There doesn’t appear to be any industry that doesn’t love a good scandal. The most recent in the South African wine industry relates to Clayton Reabow winning the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year award for a wine that was vinified prior to his arrival at Môreson (click here to read Michael Fridhjon’s comments on Grape.co.za). The argument given post-event was that he, in a French winemaking context, had “raised” the wine.
I was much more convinced of the argument I used in 1999 when a very stressed-sounding Bill Cooper-Williams contacted me about the 1998 Mystery Reserve Cabernet/Pinotage blend for which I’d recently been advised I was a finalist in the Diners Club Winemaker of the Year competition (the theme that year was Cape Blends).
Did I supervise the fermentation of the grapes, he asked me? No, was my answer, I hadn’t even bought the grapes specifically for the purpose of having the wine made. In fact, what I’d done, I told him, was to put together batches of wine from two different cellars.
It was the act of blending – in the ideal proportions – that had ‘made’ this wine. In Champagne, I said, the person recognised as the winemaker is the one responsible for blending the base wine. In that sense, yes, I was the winemaker. Subsequent to this, I seem to recall, the entry form was changed to define the winemaker as the person who was responsible for the fermentation of the juice.
Ten years have passed since my brief moment of ‘winemaking’ glory. Apologies to Bill Cooper-Williams and Diners Club are probably in order. While the wine would not have existed without my intervention, there is no way that I had the technical skills to have made its components in the first place. I put the organisers in a difficult position, and at the time they must have weighed their options very carefully.
Cloof’s winemaker, Christopher van Dieren, who does make extremely good components, calls me a wine maker (two words intended). He has been amazingly gracious in allowing me into his ‘wine space’, and together we have blended dozens of wines.
The blending theme is so strong for us that several months ago I even set up a dedicated ecommerce website redblends.co.za that offers an amazing deal on six of our blended red wines. Of the six wines in the pack, four have been awarded Four Stars in the Platter Wine Guide 2010.
Offering consumers a discount of over R200 on a R465 selection of wines is an excellent deal, for which – I’m pretty sure – no apology is necessary.