Backsberg’s Bag of Vinous Tricks...

Tuesday, 13 January, 2004
Melvyn Minnaar
Getting into Pink Pleasures and other niches
By Melvyn Minnaar

At a gloriously gay and marvellously merry pre-Christmas picnic the other day, the bunch of high-kicking hikers were in stitches when the basket flaps opened to not only to reveal the usual outdoor delicacies required for such occasions, but two unusual delights. These were brand-new from the wine box at Backsberg and announced themselves as Camp Cabernet and, yes, Camp Chardonnay.

The chirpy labels are user-friendly invitations to bushwhackers to pull the cork at safari soirees and boma braais, as much as it is tuned to tempt the thirsts of, let’s say, the queer palate.

Cheeky back labels throw out the dare implied: “Extraordinary, glamorous, extravagant and delightful. This is the taste of Camp. A wine with style in abundance. Camp makes a statement. Camp celebrates life with abandon.”

Catering for the pink people’s pleasures is but one of the sometimes slightly off-the-wall marketing ideas that are being conceived at that otherwise rather low-keyed winery on the Simondium edge, this side of Paarl. Watch that place, as they say.

Already there is plenty out there at the well-established producer that is new, different, revitalised and brightly re-polished. One of the best known in the Cape winelands, the streams of new tourists and returning visitors corroborate a philosophy that is geared to supply in demand.

Michael Back and his energetic innovation team, including youthful, enthusiastic winemaker Alicia Rechner, are fired up as munificent movers and shakers, purveyors of gratification to the Great Noble Niche – wherever and whatever that specific market may be.

Together with the gay target, there is an organic chardonnay in the works, and already well on track, is the Kosher Collection. Made under supervision of the Cape Town Beth Din Mevushal, its production methods take dramatic turns. Its loyal following stretches as far as distant weddings in New York City. The creamy, cheerful chardonnay under the label gave nothing away that it had been tampered with in any way, while the bright, perky pinotage must offer some intrigue of its own when served at those faraway Jewish events.

Not the loud-speaking type, Michael Back’s approach is to maximise and extend on what the winery can supply – and to find the markets, where word-of-mouth is the best recommendation.

Backsberg’s many fans buy what they want from the extensive range, available as quaffers as well as high-flyers, with bubbly, soetes and superb estate brandy filling in the gaps.

A pioneering move saw the top-end, high-price range Babylonstoren in new, elegant livery with screwcaps on a very smart chardonnay and an engaging viognier. This is sure to shift local perceptions of closures.

The latter simply means that you can pour a glass of good wine and return it to the fridge for follow-up later. No need to record that at the Camp celebration in the woods, the bottles came back empty!