Angela throws stones at Pendock from her glass pondok. Ouch!

Neil Pendock October 21, 2013 20

Friends phone to tell me that anorak Angela, the Nanny McPhee of nerd wine and senior taster on the Platanna sighted wine guide, has rushed to the defence of SBIG tasting coach Pieter de Waal with a wild and woolly attack.  It’s like being savaged by a dead sheep, as Denis Healey once noted. Is this the same the Angela I accused of being the Benny Goldberg of free samples all those moons ago? Is SA wine tasting so short of tasting talent, Diners Club needs to rely on such mediocrities? For those with short memories…

al

Being neither a regular reader nor fan of the Grape communal blog (RIP), it took a phone call from a concerned winemaker last week to point out that one of the troika editing that site was trading in what looked suspiciously like tasting samples for personal gain. The offer mysteriously disappeared from site as soon as I started making enquiries from producers and the Platter editor as to his position on selling free tasting samples, some unlabelled.

A reply of sorts this morning from the Platter editor – a blog posting on selling samples, from an associate editor who seems to act as his mouthpiece. Great minds think alike? Tip-off, more likely. For those who missed the ad (a common problem this on Grape with controversial postings whipped away like a turd from a punchbowl), I post it again below.

The following wines are offered by Angela Lloyd, who should be contacted by email. The wines are in Cape Town, and delivery outside Cape Town will be at the buyer’s expense.

All are 375ml and single bottles except where noted. Prices per bottle.
Those wines with unfinished packaging will be free to anyone buying a minimum of five bottles.

Alphen NLH 1987 R50
Bellingham NLH 1987, 1991 R50
Bergsig Chenin Blanc SLH 1991 750ml R80
Bon Courage NLH 1981 R50
Bon Courage SLH 1988 750ml R80
Delheim Edelspatz NLH 1985 R70
Delheim Gewürztraminer 1985 750ml R50
Delheim Spatzendreck Late Harvest 1985 R50
De Trafford Straw Wine 2001 no label/capsule
Fleur du Cap SLH 1987, 1988, 1990 750ml R80
Jordan Mellifera 2005 sample label/no capsule
Kanu Kiaora NLH 1999 R50
Klein Constantia NLH (vintage?) no label/capsule
KWV NLH 1986 R50
Laibach Sweet Natural 1997, 2004 R50
Montpellier Gewürztraminer 1976 750ml R50
Nederburg NLH 1988, 1996 R80
Nederburg Stein Auction label 1979 750ml R80
Neil Ellis Gewürztraminer 1992 750ml R50
Paul Cluver SLH Weisser Riesling 2001 750ml R80
Quoin Rock Vine Dried Sauvignon Blanc 2005 500ml R100
Rooiberg NLH 1986 (2) R50
Simonsig Gewürztraminer SLH 1987, 1992, 1999 750ml R80
Simonsig NLH 1984 R50
Van Loveren SLH Gewürztraminer 1995 R50
Villiera Inspiration 2001 no capsule
Waterford Kevin Arnold NLH 2001 no label/capsule
Zondernaam NLH 2006 R50
Zonnebloem NLH 1996 R50

If these wines were indeed tasting samples, there are the obvious ethical issues of selling free samples for personal gain as well as legal ones such as trading wine without a liquor license and trading in wine on which excise duty had presumably not been paid. This morning’s red herring of implying that funds raised go to charity is undoubtedly that – fishy. For if this sale was indeed for charity, why not note this in the ad? Anonymous giving is hardly a Grape attribute.

Single bottle quantities offered are a dead give-away, as back in those salad days when I tasted for Platter (before we parted on amicable terms a couple of years ago in spite of what the Wine Lizard spits out ) samples, like the animals in Noah’s Ark, came in two-by-two in case of stowaways like Mr. TCA. And I heard a rumour the seller did rate at least one of the wines, the Zondernaam NLH 2006, for Platter 2008.

Or could they be Grape tasting samples as that communal blog publicly solicit samples from producers. But then I guess that’s the same thing, for how many producers would heed the siren call of Grape if the editorial troika did not consist of two associate Platter editors and the very wife of the organ’s editor? Yet another reason for blind tastings!

