My New Year’s resolution is to host a weekly series of Good Value Guru Soirées at our Wine Gallery @ Taj. The idea is to offer the Gallery to producers as a showcase for new releases in the same way that artists introduce their public to their products, in the quasi-religious environment a gallery brings.
We see ourselves as a sort of elegant vitrine for new release vins. The way it will work is simple: there is no cost to producers. Wineries supply two bottles of wine on a theme: Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot etc. Said wines are tasted blind by the Good Value Guru panel and tasting notes and a GVG Price are vouchsafed producers for gratis use in their marketing campaigns. Heck, if you don’t have a RRP, add a wine to the tasting and see what the GVG thinks its worth as compared to other new releases in the same style. Horses for courses as they say in Robertson.
Tastings are from 2-5pm and thereafter wines are transferred next door to the elegant foyer of the Taj Hotel where they are available for public tasting from 5-7pm having been expertly paired with canapés by chef Shyam Longani and his culinary rbhus (the Indian equivalent of an elf). What a great starter for dinner at one of the many restaurants around town including the Bombay Brasserie that Louis Theroux’s dad Paul calls “best Indian restaurant in Africa”. And as VS Naipaul will confirm, Paul’s opinion is to be respected, for no Eat Out louche luvvie is he.
Or think of the weekly Good Value Guru Soirées as a way to while away an idle hour on your way home to Oak City, rather than wait in the daily traffic jam at the Jip de Jager exit from the N1. Or something to do before ringing the bells at the cathedral with Quasimodo. Or smelling the evening roses and boom in the Company’s Garden. Or waiting for a cabinet minister to finish addressing parliament.
Producers will have the opportunity to retail their new releases through the Pendock Private Cellar and the weekly blind tasting highlights will be posted on this site on a dedicated page. Its a whole marketing strategy for two bottles of wine. The only fly in the Ponds Cream comes from Christopher Burr, the rbhu or realism behind wotwine?, the revolutionary UK smart phone app for smart drinkers, who warns of accepting bottles from producers and gifts from Greeks in general.
For starters, some of the more fashionable producers may indulge in a show barrel or tank – a special cuvee designed to win medals. But secondly – and probably more widespread – is the experience a normal consumer has with a bottle bought from a retailer. Which in SA is inevitably a supermarket.
Christopher warns against “the effect of neon lighting – the ‘gout de lumiere‘ – which leaves a wine ‘flat’. Of course journo samples and wine show stock do not suffer from this which makes their songs of praise problematic for purchasers. Another factor is how cool is the store once the tills shut shop? While stock in Sandton will barely touch sides, has the Tops at Spar in Tzaneen such movements of Meerlust Rubicon?
In Christopher’s experience, wine faults caused by dodgy store storage can be an issue. Which is why Wotwine? laudably buy their stock in the same way that other consumers do. It helps make their judgements relevant. “We say in our app that if a retailer or producer feels we have been unduly harsh in our assessment we will re-taste. We frequently take very faulty bottles back and without exception so far the retailer will replace them.”
So should Good Value Guru Soirée samples be bought? The issue boils down to Mammon. At 50 wines a week, you’re probably talking R25K a month to buy tasting stock and if you include some Swartland and Stellenbosch big names, it can easily double. What does everyone else do? Well the leading sighted guide solicits free samples even though owner Diners Club can well afford to buy them. The Wine Lizard solicits freebees and even charges a hefty entry fee for those wishing to play in his Old Mutual Trophy Show sandpit.
Although presumably Old Mutual owner Nedbank could afford to buy stock. Veritas is a ditto. The only one who used to pay for wine was Cassie du Plessis in his reign as editor of Winelands. Panel chairs were given a budget and told to source the bottles for the monthly tasting. I’m not sure if this is still the case or if indeed they still publish tastings. I would not be surprised if Classic Wine paid for their entries as this is the kind of maverick manoeuvre publisher Dominic Ntsele would pull.
The issue of free tasting samples that ended up sold burns the posteriors of many a producer. Some tasters have been selling tasting samples for years and using the proceeds to buy baggy green tracksuit bottoms. One green push we could all do without. There is a simple way round this one – buy an indelible ink stamp and indicate on the label TASTING SAMPLE NFS. So when you see one in the Slow Lounge…