Savaged by a grape, again

Neil Pendock November 27, 2007 8

Noseweek is a most appropriately named organ to host a wine column as the nose is queen of the senses, at least when it comes to wine. A Cape Town fifty-something former picture framer Tim James is Noseweek wine correspondent and you don’t even need to subscribe to read his acerbic opinions. For like the bi-weekly newspaper columns of that all stops wine shop Michael Fridjhon, their hardcopy is posted on the Grape website, sometimes even before it appears in print. An odd occurrence admittedly, but one which does justify clogging up the fiberoptic cable with mouldy old copy from ages past. The practice also saves on subscription charges with the next step perhaps a purple leaf out of Financial Times pundit Jancis Robinson’s book – to charge punters for access.
Richard Wagner

Tim is a great fan of all things German and like that giant of Teutonic terroir, Richard Wagner, is also a cross-dresser. But not for Tim something graceful for evenings at home. The bodice will have a high collar, with a lace jabot and ribbons; close-fitting sleeves; the dress trimmed with puffed flounces – of the same satin material – no basque at the front (the dress must be very wide and have a train) but a rich bustle with a bow at the back, like the one at the front” as Wagner wrote to the Gavin Rajah of his day. Ostensibly for his wife Cosima, it was more likely for himself, according to the gnomes on the Wagner Journal. No siree, Tim prefers the widow’s weeds as he’s a bit of a Goth and black matches his mood.

So no surprises to receive another scold from a widow on Grape today for daring to praise a supermarket wine that had the temerity to refuse to deliver a case of free samples to the Platter’s Guide for which Tim, or is it the widow, is an associate editor. No need for a declaration of a conflict of interest as its common cause that the Grape editorial troika all have seasonal jobs on Platter’s – just like those dusky gypsy ladies who pick the grapes in Champagne that go on to become Grande Dames.

Her point seems to be that the Platter-free wines were then entered into Veritas – which is exactly the point. Veritas tastes blind whereas Platter doesn’t. And what sweet irony indeed to see Grape and Veritas in bed together.

Ray Edwards’ interview in the Sunday Times that got Mount Anorak erupting:
Ray Edwards
Ray Edwards is the liquor executive at the Spar supermarket chain and TOPS at Spar liquor stores. A new range of Spar Olive Brook wines were released last month and Neil Pendock spoke to him about them.

Q: Given the red wine lake and profusion of brands in SA, why make your own wines?
A: We are a differentiated brand in that we make an offering unlike the chains and thus need to have our own brand of wines. I also believe the producer fraternity have not grasped the issue of “fruit driven wines” and are still producing yester year’s styles. Our Classic Red blend is our biggest volume mover of all our bottled range and grows year after year, unlike many brands available today. We cater for the discerning shopper and those who are looking for value for money wines. Too often the lower priced wines are wines from lost export contracts and end of runs and very often not good value.
Q: Will a status conscious Sandton hostess serve a supermarket wine at a dinner party?
A: Well, I doubt she would serve a cheap and nasty wine to her friends. She will go for a brand she knows and trusts or support a retailer who can be trusted to offer good quality wines at competitive prices. Our exclusive Olive Brook Chardonnay 2007 (VERITAS silver) has a classy label and can compete with any major brand in the market.
Q: Your flagship Bordeaux blend called Quintette goes for under R70, 1/10 the price of Waterford’s new red blend. Isn’t it too cheap to be taken seriously?
A: I can’t comment on other brand’s pricing policy, however we have sourced the varietals for our blend from wine maker Frans Smit at Spier, a pedigree worth it’s weight in gold. For all of that, we can still be very competitive and deliver an outstanding product to the consumer. Again this wine is fruit expressive and has the ability to improve with cellaring for some years to come. Just remember expensive never guarantees quality in a wine.
Q: Woolworths got a five star rating in Platter for their Sauvignon Blanc made by Cape Point Vineyards, so why did you exclude Spar branded wine from the 2008 edition of the John Platter Wine Guide?
A: We made a decision to submit our wines to panels where the judges taste blind. Knowing the label and producer in advance is in our opinion is not ideal and could prejudice the supermarket and high volume distributors.


  1. Lorenzo November 27, 2007 at 10:50 am -

    the pen is mightier than the sword… or in this case, the SmartKlamp™

  2. Marcel de Reuk November 27, 2007 at 12:10 pm -

    At last the widow gets a taste of her own medicine. BRAVO!!!

  3. Tim James November 27, 2007 at 4:15 pm -

    Outed at last! I’ve been trying to hide my picture-framing past for ages. My opinion of Neil’s research abilities has risen higher than ever. But you must learn to read more attentively, Neil. The point about the Spar wines being entered for Veritas was that they did so very badly there – blind tastings don’t seem to be any more favourable than sighted wines might be. But I do agree with Marcel that the Widow deserves a taste of her own medicine, and this is a much nicer way of doing it that suing her like some others have tried to do.

  4. Neil Pendock November 28, 2007 at 7:04 am -

    But Tim, that certainly wasn’t the case with the Woolies Sauvignon Blanc from Cape Point – bronze at Veritas and five stars in Platter’s! A cynic might argue if SPAR had hired a Platter palate or two as a “consultant” there might have been no need to withdraw their wines from the Guide.

  5. Tiny du Valle November 29, 2007 at 11:29 am -

    Tim James and the widow both have a fat cheek defending the indefensible i.e. the Platter Wine Guide or Platter’s as its now seems to be called. How can they realistically expect the SA wine drinking public to accept the recommendations of people who produce/import/sell/market/etc wine when said wine is tasted sighted. Platter’s is a scam of note and should get the Jacob Zuma award for transparency.

  6. Katy Chance December 13, 2007 at 11:25 am -

    Your comment – For like the bi-weekly newspaper columns of that all stops wine shop Michael Fridjhon, their hardcopy is posted on the Grape website, sometimes even before it appears in print. – refers.
    Please note that Michael Fridjhon’s columns from both Business Day and The Weekender have never and will never appear on any site before publication (Wednesday and Saturday respectively).
    They are taken from our website, where they are only posted after publication, for reproduction on the website.

  7. Sally December 13, 2007 at 10:18 pm -

    Katy, why are they then posted on the Grape website if they’re already on yours. Surely a link would be sufficient?

  8. Peter December 17, 2007 at 2:49 pm -

    I agree with Sally. Grape calls itself an independent site, yet they run old retreads from Mr. Retread himself, Mike Fridjohn. Shame. Have they no other copy?

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