How do winemakers feel about unlabeled samples hitting the public – were they sulphured-up, finished-off wines? Do you really want to leave the reputation of your brand in the hands of a taster who famously matches delicate Constantia reds with take-away lasagna? How does the sales department feel about competing with Grape with their lower (i.e. free) production costs?

As one winemaker listed in the offer noted “haven’t looked at the Grape site in months, so hadn’t seen this… I would also be very pissed off should Platter or any Wine Show samples be offered for sale at any time. Excise duty is usually only paid when a certification seal is applied.”

As to whether they are Platter samples or not, another winemaker noted “as we don’t enter anything other than the Wine magazine (RIP) and Platter, it most likely is a Platter sample, but I certainly can’t say for sure. I suggest you query this with Angela.” A question which requires an answer from Grape.

A simple resolution was proposed by another winemaker: “maybe this is a good time to get all producers to ‘overlabel’ samples with a bright red ‘sample’ sticker or the like.” Maybe a printer made rich producing show medal decals would donate the wherewithal to producers? Could this be the last straw to break the camel’s back or has masochism replaced burnt rubber as the defining characteristic of SA wine?

The story has more legs than a shongololo and there are a couple of e-mails awaiting answers which could blow the lid off the spittoon and develop into a major scandal. Carte Blanche, stand by. In the meantime, an explanation from Platter publisher Andrew McDowall (since replaced by JP Rossouw) is eagerly awaited as several producers inadvertently involved are not happy campers at this juncture.

As one producer put it “I would have a problem with samples submitted to Platter, Wine Mag, Wine Shows etc being sold afterwards for personal gain – if these were given to educational interest groups such as the Cape Wine Academy, University/College wine departments or even sold in aid of Charity, then that would be OK. All the more reason for using screwcap and therefore only submitting 1 bottle!”

20 Comments »

  1. Tannat Madiran October 28, 2008 at 8:37 am -

    Ugh, how nice. As if the wine world didn’t hate the press enough.

    Thanks Platter for making it that much more difficult for the rest of us.

    I await further developments of this investigation…

  2. Tantalus October 28, 2008 at 10:31 am -

    I have been a noisesome fan of Platter, up to now. With this development best I keep my counsel and watch how it unfolds.

  3. Cru Master October 28, 2008 at 11:53 am -

    very spicy indeed – looking forward to the well constructed answer from those involved.

  4. Angela Lloyd October 28, 2008 at 4:21 pm -

    As the person who appears to have started Neil Pendock’s latest Platter tirade, I would like to comment briefly and clearly, as follows:
    1) The list of sweet wines was placed on Grape’s website on either the evening of 19th or 20th October, I can’t remember which, but that is irrelevant. The morning following whichever evening it had gone up, I received an e-mail from someone who wanted to take the lot. It therefore made sense to remove the list immediately there were none left.
    2) The only wine which was a second bottle from Platter tastings was the Jordan Mellifera 2005, the rest had nothing to do with Platter, even the other unlabelled samples. They were part of my private collection.
    3) I did not sell the Mellifera, but offered it and the other wines with unfinished packaging, free – the condition that the buyer had to purchase a minimum of five bottles didn’t apply, as one buyer took the lot. That buyer, incidentally, is a winemaker.
    4) I do not know who told Neil the proceeds from this sale went to charity (if indeed anyone did) but that isn’t true. What is true is that the proceeds, every cent of them, from the second bottles of Platter samples I do sell do indeed go to charity – to Pebbles (www.pebblesproject.co.za).
    5) The same applies to extra samples from Grape’s new releases (when we’re sent two bottles). All proceeds from the sale of these also go to Pebbles.
    6) Unlabelled doesn’t mean unbottled. I never even give away unbottled Platter samples; let alone that not being fair to the producer, it’s unlikely most consumers would understand the wines. I’m also careful who takes the Platter wines without their finished packaging, but as by far the majority of the wines go to members of the Wine Tasters’ Guild, they understand the wine is finished even though the packaging isn’t.
    7) ‘Do you really want to leave the reputation of your brand in the hands of a taster who famously matches delicate Constantia reds with take-away lasagna?’ I really don’t know why Neil had to dream up something so intrinsically boring, but dream it up he did – it is absolutely untrue.

