Posts Filed Under on the road
Ok… so… South African wine is almost hopelessly underpriced.
As in, shot-themselves-in-the-foot-and-will-be-limping-through-the-U.S.-wine-market-for-a-few-more-years underpriced. Which means that exciting bargains exist for the budget-conscious wine lover who’s willing to seek out the best wines from SA.
That’s the big take-away for me from my time speaking at the 2013 Nederburg Wine Auction near Cape Town earlier this month. Of course, some touring of the region’s wineries went down on that trip as well, so there will be some features on the best of those visits coming your way here over the next few weeks. For now, I’d like to focus on some of the highlights of what I tasted during the two days of the Nederburg Auction itself.
Not all of these wines will be available in the States yet (alas), but those that are generally have price tags that goofily belie their quality and pleasure-inducing vinous super-powers Clark Kent style, which means it’s like bear-market prices on some very, very nice wines for those now in the market for the best that SA has to offer.
For the sake of the lovely people making wine there – many of whom I now consider friends after breaking bread, cracking corks, and eating strange game meats with them – I’d love to not have to say that about how they’ve priced their wares, and would love to say that their wines will command the prices that similar quality would demand from other regions… BUT… it just ain’t so.
The truth is that SA in a crappy situation market-wise on that front, and the declining value of the Rand versus the dollar and the euro isn’t going to help matters much. And of course they already know all of that, so this isn’t news for them – but it does mean potential bargains for you, if you’re the open-minded wine drinking type…
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I’m not-so-freshly back from Cape Town, where last week I delivered the keynote address at the 39th annual Nederburg Auction. Somehow, my back survived the jaunt (though the sciatica and disk issues did some relatively serious damage on my anxiety).
Since the Nederburg organizers don’t invite keynote speakers back, I felt even less pressure than normal (and I don’t start with much in this regard to begin with) to censor my thoughts… and so I think I delivered on the promised “tough luv” messages about the difficulty, complexity, and insanity of the U.S. wine market, and my ideas on how South Africa can still “win” there.
The organizers were absolutely lovely people, the event was top-notch, and the hospitality beyond any reasonable sense of expectation. Also, I’ve now officially tasted impala and can now tell you that I understand why the big cats prefer to hunt those suckers down in Africa (after the lunch of it I had at La Motte’s fabulous restaurant in Franschhoek, I was ready to try to run a few of those things down and eat them raw myself).
Anyway, the auction itself was successful this year, with price per bottle up over last year’s event. Some amazing juice got auctioned off on day two during the charity portion of the event (including two bottles of 1981 Hill of Grace that were generously donated to the auction by Nederburg in my name… and no, I didn’t get to drink any of it). Below are some images that pale in comparison to actually being in the beautiful country of SA, and (eventually… hang in there!) an embedded video of me getting all Southern-Hemisphere-Keynote on everyone…
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Excruciating pain has a way of giving you additional focus.
I’m learning this the hard way, courtesy of a degenerated L5-S1 lumbar disk which is causing a bulge that my spinal cord finds disagreeable (“disagreeable” as in “excruciating sciatica that is more painful than when I broke a bone in my hand and is now at the point of nearly debilitating me”).
I mention this as framing only, because when you’re on the road (in this case, a paying gig handling social media ambassador duties for the 2013 Chardonnay Symposium) dealing with this kind of pain, it takes something special for you to bother expending the energy required to really focus on it. You’ve got to seriously want it, and it has to be seriously worth it.
That’s the best way I can sum up my time tasting a handful of the twenty nine (!) different wines offered by Foxen’s vintner Dick Doré and winemaker Bill Wathen during a brief trek through Santa Maria a few weeks ago; that they’re worth your focus.
Doré was scruffily unshaven (not judging – so was I!), down to earth and amicable, touring me with the occasional waves of his long and lanky arms through their new winery that sites a short distance down the road from the barn in which Foxen had been making wine for about twenty-five years. Foxen is one of those unassuming producers that sits under the radar, but gets a knowning nod when discussed among wine geeks. I got the impression from Doré that they like it that way, and that they’ve yet to fully grow into the skin of a three-year-old facility that would be modest by most California Disneyworld-like tasting room standards…
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I’m very excited to tell you that I’ll be delivering the keynote address at the 39th Nederburg Wine Auction in Cape Town, South Africa on September 7th.
Nederburg is often cited as one of the wine world’s most major auctions annually. So… no pressure… no pressure…! The 2013 auction collection includes 72 red wines, 36 white wines, one Méthod Cap Classique, eight dessert wines and 15 fortified wines, and I’m looking forward to trying them all. Anthony Barne, MW from Bonhams is taking up the slamming-down-the-hammer duties.
My keynote is tentatively titled “Hustling Wine in the land of Big Hat, No Cattle: How South Africa Can Win in the U.S. Wine Marketplace” – and I think we both know that the Cape Townians (sp?) have no idea what they’ve gotten themselves into.
I’m fortunate to be following up the previous keynote work of two friends of mine, Mike Veseth and David White, who delivered the keynote addresses at the Nederburg auction in 2012 and 2011, respectively. I’m pretty sure that both of them did so while wearing jackets and standing respectfully behind a podium, so the Nederburg attendees are in for something completely and totally different when I hit that stage. And no, I won’t be wearing platform shoes. Anyway, I’ll be touching on themes that both of those gentlemen used as cornerstones in their keynote speeches, namely the U.S. economy (mostly in how bad of a shape it really is, and what that means for future wine buying) and the changing of the guard when it comes to wine tastemaker and consumer opinion-forming (yes, Millennials, you will be get top billing in this, as a bit of a spin-off of ideas touched on during the speech about the U.S. wine market I gave while in Argentina earlier this year).
I hope that my South African cohorts are ready for a bit of well-meant tough love, because they’ve got their work cut out for them in terms of conquering the U.S. wine market, not in small part due to the fact that the only things that most American know about South Africa are District 9 and Lethal Weapon 2 (“Dip-lo-matic immunity!!!” BANG! “Just been revoked!”).
But despite that challenging starting point, the hill can, indeed, be taken. How? Well, that part gets revealed when I prance around on stage in Cape Town in September.
In the meantime… if you have thoughts on how South African wine can compete on the U.S. playing field (and that you’d like me to consider quoting in the keynote address), then, in the immortal words of KISS, shout it, shout it, shout it, shout it out loooooud!