The low light of last year’s US presidential election that will put an African-American in the White House on Tuesday was Sarah Palin’s confusion that Africa is a continent comprised of individual states rather than a single country. The election of Barack Obama, son of a polygamous Kenyan goat herder, as US president will undoubtedly focus American attention on the Mother Continent and provide a fillip for tourism as well as heighten awareness of the cuisine and wine.
SA is the undisputed leader of African wine and a producer with a serious track record as exactly a fortnight after the inauguration and 350 years ago Jan van Riebeeck was telling his diary “praise be to God, wine was pressed from Cape grapes for the first time…”
SA wine in the USA starts from a base so low, it’s positively subterranean. The failure of SA wine to penetrate the US market in 350 years (we supply around 1% of US imports and are falling) is a mystery of human civilization up there with who takes a blow torch to the statute of Woody Allen in Oviedo, Spain, and melts off his glasses. After all, the Aussies are in the US top three and their vines came from Groot Constantia. Do their spin doctors revolve that much more rapidly than ours?
On Tuesday, it’s only to be expected that lunch will feature US wine exclusively: a 2007 Duckhorn Sauvignon Blanc with the seafood stew starter, 2005 Goldeneye Pinot Noir for the duck and pheasant main and (sacré bleu) a Korbel Champagne with an apple cinnamon sponge cake with sweet cream.
The menu reflects the tastes of Honest Abe Lincoln – Obama’s hero – who was fond of venison, oysters, root vegetables and apples but the Korbel will have cheese-eating surrender monkeys frothing worse than George Bush’s valedictory swipe at the French: tripling duty on imports of Roquefort cheese in retaliation for the continued European ban on hormone-feed US beef. The Korbel fizz comes from the Russian River Valley and although the Champenoise may cynically increase the size of their appellation to pump up profits, the appellation does not yet encompass California.
If Nelson Mandela (not much of a drinker, a glass of sweetish white at a push) was responsible for the ’94 SA wine export boom to Europe, imagine what can be achieved by a politician who actually likes the stuff. The 10oz pewter accented wine glasses specially blown for the inauguration proved to be so popular, they are on backorder at Victorystore.com for a month. Now all we need do is sell Americans some African wine to put in them.