  5. Neil Pendock October 28, 2008 at 5:41 pm -

    The no label/capsule wine referred to in the winemaker comment “as we don’t enter anything other than the Wine Magazine and Platter, it most likely is a Platter sample, but I certainly can’t say for sure” was not the Mellifera 2005. Would you like to try again, Angela?

    I downloaded the laundry list from the Grape site on 23 October – 2 or 3 days after all the wine was sold to the mystery winemaker, so the list was certainly not removed “immediately.”

  6. Andrew McDowall October 28, 2008 at 6:26 pm -

    All wines for Platter’s annual tastings are supplied by the producers. No wines are sourced independently, without producers’ knowledge, because we believe a) participation in the book should be voluntary, and b) producers should not feel obligated to submit wines in order to be featured in the A-Z section. There is no charge for a listing in the A-Z, and producers are free to send as many wines as they please. We accept unfinished (i.e. pre-bottling) wines, as long as these are clearly marked as such and producers give a written undertaking that the “previews” are representative of the finished products. Our policy is to clearly identify all pre-bottling samples in the printed text, partly because the ratings for such wines are tentative by definition. We taste unfinished wines to accommodate producers whose bottling schedules do not coincide with Platter deadlines, and to provide readers with an indication, albeit provisional, of the style, character and quality of the products as they will appear on shelves. We strongly feel that a year’s delay in tasting certain wines, especially modest whites intended for immediate consumption, would not be in anyone’s interest.

    Given the logistics of managing many thousands of wines, it has to be said that our focus is on sourcing the wines and preparing them for review, rather than what happens to them post-tasting. Our expectation is that tasters will keep any unopened bottles to (unofficially) re-assess during the year, or to open when the next round of tasting begins with a view to comparing the last-tasted wines with the new ones. We know, however, that a few tasters use some of the wines as a means to raise funds for charity, and we do not believe there is anything improper in doing so. Disposing of tasting-samples for own gain clearly is different, and unacceptable, and appropriate steps will be taken if this should prove to be the case. To the very best of our knowledge nothing untoward has taken place, and we would urge those implying conduct unbecoming to either cease or come forward with proof.

    We would like to note for the record that, in an effort to reduce the substantial financial and environmental costs associated with sourcing, transporting and preparing wines for tasting, in late 2007 we made a decision to ask producers for only one bottle of each wine in their range, rather than the usual two, a saving of more than 6 000 bottles. An expanded programme of ‘corroboration tasting’ for the 2009 edition required the availability of a second bottle, however, but we remain committed to find a way to reduce the number of bottles handled for Guide 2010 to the absolute minimum. Perhaps this is an opportunity to rally support for an industry-wide initiative aimed at minimising the number of samples required for entry to all professional tastings, competitions and other large wine shows.

  7. Pinot Pile October 28, 2008 at 10:12 pm -

    Double, double toil and trouble;
    Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.
    While the brew boils to the brim;
    Our credibility are looking grim.

  8. YEGAS NAIDOO October 29, 2008 at 10:28 am -

    Unless the individual in question has created the sale of sample material as a principal revenue generating income tool methinks the financial gain on this particular parcel as well as random sale of bottles is minimal but still questionable. As the scenario unfolds we shall establish whether you have really unearthed some dirt here.

  9. Anon Somerset West October 29, 2008 at 10:54 am -

    Just stop the bickering you all sound like squabbling children in a playground. It doesn’t do your reputations any good!

  10. Sophia Warner October 29, 2008 at 11:01 am -

    On behalf of the Pebbles Project team, I would like to confirm that we receive donations from Angela Lloyd on a regular basis. Angela is a true Pebbles supporter and has been for years.
    We are not interested in getting involved in the debate here, but need to point out that we understand that every person who buys the wines from Angela is aware that the entire proceeds are donated to Pebbles, and they receive a thank you letter from us acknowledging their support.
    Sophia Warner, Pebbles Project Director

  11. Mille Fleurs October 29, 2008 at 11:48 am -

    Sophia

    Angela says in her comment “I do not know who told Neil the proceeds from this sale went to charity (if indeed anyone did) but that isn’t true.”

    If you believe that the Mellifera is the only Platter sample here (many don’t), don’t hold your breath for a cheque as it seems to have been given away, the profit having been made on the other wines.

