Archive for January, 2009
It was in 1652 that Jan van Riebeeck landed at the Cape, tasked with establishing a garden to provision VOC ships. The first vines arrived in 1655 imported from France, the Rhineland and Spain. Naturally, these were planted in the Company’s Gardens, six acres of which survive as a botanical garden in central Cape Town to this day.
Jan van Riebeeck’s diary entry of February 2, 1659 reads: “today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape grapes, and the new must was tested fresh from the vat.”
Van Riebeeck also planted 1,000 vines at his own farm, Boscheuvel, while his successor, Simon van der Stel, staked his personal claim on the lower slopes of the Steenbergen in Constantia. Once these Governors showed that successful large-scale grape cultivation was possible, other free farmers followed suit. Until then grapes had served primarily as adornments for verandahs and stables!
This was the origin of the famously historic sweet wines of Constantia. Constantia vintners placed a premium on quality rather than quantity, attending their vines with care, and thus differentiating them from the somewhat rough and rudimentary wines produced elsewhere.
Fans of Constantia wines include Frederic the Great of Prussia while Danish foreign Minister Johann Sigismund Schulin’s cellar records of 1744 indicate a considerable stock of Constantia. Famous French poet Baudelaire was a fan, as were Napoleon Bonaparte and British author Jane Austen, who wrote about them in Sense and Sensibility.
French Huguenot refugees in 1688 settled in the Drakenstein Valley, an area better suited to vines than grain cultivation, providing a much-needed boost as a few of their number knew about wine and viticulture. In the early 1700s wine farmers found themselves stuck with a surplus of pretty poor quality wine – but production grew apace because of uncontrolled planting of vineyards.
By 1800 around 5 million litres of wine was produced annually. Wine farmers found themselves in a situation which was to last for centuries: a surplus of less-than-ideal quality wine that was difficult to dispose of allied to the reliance upon a fickle foreign market. Only when crops failed or Europe was at war were South African wines in demand. The exception, of course, was Constantia and sweet wines such as muscadel and hanepoot.
In the 1800s, British occupation meant a strong military and naval presence – and a consequent good demand for South African wines in Britain post 1813. However, it was fleeting, with preferential tariffs abolished in 1861 – leading once again to surplus. Added to this was the phylloxera epidemic which devastated plantings. First encountered in a vineyard in Mowbray in January 1886, it spread rapidly. Vintners were compelled to destroy millions of vines by uprooting and burning. Only the introduction of phylloxera-resistant American rootstock saved the industry.
At the turn of the 20th century, South Africa was itself at war, with Boer and Brit pitted against each other. However, wine and brandy sold well during 1899 and 1902 – but, following the cessation of hostilities, surpluses built up and prices dropped dramatically.
Perhaps one of the most significant events was the creation of the KWV (Ko-operatiewe Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika, Beperkt) in 1918. It saved many wine farmers from ruin by uniting their producers’ interest under a single umbrella organisation, stabilising production and setting minimum prices.
The country’s change of government in 1948 ushered in the era of apartheid and many former trading partners applied economic sanctions in protest. Lieberstein bucked the trend. Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery launched the semi-sweet white and backed it with an aggressive marketing campaign. By 1965 it was the biggest selling natural wine of its kind – worldwide.
However, the release of Nelson Mandela in 1990 and the rapid – and peaceful – transition to democracy paved the way for sustained growth in the modern era. Along with the establishment of a dedicated export marketing body (Wines of South Africa), a new generation of young winemakers were able to work and travel abroad, returning with fresh skills, techniques and ideas.
International exposure and dramatic growth in sales led to a change in style of South African wine as well as a greater commitment to improving quality. This has been reflected in the slew of international awards claimed by South African wines since democratic elections were first held in 1994, a remarkable turnaround and achievement for an industry which is simultaneously 350 – and 15 – years old.
Go to www.southafricanwine350.co.za to view the array of wonderful events and promotions planned for the year to celebrate this commemorative day.
Article was written by Annareth Bolton, CEO Stellenbosch Wine Routes
The South African wine industry will celebrate its 350th year of existence in 2009. Dutch commander Jan van Riebeeck first planted vines in 1655, and on 2 February 1659, the first wine was made from Cape grapes.
the company of wine peopleTM will commemorate the historic occasion by offering free wine tastings at our Welmoed (tel: +27 21 881 8062) and *Helderberg (+27 21 842 2370/1/2) doors on Saturday 31 January, Sunday 1 February and Monday 2 February. You also stand the chance to win random spot prizes over the weekend. *Helderberg is closed on a Sunday.
If you make a reservation at our restaurant, The Duck Pond, you will also receive a complimentary glass of Welmoed wine.
