ZA Confidential Wine Tasting Podcast: The Smuggler’s Boot Pinot Noir 2018

By John Fraser

Our ground-breaking wine tasting podcast is back, with another Cape red: The Smuggler’s Boot Pinot Noir 2018.

Michael Olivier introduces the wine to an all-star panel of economist Mike Schussler, airline executive Glenn Orsmond, IT genius Malcolm MacDonald and journalist Cobus Bester.

The team also mulls over the importance of wine tourism – and the brilliant hospitality of the Cape and of its wines.

As I have mentioned throughout this batch of podcasts, of which this is one of the last, I am putting these out a while after Mike Schussler lost his battle against cancer. This recording session was the last time I saw him.

Mike was a brilliant economist, with a magical talent for looking at numbers and interpreting them in an easily understandable way. But he was much more than that. He was a generous, kind, thoughtful and lovable person, and one of the very finest people with whom to enjoy a long, lingering, liquid lunch.

This set of podcasts is a tribute to Mike, to whom we all raise a glass. He is sorely missed.

Glen Orsmond had his own challenges when airlines Kulula and the regional British Airways collapsed, after his efforts to find new funding had failed.

However, these were happier times, and we celebrate the time we spent together, and the wines we explored.

Click below to listen in to the chat:

Meanwhile, it is not too late to seek out Michael Olivier’s latest cookbook, which is a wonderful celebration of South African cuisine:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

Can we Toque, with Lord Nicholas Monson?    Poule au Pot, Belgravia, London

The good Lord

By John Fraser

Having grown rather tired of the elaborate, over-priced and under-nourishing meals you find in some more trendy restaurants – the ones where the chef needs a pair of tweezers to assemble your dish – I tremble with delight at the prospect of an indulgent, butter-saturated French feast.

Plonked on a street corner in the affluent London township of Belgravia, with outside tables and authentically grumpy French waiters, La Poule au Pot is a delightful step-back-in-time French brasserie that reminds me of Paris.   And not in a bad way!

It has the advantage of a reasonably priced (for London) two or three-course menu, with a good choice of classic brasserie nosh.

Lord Monson arrived after me, so I had been able to tuck into the still-warm crusty baguette. A jar of peanut butter with that would have done me for lunch, but I was determined to see how well the place performed overall.

London restaurants are obliged to serve their patrons free tap water, and given the price of wines in UK restaurants that is often all we SA visitors can stretch to.   Chateaux Thames it was.

However, his Lordship decided to hand over a Lord’s ransom, and we also shared a 50 quid bottle of an enjoyable claret, the Chateau Lescalle 2005. Very nice!

Before chatting too much, we decided to order.   I opted for the Tarte à l’Oignon, a delicious, creamy onion tart, sliced generously.

Then I had the melt-in-the-mouth pintade rôtie – the guinea fowl.

Once again this was a generous portion, and again it was excellent.  It came with a potato gratin – perfectly cooked potatoes swimming in cream and garlic.   So simple, yet executed so impressively. 

Lord Monson opted for the paté, an unsightly pile of the stuff that could have been served a little more elegantly. Although it looked like something one might step on, it tasted like something one might happily lick off the pavement.

This was followed by coq au vin – a French attempt to imitate one of our chicken potjies.  Once again it looked a bit ordinary, but it hit the spot.

All in all, the meal was more than I had hoped for.   We did not need desserts.

While we were ploughing through the food, we chatted, and my first question had to be about restaurants.

Did the 12th Baron Monson of Burton find that having a title secured him a table more easily in the best restaurants?

“I have never felt brave enough to say: this is Lord Monson. It’s so pompous. However, I had a girlfriend who used to ring up and say: Hello!  I would like to book a table for Lord Monson and three guests,” he chuckled.   “On arrival, I would be warmly greeted as Mr Lord Monson.

“I think that now in London it doesn’t help; having a title is like a double-edged sword.”

However, he has found the title useful in some of his campaigns, as it does mean that people take him more seriously, and he can get their attention more readily.   He found that when he changed his e-mail to include his title “the effect that had was quite strong – in dealing with government departments, Ministers and journalists.”

He is not a sitting member of the House of Lords, and he has needed every arrow in his quiver – for he has been through a lot.

For nine years he fought to uncover the truth about his son Alexander, who was 28 when he was murdered in police custody in Kenya some ten years ago. 

“He was taken to a police station and beaten to a state of unconsciousness, put on the floor and left to die,” he explained.

“A friend of ours badgered the police to take him to the hospital.   Having beaten him, they handcuffed his unconscious body and bundled him into a police car – took him to hospital and manacled him to a bed and the police told the doctors to treat him for a drug overdose.”

Without the correct treatment, he died 5 hours after his arrival in the hospital.

The pretext for the arrest had been that Alexander had been taking drugs, but Lord Monson is adamant that he had not been, but was beaten up and killed by the police.

“The autopsy said that,” he said. “I have been told this is standard Kenyan police practice.  I never believed it was drugs. I believe this was a pretext.”

After a long campaign, the policemen responsible were put on trial and sent down for manslaughter, although there is now an appeal to get the sentences elevated to murder convictions.

“Will this change much? I hope so,” he said.  “Kenya is a country where tourists go.   I am writing a book on it – it will be part of my memoirs.”

As if the loss of one son were not enough to torment any parent, the peer’s second son Rupert committed suicide at 21, after a battle with drugs.

“I suspected my second son was smoking marijuana. It can have a therapeutic effect. I had no idea how strong (the skunk variant) is now – it’s a Frankenstein product, it’s been messed around with, genetically altered,” he warned.    

