Sauvignon Blanc
Buitenverwachting Husseys Vlei 2013
Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy CWG Auction Reserve Vloekskoot 2013
Reyneke Reserve White 2013
Semillon
Vergelegen Reserve 2013
White Blends
Constantia Uitsig Constantia 2012
David Aristargos 2013
DeMorgenzon Maestro 2013
Flagstone Treaty Tree Reserve 2013
Miles Mossop Saskia 2012
Oak Valley Mountain Reserve 2010
Sadie Family Wine Palladius 2012
Sadie Family Wines Die Ouwingerdreeks Skerpioen 2012
Cabernet Franc
Warwick 2011
Cabernet Sauvignon
Groot Constantia 2012
Le Riche Reserve 2011
Nederburg II Centuries 2010
Oldenburg Vineyards 2011
Stark-Condé Three Pines 2012
Cinsaut
Sadie Die Ouwingerdreeks Pofadder 2013
Petit Verdot
Stellenbosch Vineyards Flagship 2010
Pinotage
Flagstone Time Manner Place 2012
Kanonkop Black Label 2012
Pinot Noir
Creation Reserve 2013
Crystallum Cuvée Cinema 2013
Newton Johnson Family Vineyards 2013
Sumaridge 2012
Red Blends
Delaire Graff Botmaskop 2012
Ernie Els CWG Auction Reserve 2012
Hartenberg The Mackenzie 2011
Thelema Rabelais 2010
Vilafonté Series C 2011
Shiraz
Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 2012
Boschendal Cecil John Reserve 2012
De Trafford Blueprint Syrah 2013
Fable Mountain Vineyards Syrah 2012
Porseleinberg 2012
Sweet wine, Unfortified
Delheim  Edelspatz Noble Late Harvest 2013
Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines Straw Wine 2013
Sweet wine, Fortified
Nuy White Muscadel 2013
Port-style
Boplaas Cape Tawny Reserve NV
De Krans Cape Vintage Reserve 2012
Brandy
KWV 12 Year Old Barrel Select

Seems to be year of the blends, white blends the strongest category (very lucky to sit on this panel) with eight 5 star wines, red blends got five 5 stars same as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah but red blends the biggest category in 'highly recommended' by some distance followed by white blends, Chenin Blanc, Syrah, Chardonnay and Cabernet.

There were also 9 wineries achieving 5 Stars for the first time – these were Creation Wines, Crystallum, Diners Club Bartho Eksteen Academy, Fram, Iona, Oldenburg, Porseleinberg, Stellenbosch Vineyards and Sumaridge.

The Platter Guide 2015 will be on sale from mid-November priced at R195 and is also available online from Platter’s website (www.wineonaplatter.com). The web-based version of the guide is available at www.wineonaplatter.com.


The tradition of secrecy and minor fanfare surrounding the colour continues with this year's colour announced as Beaujolais Ferment.