Christoff van Staden, dashing proprietor of boutique hotel 10 Bompas, also has a good line in jokes. “What’s the difference between 365 black condoms and a car tyre? The latter is a Goodyear, the former, a Greatyear.” Alas, the same cannot be said for SA wine battling under charges of rubbery pongs. A recent London tasting of wines rated 4½ and 5 stars by the Platter’s wine guide was described by Times pundit “Calamity” Jane MacQuitty as a car wreck. “Of the 63 wines I tasted, only 13 came through as winners… South Africa’s tell-tale dirty, rubbery red wine pong was there in abundance.”
While Wines of SA (WoSA, the exporters association), scratches around for answers, BMW – who know something about rubber – are accelerating away into the middle distance. A tasting of their top ten reds over the last ten years at the Local Grill in Sandton last night was more pleasure palace of Kublai Khan than Kyalami.
The BMW Great Wine Series is the brainchild of dapper BMW communications guru and former FW de Klerk press secretary, Richard Carter. The wines were selected by dynamic Local Grill owner Owen McDonald and sparkling local wine diva Junel Vermeulen, who also presented them alongside a range of steaks Carter claims are “the best in Johannesburg. When the Germans come over, we take them to Alan Pick’s Butcher’s Shop & Grill – they love walking around the butchery ogling the racks of meat and Alan really is the Moyo of Meat – but for a quiet steak, you can’t do better than a Chalmar Sirloin at the Local Grill.”
“The meat is the best in SA and comes from Bapsfontein and you have to pay cash up front for it” confirms Van Staden and my 350g hunk presented in a jus of blue cheese and peppadew was world class. As were the ten BMW wines, with nary a blowout nor papwiel in the line-up. As we were on the trail of dirty, rubbery pongs, my tasting notes will be restricted to aromas and bouquets. Scores out of 20 apply to the whole sensory experience.
1. Kanonkop Cape Winemakers’ Guild 1997: distinctive Muldersvlei pong, more farmyard than Ferrari, with a surprising amount of wood and mint still evident. 18
2. Saronsberg Full Circle 2005: smoke, coffee, mocha and toasty oak. 15
3. Fairview Solitude Shiraz 2005: baked fruits and spice. 16½
4. Graham Beck The Ridge Syrah 2000: some bottle stink that lifts after agitation, quite woody with some spice. 16
5. Kevin Arnold Syrah 2003: barnyard next to a Starbucks, complex. 16
6. Vergelegen 2003: very fine mineral nose, elegant. 18
7. Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2003: intense cassis and blueberry. 18
8. Rustenberg Peter Barlow 2001: enchanting violets and licorice with a splash of herbs. 17
9. Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 1998: mint city, intense fruit pastilles. 16
10. De Toren Fusion V 2002: wonderful complex and complete nose, very fine. 17
WoSA’s next trick is to bring selected European journos out to Cape Town later this year on a taste and see jolly. Perhaps they should let Richard, Owen and Junel choose the wines. After all, with petrol-head Jeremy Clarkson the most influential wine writer in the UK, perhaps the time has come to take wine marketing out of the hands of anoraques and snobs and give it to the people who made BMW the aspirational symbol for the whole world.