Douglas Green the brand turns 70 this year and chatting to Douglas Green Junior (below), great grandson of the founder of E.K. Green, a Cape Town wine merchant founded in the 1840s, it was the loss of the cammeraderie of 70 years ago that he noted as the biggest change on the wine scene over seven decades. “Stellenbosch Farmers Winery was the fun company and [SFW CEO] Bill Winshaw would call us all in, members of the wine merchants association, and feed us Chateau Libertas and fat cigars and tell us not to cut prices. I worked for the Distillers Corporation for six years as I wanted to learn from a genius, Dr. Anton Rupert. But Distillers was a different kind of company where everyone wanted to be seen as the last to leave the office at night.”
Back in the day, blends were king and single cultivars, unknown. Today single cultivar Douglas Green wines sell for R35 a bottle while blends, like the remarkably juicy 2011 Merlot/Malbec, go for under R30. Which is totally crazy as at our table at Burrata, the blends were emptied first. And nearly flew off the table, so light were the bottles.
“So how much Douglas Green wine is bottled overseas in bulk?” I asked DGB CEO Tim Hutchinson (below, right). “Zero” he replied. But at the rate the rand is falling, chat at our table claims that First Cape are waiting for the Rand to breach R18.32 to the Pound before they’ll resume local bottling. Meanwhile JC Bekker let slip that Boschendal are installing another bottling line. A view on the currency, perhaps?
“Consumers are definitely buying down” commented Tim “and there is amazing value to be had between R30 and R60. Producers, unable to sell their flagship wines, have diverted juice down the product pyramid and quality at lower levels has improved.” Quality echoed by the launch of the extended range of Olive Brook wines from Spar last week.
But while consumers may be cutting their coat to match cheaper cloth, no such constraints apply to those holy cows of SA wine, wine writers, as details emerged of how two bald leading lights, led by Mr. Min (Sawubona’s shampain sipper and conductor on the gravy train), called for bottles of Pol Roger when the bar was opened last week (for Spar’s account) at Michael Broughton’s Terroir restaurant on Kleine Zalze. Which puts the attack of Mr. Min on the results of this year’s Amorim MCC Challenge in perspective. No supermarket wines for our depilated duo when someone else is paying!