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I heard it through the grapevine
South Africa wine industry gossip, June 2000 

Greg Sherwood, sherwood@cis.co.za

For all those Wine Anoraks out there with a deeper interest in South African wine and the South African wine industry, here are some gossip "Bin Ends" for June that have been garnered from the media, trade, and wine makers. Here’s my ‘Wine Gossip Top 5’:

1. Alto Alternatives?
Famous Cape Cabernet Sauvignon producer and industry Stalwart ALTO Estate, is currently sitting short of a wine maker. Former Springbok Rugger Bugger, Hempies Du Toit has departed company after 25 vintages and is now actively promoting his own wines from a property just down the road (literally), called Annandale. With already 3 or 4 vintages in bottle and barrel, he looks sure to continue where he left off at Alto. His first wine, the Annandale Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, is not commercially available yet, but displays many of the Hempies trademarks (I was given a sneak tasting at the Alto Cellar(!) in December 1999 by Hempies). Not a great vintage in general, but better wines sure to be on their way after the 5 star 1997 and 1998 vintages!

2. Julliet Cullinan Red Wine & Port Festival – Be there or be square!
Take off those vineyard overalls and dig out a jacket and tie! Its Julliet Cullinan Wine Festival time again. This showcase of South Africa’s finest wineries, held at the Wanderer’s Country Club in Johannesburg from the 6th to 8th June 2000, is not one to miss. After attending this event for the past 2 years, I can personally guarantee you that this is the best selection of SA premium wines on show. The festival also comes in handy for those wanting to order the permanently "sold-out" wines direct from the farms, as most of the owners and wine makers are normally in attendance. Not one to miss!!! Otherwise, make a note in your diary for next year.

3. Meerlust Rubicon 1996 – Where’s that damn En-Primeur report filed!!??
The famous Bordeaux blend cult wine from the Cape, to borrow American terminology, is due to release its 1996 vintage. After the 1995 Rubicon, described as the vintage of the decade, received an admirable 90 points from Parker recently, the 1996 Rubicon, from a notoriously bad vintage all round, might have some very big shoes to try and fill! Bordeaux’s Grand Cru producers are regularly confronted with variable vintage conditions, but are always expected (by the trade) to turn out veritable masterpieces. Let’s see what our very own Cape "first growth" can pull out the bag. The Wine Anorak will keep you posted!!

4. Calling all jet set Connoisseurs
All those Wine Anoraks flying to South Africa via South African Airways First Class and Business Class, might be in for some pleasant surprises in the bubbly department. As part of the airline’s overall cost cutting exercises, the Grande Marques of Champagne have been booted from the wine list, to make way for specially selected, limited availability (more affordable to the airline), 100% Grand Cru Champagnes from several ‘single growers’. I give SAA 10 out of 10 for thumbing their noses up at the often ‘rip-off’ commercial brands that have monopolized the Champagne industry. Selected by a panel of Cape Wine Masters and British Masters of Wine, here’s a brief taste of what’s on offer: Benoit Lahaye Brut Grand Cru, Bouzy (April to June NOW!!), Brice Bouzy Brut Grand Cru, Bouzy (July to September), Gentilhomme Lenoble 1990 Brut Grand Cru, Damery (October to December 2000). I don’t know about you out there, but I’d rather be increasing my jet lag with some of the above wines than with many of the Grande Marques’ more commercial Brut NV ranges!!

5. Parker Perfection?
First of all, my sincerest apologies to the anti-Parker / anti-scorer readers. Secondly, a wake-up call to all the American readers to brush the dust off their cheque books and start spending! But seriously, the American and European markets might be sick of Mr Parker and company, but here in deepest Africa, we are grateful to receive whatever table scraps the international wine community decides to throw our way in the form of accolades. So here’s the latest ratings: Parker’s The Wine Advocate (100 point score):

92 – Rustenburg Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 (Single vineyard)

91 – Rustenburg Stellenbosch 1996 (Bordeaux blend)

91 – Thelema Chardonnay 1998 (15% Alcohol and its not even from Napa!!!)

90 – Rustenburg Peter Barlow Cabernet Sauvignon 1997

90 – Meerlust Rubicon 1995 (Bordeaux blend)

87 – Delaire Merlot 1997

The Wine Spectator:

92 – Rust & Vrede Estate Wine 1996 (Cabernet / Shiraz blend)

91 – Beyerskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 1997 (Beyers Truter of Kanonkop fame)

Finally, if you already know the above scores because you subscribe to either of the above publications, I hope your cellars are well stocked accordingly with some of these truly excellent wines!!!


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