Writing about $50 billion Ponzi-scammer Bernard Madoff in the New York Times on Friday, op-ed columnist Paul Krugman makes the point “the vast riches achieved by those who managed other people’s money have had a corrupting effect on our society as a whole.” Surveying the SA wine scene, it’s hard to disagree with Krugman’s thesis. The profusion of pricey wine shows and competitions, most bearing the corporate fingerprints of the financial services industry, is exhibit A in the case for conspicuous consumption that hijacked wine from the kitchen fridges and bosveld boma bars of ordinary people and turned having a drink into an Experience or an Encounter.
Choose a bank and they all bankroll Bacchus, big time. Stranded, Worst National, Nerdbank all have their pet projects and armies of tame anoraks, bowties and train-spotters ready to pour icons into your Riedel and talk dirty about terroir.
The highlight was arguably the launch of an MCC at Summer Place late in the year with an investment bank (rumoured to be clients of Bernie Madoff) shelling out a rumoured half bar for the honour. When it came to the customary and clichéd sabrage opportunity the cry of “where’s Basetsana?” rose like a medieval wail from the nether regions of the corniced ballroom.
But the bashful, bibulous Basetsana of Top Billing fame had buggered off home, just like the future dividend stream from the Ferrari loads of financial genii (pace Johann Rupert). The previous owner of Summer Place/Palace, the late and oleaginous Marino Chiavelli, must have been laughing like a drain. O tempora, o mores! as Cicero might have said if he’d cracked an invite.