2009: Peri-Peri moments with a splash of Pinot noir

Friday, 11 December, 2009
Nikki Lordan, WINE.CO.ZA
In spite of the economic crisis South Africa had quite a few things to celebrate in 2009. We have vuvuzelas and a national anthem, sung by a somewhat bewildered Rasta and our road signs declare "we are ready to welcome the world".
Our proud heritage of 350 years of winemaking was often debated amongst wine circles including the first-ever Intervarsity Vino Challenge held at carbon neutral Backsberg between Maties and Ikeys. The purple Matie blazers won this year, by a mere point or two thanks to a convincing debate on the South African wine heritage. This allowed us to ponder the idea that our wine industry might in fact only be 15 years old.

2009 was the year of coffee flavoured Pinotage, WOSA's DNA, snobbish winespeak and printed publications dropping like flies. WINE.CO.ZA embraced technology and got rid of its old attire. We adopted lime green and orange, interactive wine reviews and a brand new online wine shop. Neil Pendock, a regular writer on WineNews, of course, didn't let the chance slip to get a few passionate winemakers, lovers, and drinkers hot under the collar with controversial debates on some of the hot topics of the year. Oom Tokkie, Kwispedoor, Mille Fleurs and Dionysis left their trail of comments all over Winenews, Grape and Winegoggle, which I have to admit (albeit shamefully) were sometimes more fun than the article itself! Come on guys, reveal yourselves!

Celebrating 35 years, the Nederburg Auction took off with much controversy regarding sales, statistics and wine writers reporting on the above in their glorious absence. The Auction, yet again another classy affair, was not so well received by those who attended some of the first auctions, thirty-five years ago. "It has become so clinical," complained wine legend Annatjie Melck of Muratie Wine Estate. "In my days we were fine with a spitbraai at the pool. It was such a party, at the end of the day everyone ended up in the pool - some with, some without their clothes." Bright lights, bleak party? Rumours are already flying that Distell would like to leave this party while it's still hot. But isn't that what they said last year?

The old (and some young) boys of the Cape Winemakers Guild put a smile on the face of economic gloom as they proved how well wine can kick records into oblivion even though none of the printed media showed up to document this accomplishment - WineLand had a flat tyre, I hear, but no word as yet from WINE magazine. Of course, Neil Pendock didn't hesitate to mention him being the only bona fide journo at the CWG Auction.

The John Platter Guide celebrated 30 years with a classy black cover in a crowded room with the five stars lined up against a wall, red wine stains on tablecloths and spittoons filled to the brim. The colour of the cover was this time not revealed by Editor Philip van Zyl's socks but by the numerous press releases published on WineNews and WINE magazine - I guess, black socks wouldn't have created much of a stir.

After years of bashing Platter on sighted wine reviews, Pendock along with Michael Olivier and Anibal Coutinho, took the bull by the horns and launched The People's Guide in November at the Vineyard Hotel. There was a guide dog, some sushi and then Emile Joubert who encouraged us to chuck ice into our Two Oceans Pinot Noir just before he decided to lounge on the deck chairs at the pool. Great food, lotsa space - no secret who won that contest. Food24's wine editor, Cathy Marston, however took on the heavy task of technically comparing the two "as guides"; in the process ruffling a few sensitive feathers but at the end showing there is place for both in our world.

2009 was a tough one, but economists declare the recession over. Bafana Bafana is playing Mexico in the opening game, the Netherlands take on Cameroon in Cape Town and apparently Nando's in Kloofnek closed for a few minutes during the FIFA Fan Fest to serve David Beckham his choice of peri-peri, mild or lemon&herb. Die Kaap is weer Hollands.

BEST OF 2009:

Most innovative marketing function:

- "Meerendal plants historic vineyard" read the press release published on 12 August 2009. On Thursday, August 6, guests were invited to plant 350 vines orginating from the original stock of Prof Perold, father of Pinotage, to  celebrate 350 years of winemaking. Guests included representatives of the famous Pinotage farms - Bellevue, Kanonkop and Uiterwyk - wine writers, Cape Wine Masters and the Pinotage Association.

Hardly a historic 350 year old vineyard, but at least in 2012 Meerendal will bottle a reserve wine with a historic Pinotage link. It's bound to up the sales!

Most outrageous rumour of the year:

- Many rumours circled the industry in 2009. Apparently Hidden Valley was to shut down wine production completely, people whispered at functions and tastings. Sorry to disappoint those eager gossipers but Hidden Valley merely decreased production and Louis Nel is still the winemaker of Hidden Valley even though he has his own label. "What I want to know is who starts these rumours?" said Christian Eedes, content editor of WINE magazine at a tasting at Hidden Valley earlier this year.

Best marketing campaign:

- One afternoon, driving down Steynsrust Rd in Somerset West, Kevin Kidson, mastermind behind WINE.CO.ZA spotted a particurlary interesting curve in a dirt road up Helderberg Mountain. Later on, he found out Brampton had engraved their logo on the side of a mountain.

Best email received at WINE.CO.ZA:

- WINE.CO.ZA's inbox is regularly flooded with the oddest enquiries, but one particular takes the cake: "To start a wine farm what is my first step?" Our answer was just as brief - Make 15 million rand.