For more details visit : southafricanwine350.co.za
It’s common knowledge that a glass or two of red wine a night will do more than enhance a great meal or put you to sleep: it can reduce production of “bad” cholesterol, boost “good” cholesterol and reduce blood clotting, all of which will help reduce the risk of heart disease. But recent studies are showing that wine aficionados may also reap even more benefits, from inhibiting tumor development to helping form nerve cells.
Here’s a roundup of four recent studies that might encourage you to uncork that bottle of merlot:
1. It Can Help Keep You Fit:
For senior citizens who are already in shape, moderate alcohol intake can help prevent the development of physical disabilities, according to a new UCLA study in the American Journal of Epidemiology. (The National Institutes of Health recommends no more than one drink a day for women and two for men.) Researchers found that moderate drinkers in a national survey had a lower risk than heavy drinkers or abstainers of developing physical problems that impeded their abilities to walk or dress or groom themselves. But don’t take that as a cue to rest easy: the benefits only applied to seniors who were already in good health. Seniors in poor health may already be too close to developing disabilities for the wine to be of much use, researchers said.
2. It May Help Fight Alzheimer’s.
In animal trials, UCLA researchers found that compounds known as polyphenols, which naturally occur in red wine, can inhibit the development of proteins that deposit in the brain and form the plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Polyphenols also are highly concentrated in tea, nuts, berries and cocoa, the researchers, who did the study with Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, reported in the November issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry. The polyphenols block the formation and decrease the toxicity of the Alzheimer’s-associated protein deposits, scientists found; they plan to start human clinical trials next.
3. It Boosts Heart-Healthy Omega 3 Levels.
Moderate alcohol consumption helps boost the body’s omega-3 levels, European researchers report in the January issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The fatty acids are usually derived from fish and help protect against coronary heart disease, but people who consumed alcohol, especially wine, in moderation (one drink for women, two drinks for me) had higher omega-3 levels independent of their fish intake, the researchers found after studying populations in England, Belgium and Italy. They hypothesize that this effect is due in part to polyphenols as well.
4. It May Lower Lung Cancer Risk.
Moderate consumption of red wine may decrease the risk of lung cancer in men, researchers reported in the October issue of Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. Analyzing data collected from the California Men’s Health Study, they found that each glass of red wine consumed a month correlated with a 2 percent lower lung cancer risk. Men who drank one or two glasses of red wine a day saw a 60 percent reduced lung cancer risk. There were no similar benefits for white wine, beer or liquor drinkers, though, and smokers who drank red wine still, of course, had a higher lung-cancer risk than non-smokers.
Source: Health News Digest
South Africa’s wine industry association and newly elected USA President Barack Obama are seen as highly influential in building public awareness about environmental issues, says UK magazine Drinks Business.
Both Wines of South Africa (WOSA) and President Obama were listed in the 2009 Green List of the 50 most influential drinks companies, individuals and organisations who have made caring for the environment a priority.
Published by Drinks Business – a specialist UK beverage magazine – WOSA was listed fifth in the Green List, just behind President Obama in fourth.
This year’s lists highlights how “even in the midst of an economic crisis, the drinks industry continues to prick consciences and have a strong environmental influence over many consumers.”
The first three positions on the Green List were taken by multinational retail giants, Tesco, Carrefour and Wal-Mart respectively.
The Drinks Business praised WOSA for its involvement in a strategic partnership between the wine industry and the conservation sector. The partnership, known as the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI), has helped to minimise the loss of threatened natural habitat.
“[WOSA has] contributed to sustainable wine production through the adoption of biodiversity guidelines,” said the magazine adding further praise for WOSA’s focus on environmental impact studies, preparation of soil and the use of recyclable packaging.
Sue Birch, CEO of WOSA, said the organisation was proud to have its eco-sustainable wine standards recognised as among the most progressive in the world. “That we are in the company of the world’s most powerful retail chains, who are able to exercise significant influence, as well as the new and highly popular president of the United States, makes us feel extremely proud!”
She also lauded the role of the BWI in promoting and protecting biodiversity within the Cape Floral Kingdom, where over 95% of the country’s wines originate. “In less than four years, local wine producers, under the auspices of the BWI, have set aside 112 550 hectares for long-term conservation – significantly more than the total national vineyard of 102 000 hectares.”
Reuters reports that the wine world is raising a glass to President Barack Obama as he moves into the White House, hoping his enjoyment of US wine will impact on American’s drinking habits.
US wine producers could hardly contain their glee at the news that the Obamas had bought a $1.65 million mansion in Chicago equipped with four fireplaces – and a wine cellar that reportedly holds up to 1 000 bottles.
