It took some French winemakers nearly as long to get to Franschhoek as it took their forebears three centuries ago. Travelling BA from Lyon to Cape Town via London, Frankfurt, Luanda and Johannesburg, some left on Thursday and arrived yesterday, sans luggage. Which meant they missed the Bastille Day Party at the Cape Town Stadium last night, according to Patricia Picard from the Rhône-Alpes Chamber of Agriculture “as they had nothing to wear.” Patricia, together with Hein Koegelenberg (below at Sunday lunch at Pierneef à La Motte with Hanneli Rupert-Koegelenberg and artist Joaquim Schonfeldt) organized the trip.
Which was just as well, according to Edouard Labeye, winemaker from the northern Rhône (below) who merrily translated the tasting comments of those winemakers who made the tasting held this morning at Grande Provence as “the food was crap, which for us French people is a total disaster.” Why the French went to a white elephant in Green Point when Franschhoek demonstrated itself to be party venue of the year, remains a Gallic mystery wrapped in an enigma.
Patricia painted a grim picture of Rhône-Alpes wine that resonates with SA winemakers wrestling with their own economic demons. “We’ve lost 2000 producers. Some have been swallowed up by larger companies but some have simply stopped production. But at last we have received some good news. French per capita wine consumption has stopped decreasing. The increase is modest but more people in the age cohort 24-30 have started drinking wine regularly – around three times a week – which is a positive sign.” With a new wine-drinking president installed in the Élysée Palace (M. Sarkozy was notoriously teetotal), perhaps a fundamental change is on the cards.