    How much did you receive from Angela on the above sale, by the way?

  12. Sophia Warner October 29, 2008 at 11:54 am -

    Please see below the quote from Angela Lloyd to which I was referring regarding the donations:

    4) I do not know who told Neil the proceeds from this sale went to charity (if indeed anyone did) but that isn’t true. What is true is that the proceeds, every cent of them, from the second bottles of Platter samples I do sell do indeed go to charity – to Pebbles (www.pebblesproject.co.za).
    5) The same applies to extra samples from Grape’s new releases (when we’re sent two bottles). All proceeds from the sale of these also go to Pebbles.

    I hope that clarifies things for you.

  13. Wine Industry Member October 29, 2008 at 4:55 pm -

    This Pendock/Platter/Grape altercations is only taking valuable publication space away from the wine industry from which you people are making your living. If you would like to start some wine soapie you must do so. This has got nothing to do with wine promotion or keeping your readers informed. Keep all this nonsense for your dinner parties (probably with expensive wines given to you as tasting samples to keep you informed).

  14. Neil Pendock October 30, 2008 at 4:48 am -

    Dear W.I.M

    I quite agree, but what would you have me do when a respected winemaker phones to complain of the goings on at Grape? Ignore him?

  15. Wine Industry Member October 30, 2008 at 8:50 am -

    Surely the correct thing for the winemaker would be to get his facts straigtht by contacting the person he wants to gossip about and not a Joburg based independent winewriter?

  16. Madge Grundy October 30, 2008 at 11:35 am -

    Dear WIM

    You make “Joburg based” sound like an insult. At least Pendock is independent and frequently in the Cape and not beyond opening cans of worms on the shelves of Platter, Grape, noseWeek, winewriters selling their left over tasting wines. Or listening to winemakers! What happens with the wines left over from The Swiss International Air Lines Wine Awards? Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show? Can’t wait for the next bottle in this scandal to be uncorked.

  17. Wine Industry Member October 30, 2008 at 12:59 pm -

    Sell the wine by all means – for charity. I said get the facts straight. Journalism First Year stuff.

    Do not make a mistake. I have great respect for mr. Pendock and acknowledge the contribution he make informing his readers. I just think we , as those wanting to promote the responsible use of wine, should stop throwing stones and concentrate on wine.
    Many wine people are getting fed-up with journalists having a go at each other and not focusing on the above. This refers not only to Pendock.

  18. Tantalus October 30, 2008 at 1:19 pm -

    Dear WIM
    It’s not just wine people who are getting tired of this ‘handbags at dawn’ stuff.
    The entertainment value of the spat has finished and is it now just ‘he said’, ‘she said’ – and I don’t particularly enjoy tennis.
    I’ve read enough to decide to let Platter be my guide and to hell with the purists.

  19. Neil October 31, 2008 at 12:17 pm -

    The delete button is getting plenty of exercise on the Grape website. A journo asked me to blog Angela’s latest offering, posted on 26 October and now abruptly removed. Perhaps that anonymous winemaker bought the whole shebang, again!

    With single bottles again offered, the natural question arises: how many of these are tasting samples? Once again, no mention of any charitable beneficiaries from this flushed Mother Theresa of the vine.

    The following wines are offered by Angela Lloyd (flush with the success of selling her sweet wines!), who should be contacted by email. The wines are in Cape Town, and delivery outside Cape Town will be at the buyer’s expense.

    All are single bottles, 750ml unless otherwise indicated.

    Allesverloren 1984 R80

    Axehill 2004 500ml R100

    Blaauwklippen 1983 R50

    Boland 1990 R50

    Boplaas Vintage 1987 R80

    Landskroon 1999 R80

    Muratie 1997 R50

    Muratie Fine Old Port R30

    Overgaauw 1998 R100

    Peter Bayly 2004 500ml R70

    Rudman’s 1991 R100

    Rustenberg 1984 R80

    Simonsig LBV bottled 1994 R50

    TTT 2006 500ml R60

    Villiera 1992 R50

  20. Mark Silas November 9, 2008 at 8:19 am -

    This is an outrageous rip-off. Angela does not even own those samples. Unused ones should be returned to the producer. If she wants to play Mother Theresa, she should use her own money. Maybe should could make some lasagna and sell that for charity!