“I can’t help but think that after eight years of no wine drinkers in the White House that (Obama) will have a felicitous effect on Americans’ drinking habits,” John Gillespie, head of the Wine Market Council, told the 2009 Wine Market Council Research Conference in New York.
Outgoing President George W. Bush is a teatotaler who gave up alcohol over 20 years ago. The White House has no official wine cellar but wines are chosen by a small team for specific events, based on their affinity with the menu as well as politically correct pairing depending on the guests in attendance.
But all wines served at state dinners are American. President Lyndon Johnson decreed only American wines should be served at White House state dinners and it has stayed the same ever since – although President Richard Nixon reportedly had his beloved Chateau Margaux secretly poured.
The contents of Obama’s own wine cellar remain unknown but Chicago area merchants have noted Obama’s eclectic taste in wine.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Obama carried the vote in eight of the 10 top producing wine states that make more than 95 percent of the wines produced in the United States. Any Obama boost will be a good thing for the industry.
While the United States remains on track to become the world’s largest wine-consuming country by 2010, it does so despite a dramatic slowdown in growth recorded by retailers and tracked by the Nielsen company in the last three months.
The slowdown has affected most of the industry from $10 bottles of Chardonnay to $1,000 bottles of Petrus. The Liv-ex 100 Fine wine index – the wine industry’s leading index – recorded a 2.2 percent drop in December for the third straight month, finishing 2008 down 14.6 percent.
A recent column by Malcolm Gluck (The Guardian) instigated heavy debate about wine and beer drinkers. Gluck wrote that “… beer is only drunk by losers and sadsacks, unsexy people who care nothing for their minds or their bodies.”
He said: “Beer drinkers are also terrible lovers, awful husbands, and untidy flatmates.Wine is the supercool liquid and drunk sensibly is actually good for you.”
The pub-loving Brits reacted vigorously by criticising Gluck, the editor and wine drinking snobs.
Here is the column.
“It is no surprise to me that we Brits continue to guzzle shedloads of wine. Our per capita annual consumption may be about half that of France, which leads the field, but GB ignores such things as credit crunches and market downturns because we are wedded to booze.
This used to be beer. 50 years ago only 5% of the nation drank wine. Now it is nearer six times that, pubs struggle to sell beer, and the amount of wine imported keep on rising. Why? Well, beer is only drunk by losers and sadsacks, unsexy people who care nothing for their minds or their bodies.
That’s point one. Point two is that wine goes with the spicy foods we like (which no beer does), is much more of a communal activity and, when it comes down to it, encourages livelier and more intelligent conversation. When was the last time you heard a beer drinker pass a witty remark? Beer drinkers are also terrible lovers, awful husbands, and untidy flatmates.
Wine is the supercool liquid and drunk sensibly is actually good for you. It’s a health drink. Wine has changed from the dry-as-dust, unpronounceable gunge it was in our grandparents’ day. Wine in New Labour Land is vivacious, fruity, inexpensive, and it’s fun. Small wonder wine drinkers prefer Australia, California, South Africa and Chile to France and Germany.
The wines from these countries speak our language (yes, even Chilean labels don’t say Chateau Lamazelle de Figeac Brown Cantenac Lafite), they are open and furiously fruity, gluggable and yet serious, and they are not expensive.
When I became a professional booze hack exactly 20 years ago the French share of the UK market was around 37%. Now it’s a bit over 21%. Back in those days, the days of awful Tory governments, the Aussie share of the UK market was less than half of one percent. Now the Aussie share is 23% and even the Californians’ share of the market, by value, is greater than France’s.
It is a wine revolution and every time you drop in on a bar and enjoy a glass of Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon or acquire a bottle of succulent Australian Shiraz from your local supermarket you are being a revolutionary. And as dear old Che used to say, Viva la revolucion!”
It is a brave article by Gluck but the overall stereotyping of drinkers are too far fetch and opinionated.
Source: The Guardian
Hanni an internationally acclaimed chef, “Sensory Guru,” culinary historian, co-founder of the Napa Seasoning Company, producer of Vignon Flavor Balancing Seasoning, and one of the first two Americans to earn the credential Master of Wine.
Although Hanni’s position elicits a strong push back from many wine match-makers, Hanni believes a majority of consumers and professionals will be relieved to hear there’s proof that wine tasting concepts and pairing rules are largely unsubstantiated and unnecessary.
“Wine and food matching has become a tyranny of the minority,” says Hanni. “For the most part it is a well-intentioned group of aficionados and industry professionals sharing and promoting their personal preferences. Our efforts to try to provide rules and guidelines rationalizing why ‘this wine goes best with this food’ have proven to be misguided, contradictory and confusing to a vast majority of wine consumers. While we acknowledge and respect that many people are passionate about finding the perfect wine to pair with very specific dishes, or vice versa, our twenty years of investigation into the subject show that the processes and outcomes are completely personal, imaginary and random.”
