Back in January, I donned my Mystic Meg bifocals and poked around in the steaming entrails of SA wine for winenews and came up with 14 predictions for 2007. With two weeks left to run, how did I do? The first 7 today, the last 7 before the weekend.
1. Prediction: Jannie Mouton’s JSE-listed Zeder Investments tries to replace the board of KWV and dismantle the company. The attempt fails after a furious corporate counter attack led by Johann Rupert.
Verdict: Partially correct. KWV chairman Danie de Wet was indeed voted off the board by Jannie but was re-instated via the backdoor by the other directors at the AGM in October. Paarl Post claims retail tycoon Christo Wiese followed Danie to his car and persuaded him to return – strange behavior for a man appointed to the board of PSG, Jannie’s powerbase, in July. This story has legs – expect further fireworks in 2008.
2. Prediction: SA market share continues to contract in the UK and Europe thanks to an Australian price war and quality strides in Spain and Chile. Wine farm prices weaken further in the Western Cape.
Verdict: Spot on. In April Decanter highlights the farm price malaise and Harpers reports a 5% fall in volume and value to the UK in October with Chile set fair to overtake SA as fifth largest exporter to the UK, although later figures seem to offer SA more hope.
3. Prediction: A bonanza of brandy festivals: with the SA wine show market now seriously overtraded wine show impresarios will attempt to expand their brands and cash in on the undertapped brandy market. The runaway success of Whisky Live confirms that S’effrican appetites for spirits are a long way from being sated.
Verdict: too soon off the mark. The brandy show is postponed to 2008 after problems raising sponsorships are encountered. At least one major wine show is touted around as being “for sale.”
4. Prediction: Incoming Anglo American CEO Cynthia Carroll announces plans to dispose of Vergelegen to Californian property developer and wine mogul Bill Harlan and Tokyo Sexwale’s Mvelaphanda Group.
Verdict: probably too soon again. The Financial Mail is informed by “usually excellent sources” that the “for sale” sign has been ordered although this is denied by Amfarms chair, Mike Spicer.
5. Prediction: At least one major buyer’s own brand boycotts Platter’s: with Pick’s Pick Merlot rated 1½ stars lower than the same wine in a Jordan bottle, a (subconscious?) bias against mass market labels, thanks to sighted Platter tasting procedures, was once again confirmed in the 2007 edition of the annual wine guide. With the rumour spittoon awash with examples of fashionable cuvées rated above the odds (in 2005 it was Mooiplaas/Shoprite Checkers), producers assess that the game is not worth the candle.
Verdict: spot on. Spar pull their brands out, citing prejudice against supermarket brands. Large independent producer Deetlefs does likewise, this time because of prejudice against producers on the wrong side of the mountain. Sighted tastings are becoming increasingly indefensible. For how much longer can the Canutes of Mount Anorak hold back the blind tasting tide?
6. Prediction: WINE magazine’s Shiraz Challenge produces yet another crop of highly rated wines no one has ever heard of: consistency (or the lack thereof) remains elusive for SA Shiraz.
Verdict: On the money. Bon Courage Inkará 2005 victorious with crackerjack 15% alcohol. Last year’s champion, the Saxenburg Private Collection 2003 (scored 4½ stars) was the lowest rated SA Shiraz at the magazine’s Tri-Nations Shiraz tasting with 2½ stars, six months later. Panel chair Professor Mike Fridjhon and WINE deputy editor Christian Eedes judge on both panels where the Prof’s own Rhône imports via Reciprocal Wine Trading, snatch the Tri-Nations laurels.
7. Prediction: At least one major co-operative cellar goes to the wall as tight domestic trading conditions and reduced exports bite.
Verdict: Spot on. Franschhoek Vineyards, successor to the co-op founded in 1945 is sold to DGB in December.