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…
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!”