November was an interesting month for Johann Krige (below), that snoek braaing Harley-Davidson riding seigneur of Cape First Growth Kanonkop. The highlight came on Wednesday when Wine Spectator scored his Paul Sauer 2008 92/100 with the tasting note “dense and chewy, with damson plum, raspberry and cherry skin flavors wound together, along with a floral edge and an iron note. The long, savory herb-tinged finish has matured a touch, but is still vibrant and chiseled (sic) in feel and should unwind more with additional cellaring.”
That other Johann, Rupert, did somewhat better as his Anthonij Rupert 2007 was rated a stellar 95 with tasting note “dense but detailed, with gorgeous layers of blackberry pâte de fruit, crushed plum, cassis and cherry preserves all seamlessly melded, while chocolate, Kenya AA coffee and roasted bay leaf notes fill in all the grooves on the finish. This has power, cut and balance.” The kind of wine to keep you warm during an Eskom power cut, indeed.
Johann K is one of the most astute politicians in the industry, reflected in his position as chair of WOSA and deputy chair of Vinpro, the wine producers’ independent organization. But it looks increasingly likely that he’ll have to choose between these two stools as on Friday Vinpro suspended its support for Wieta, the ethical trading initiative that is the power base for embattled WOSA CEO Su Birch.
Su was instrumental in setting up Wieta in 2002. “She has been involved with WIETA since its inception and has been an Exco member from the start, with only a one-year break. WOSA was instrumental in arranging the initial funding for the establishment of WIETA from the WOSA UK Importers Committee CCT Fund” according to the Wieta website and WOSA are an important source of funds for Wieta (R1.5 million this year).
Vinpro are furious with Wieta and in a press release on Friday, talk of a serious breakdown in trust and call for a reorganization of the board, as predicted by some observers last week. Vinpro will no longer encourage members to seek Wieta accreditation nor will they contribute financially to the expensive accreditation process.
The Wieta schism is a tragedy for SA wine which will further compound the damage done to the image overseas (and indeed the broader SA tourism offering) by the recent grape strikes. Vinpro members will be pondering the whole rationale for Wieta when there is Fairtrade, a $6.5 billion international business in which SA is the dominant wine player. SA can no longer afford this duplication of bureaucracy and the petrol required for personal political vehicles. With farmers on the wrong side of the mountain threatening to return their Wieta accreditations last week, the end of the road appears in sight.