Wosa’s In Tent at London Show

Monday, 11 October, 2004
Peter May
Like caravanserais of ancient times that camped at villages they passed to show wide-eyed locals exotic delights, Wines of South Africa’s generic tasting show arrived in London this week.

Under pointed tented roofs of Lords cricket ground's Nursery Pavilion the Cape's liquid riches were poured by a traveling band of winemakers, supported by local agents. The WoSA caravan had passed through Germany, the Low Countries and Scandinavia to pause in London for three days before heading north to Scotland.

Danie Steytler was pouring his trophy winning Vision Cape Blend.  He joined the show in London, flying in to take over Kaapzicht's stand from wife Yngvild who was heading back to the Cape after taking it through the mainland, while Delheim Estate's Nora Sperling Thiel had taken the baton from brother Victor.

Warwick's MD Mike Ratcliffe confidently explained the advantages in people not noticing the many changes he'd made to the Estate's labels.  Out go curlicues and multiple marriage cups, in come straight edges, razor sharp printing, more expensive paper and cleaner colours. "We want to emphasize the Warwick brand, without confusing consumers," he said. Pouring a glass of Old Bush Vine Pinotage, he told me they're planting 4 more hectares of Pinotage which will be very densely packed, aiming at producing 16 tons a hectare. "We don't need to limit production; the terroir has enough to produce quality wine," he said.

Talking of Pinotage, Pieter de Waal from Uiterwyk Estate had come straight from a tour of the United States. "Our agent had a consignment of our Pinotage that wasn't being promoted. I grabbed a few bottles and we visited up-market restaurants. When people tasted it, we got orders immediately. They're interested in good wine," he said.

André Oberholzer, cellarmaster at Porterville Cellars, was proudly showing new packaging designed for the UK market. Under the name Porter Mill Station, the bottles have eye catching stripes on the capsule and a distinctive railway steam engine logo on the label.
Bevan Newton Johnson, MD of 'FirstCape' was telling all who would listen about the success of this keenly priced range which has become the fastest growing South African brand in the UK market. "We want to emphasise its South African heritage, and we do this by featuring Pinotage not only as a varietal but as an important component in our in red blends."

Hubrie Hoff was showing Weltevrede's easy drinking new Tricolore range comprising a red Merlot/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend and a white Sauvignon Blanc/Colombard Semillon blend. An informative wordy front label carries winemaker Philip Jonker's signature.

There was always a crowd around Eben Sadie to taste his iconic Columella syrah. Despite it retailing at an eye watering £38/bottle, Eben assured me that, because of his high production costs and processes which include individual berry selection, he's "not making money from it."

Also busy was Vergelegen Estate who had their entire range opened, although there was less interest in tasting Mill Race red than Vergelegen's flagship blend. I was told this had twice won the Comtesse Lalande Trophy for world's best red blend. I asked if, in view of Kaapzicht's Cape Blend winning the 2004 trophy, they intended planting Pinotage. I was met with a stony denial.

Wines of South Africa again demonstrated they can put on an excellent show, although entrance to it was marred by a painfully tedious registration caused by keying in every single field on registration cards before issuing visitor badges. As the badge has just a name and company, surely just this information could be entered while the visitor waits, and all other details added later?