Hanni states his research into understanding the variables involved in determining our personal preferences, combined with challenging the conventional wisdoms of traditional or classical pairings, has given rise to a completely new way of approaching the subject. Flavor Balancing is a simple solution to make it easy for anyone to enjoy the wines they love the most with what they choose to eat.
Foxy leaders always keep a mental list of possible breaking futures as they enter the New Year. These are the big picture uncertainties that may have a direct impact on the fortunes of their organisations if they actually become breaking news.
Our list for 2009 is as follows:
1. False Dawns
Reading some articles published in American newspapers in 1930 leaves one with a weird feeling. Basically they said the bad times were over and one could look forward to the rest of the decade with optimism. How wrong they were! We are similarly going to have many false dawns before the real dawn arrives. Expect a lot of volatility in the stock market as a result.
2. Celebrity Extinction
Several famous brands and companies that have been around for a century or more have already disappeared from the scene. Like with nature, sudden shifts in the environment destroy the vulnerable species that cannot adapt to new circumstances. The list is set to expand so check out the solvency of all your famous customers – corporate and individual – because nobody is immune to the downturn.
3. Colony Collapse
Staying with extinction, you are going to hear a lot more about the disappearing honey bees in America and China. Maybe the cause is pesticides poisoning the bees or cell phone masts interfering with their radar system. Whatever the reason, Albert Einstein once said that mankind cannot survive for four years without the bees because they play such a crucial role in the ecological chain.
4. Bali Blues
Given the recession and the drop in the oil price, environmental issues have generally been downgraded in the public’s mind. Hence, politicians will be less enthusiastic to impose tough measures to protect the environment. However, in terms of the climate change conference held in Bali in late 2007, the new rules of the game to curb carbon emmissions are expected to be published for discussion by the end of this year. They are supposed to come into effect after the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. Unless an economic recovery is already in place, the response to the new rules may be underwhelming to say the lease.
5. Price Wars
We have already seen the first shots being fired between the major supermarket chains i.e. huge discounts being offered to retain customers. But manufactures will have to follow suit to clear the enormous amount of stock that is piling up in their backyards. Commodity prices always fall first along with property and shares, but manufactured goods and services cannot escape in a buyers’ market. Ask for a better deal, particularly if you can flash the cash.
6. China meltdown
At the Central Party School in Beijing, which is the inner sanctum of the Chinese Communist Party, I remember one of the professors saying in April 2006 that an American recession was China’s greatest uncertainty. It could reduce China’s economic growth rate to a level where social unrest in China explodes and causes serious problems for the current leadership. Well, here we are with the Chinese authorities applying the American cure of pumping huge sums of money into the economy to keep it alive. The only difference is that if something does not work in America, the politicians get voted out. In China, they disappear.
7. WMD Terrorism
This breaking future has been on our list since we published a letter to Mr Bush in 2001 in which we said that it was his greatest uncertainty. Weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists change the game of war forever because the principles of mutually assured destruction fall away. Up until now it has been a case of “if you nuke me, I’ll nuke you, so let’s be sensible and not nuke each other”. In the new game “if you nuke me, I won’t know where to find you” so you’ll just go ahead and risk the consequences. People won’t want to live in major cities and nations will become dispersed again.
8. The Homecoming Revolution
Suddenly local is lekker in South Africa. We could see a major reversal in the flow of skills in the event of a prolonged recession since our economy is unlikely to suffer as much as, say, the UK, America and Canada. We are the America of Africa in that we represent a little less than 5% of the continent’s population and produces 30% of the continent’s GDP. The Chinese describe Africa as their “continent of choice” because it is the richest content on Earth in terms of still-unwrapped mineral wealth. South Africa is well-placed to help Africa open up for business when the scramble for resources heats up again. And then there’s the Soccer World Cup in 2010!
9. Goodbye, Mr Mugabe
The endgame for Mr Mugabe started with the results of the first round of the presidential election. Nobody knows when it will be over, but the cracks are showing and the power is shifting. An internationally acceptable solution will transform the economic prospects for the region and particularly for South Africa, which will act as the gateway for the resurrection of the Zimbabwean economy.
10. Cope gets 15%
This is the uppermost estimate in the range being given for our next general election. If it happens at least one or two provincial and municipal governments will change hands, and we will settled down to being a normal democracy where the ruling party has a majority in the 50%s and runs the risk of losing the next election if it doesn’t govern well.