Winston Wants Answers

Neil Pendock February 14, 2009 2

As any history buff or post-modern winehack will tell you, what is important is not the facts per se but perceptions thereof. The damning-by-rumour of the first few decades of SA wine continues in the February edition of Horizons, in-flight magazine of the Comair franchise of BA. A gushy feature on 350 years of SA wine by Platter associate editor Tim James starts off by noting “within decades of that first tiny harvest, vineyards were scattered down the Peninsula and wine – perhaps not the finest – was soon also being made around the new settlement at Stellenbosch.” (My italics).

The puff CV for James in Horizons lists editing “the now dormant Grape magazine and website” as achievements. Indeed, the website has fallen strangely dormant (once again) right in the middle of an amusing argument between columnist Michael Fridjhon and Winston Churchill in the open space area.


I’ve been waiting for days for Winnie’s latest riposte to appear which he kindly bcc’d to me on Thursday. As the debate now seems to have moved on from organ grinders to monkeys sipping stale Sauvignon, I post Winnie’s wisdom below and invite Dr. James (a self-confessed “academic”, after all) to respond to the Ps. and include his sources for declaring 17th century SA vintages “perhaps not the finest” as my limited historical researches, coupled with the contemporaneous explosion of vineyard plantings, would seem to indicate the opposite.

Why should pre-phylloxera vines imported by Simon van der Stel (who owned vineyards in Holland from which he made wine and brandy) not make excellent wine in the Constantia Valley and Stellenbosch, two terroirs widely regarded as among the finest in SA today?

From WC on Thursday evening: May I request to know who asked Grape to “put the facts straight”? I find it highly unlikely that any reader of Grape would be so pedantic as actually going to the trouble of pointing out the details of how AVUSA and BDFM are interlinked as it serves no purpose in any of the arguments I put forward.

Unfortunately my WC quotes have now dried up unless somebody would be willing to declare war, as I would then be able to use quotes such as:

“I was only the servant of my country and had I, at any moment, failed to express her unflinching resolve to fight and conquer, I should at once have been rightly cast aside.”

Ps. I would still appreciate MF to share his sources of the tasting notes of the first few decades of Cape wine.

As to censoring Winston Churchill, editing comments on the Grape communal blog (which seem to be carefully selected and adjudicated by James) is one of the several structural problems of the site. The turn-around time can be days which wipes-out one of the main advantages of blogging – immediacy – while the presence of a big scissor sister with an agenda severely limits the rough and tumble of intellectual debate.


  1. Neil February 16, 2009 at 4:42 am -

    Winnie sent yet another missive to the hilariously misnamed “open space” panel of the Grape communal blog on Sunday evening. We shiver in anticipation (like the Sweet Transvestite in the Rocky Horror Picture Show) to see whether the freespeech moderator will post it.

    BTW, rumours that Uncorked and Michael Fridjhon are in Hong Kong to consult on a cellar for President-for-life Bob Mugabe’s new R50 million home at the JC (Jackie Chan) Castle upmarket development in Tai Po are grossly exaggerated.

  2. Winston Churchill February 16, 2009 at 7:32 pm -

    I see that my latest comment was not added to the Grape discussion. Hopefully this can be explained by the editor stating that he did not receive my original e-mail (although Neil Pendock, whom I bcc’ed it to, did receive it and decided to comment on it on his blog (

    I, and I’m sure most people who read Grape, love words like “independent” and “open” that Grape bandies about on its website. How “open” can discussion be if every comment is moderated by a seemingly not impartial editor? This is probably one of the reasons why Grape discussions rarely elicit the same number of comments as, for example, (43 comments at last count on their article whether or not apartheid still lurks in winemaking) or even Don Tooth’s opinion that “Government dislikes wine producers” on Fin24 ( with 14 pages of comments.

    Instead, the editor of Grape decides to publish a comment by Vieilles Vignes that adds no value to the actual debate but rather “plays the man and not the ball”.

    If Grape version 3 (print, website, blog) is planning to be independent it can maybe take some hints from Pendock’s blog that actually allows comment without having to be moderated by somebody, who while claiming “independence”, may have some vested interests?

    Seeing that my Winston Churchill quotes have now dried up, maybe I should resort to that veritable well of wit, Ambrose Bierce, when he states in his Devil’s Dictionary:

    HYPOCRITE, n. One who, professing virtues that he does not respect, secures the advantage of seeming to be what he despises.

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