“It’s like moving from a shandy to a brandy.  Rupert, like 50 000 young people a year, had to have medical help for skunk addiction and for the damage it had done. With him it was severe – he became psychotic. Once somebody has become psychotic, you never really recover.

“He was very promising: an Arts scholar, a good-looking boy, a fast bowler at school, the world was his oyster – and he became demented, even with medical assistance.   He kept being visited by delusions of being pursued by goblins and demons. This is not uncommon.

“We tried to get him into a hospital, but he was sent back home, and I had a call from his mother, who said she couldn’t find him. A mother’s instincts are very rarely wrong on such matters. Police looked, and they sent up a helicopter with heat-seeking technology. They directed his mother, and she found him hanging on a climbing frame. He was still alive, and it took him 3 days to die.

“I had to talk her out of committing suicide five times.

“I created an awareness campaign. I said the law should be changed. Marijuana should be legalised – but only the very mild stuff, the shandy not the brandy.   This sparked a big debate and it definitely helped.”

After the death of his sons, Lord Monson’s brother became the next in line to the family title, but His Lordship is campaigning for the law to be changed as “women should be able to inherit a title. Times have changed. We live in a world where women should and must have equality.”

If this campaign succeeds, his daughter Isabella will become his heir.

Most recently, he has become heavily involved in supporting Ukraine.

“Two weeks after the invasion I had a call from a friend of my late son, who said he and another friend of my son wanted to take an ambulance or two to Ukraine.   I offered to scale this up.   

“Then I joined forces with someone else who was doing this for a group called Ambulance Heroes, now funded through Help4Ukraine.  In six days, we had enough money for six ambulances. 

“They are there now – one I am told has been blown up by the Russians.”

When we met in London in mid-May, the total had risen to over 20 fully-equipped ambulances, and his fund-raising was continuing; he also pursues the search for volunteer drivers.  

“My great grandfather set up the Red Cross in Italy during WW1, in Rome. His daughter-in-law worked for the American Red Cross in London during the blitz. Maybe it is in my DNA to do something to help,” suggested Lord Monson.

“We have helped to provide rent-free accommodation for Ukrainians who come here and are also setting up a refugee support group.  Many refugees don’t speak the language; they are emotionally shattered – they have left their families behind.  We support a group that extracts refugees.

“I am like a jockey on a runaway horse. I can’t get off.”

Lord Monson is landed aristocracy and can trace his family back to the 14th century, with direct ancestors at the Battle of Agincourt.

Although he has a title, he doesn’t sit in the UK’s upper legislative chamber, the House of Lords.

“To be a sitting peer you have to be elected by other sitting peers, and if they don’t like the look of you or they prefer other candidates, those other candidates will be elected,” he explained. “The whole thing about heredity titles and their right to have a position in parliament is ludicrous.  It is offensive to many.

“I think the Lords should be changed, with a vote by a wider plebiscite, not a particular plebiscite – to bring in independent wise men and women, not attached to any political party.

“I put myself up as a candidate 4 times, and I only once got a vote. I am told I am one of the best-known Lords in the country, I am in the press so often because of my causes.   I would like the House of Lords as an extra platform, but I can continue in any event.”

Finally, I asked him about the British royal family, as we were meeting with the Queen’s Jubilee in the headlines.

“Kate Middleton is the best thing that has happened to the monarchy – the granddaughter of a coal miner. She is magnificent. If it came to a war, I would lay down my life for her.”

He was less impressed with Prince Charles’ other daughter-in-law.

“As to Megan?  I knew from the outset there would never be a happy outcome,” he reflected.

And so we departed: he for more good works, and me for a long and snore-filled nap after all that yummy, rich, artery-clogging French food and wine. 

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Fledge & Co Jikken Bareru Sauvignon Blanc

Jikken Bareru Sauvignon Blanc

By John Fraser

Time for another podcast from the ZA Confidential team, where we tuck in to a Fledge & Co Jikken Bareru Sauvignon Blanc, presented by walking food and wine encyclopedia Michael Olivier.

Once again, our drooling palates belong to broadcaster Cobus Bester, economist Mike Schussler, IT consultant Malcolm MacDonald, and airline executive Glenn Orsmond.

As well as an examination of this enjoyable Cape white, we also delve into the merits of remote work.

As I have mentioned throughout this batch of podcasts, I am putting these out a while after Mike Schussler lost his battle against cancer. This recording session was the last time I saw him.

Mike was a superb economist, with a magical talent for looking at numbers and interpreting them in an easily understandable way. But he was more than that. He was a generous, kind, thoughtful and lovable person, and one of the very best people with whom to enjoy a long, lingering, liquid lunch.

This set of podcasts is a tribute to Mike, to whom we all raise a glass. He is sorely missed.

Glen Orsmond had his own challenges when airlines Kulula and the regional British Airways collapsed, after his efforts to find new funding had failed.

However, these were happier times, and we celebrate the time we spent together.

Click below to listen in to the chat

Meanwhile, it is not too late to seek out Michael Olivier’s latest cookbook, which is a celebration of South African cuisine:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

ZA Confidential Wine Tasting Podcast Sawmill Creek Icewine

By John Fraser

The intrepid podcast gluggers are back, this time tasting a sweet wine from Canada: the Sawmill Creek Icewine.

Preparing for the adventure are esteemed economist Mike Schussler, iconic broadcaster Cobus Bester, airline boss Glenn Orsmond, IT superstar Malcolm MacDonald and food and wine legend Michael Olivier.

As I mentiioned when I posted our last podcast, I am putting these out, painfully aware that Mike Schussler lost his battle against cancer. This recording session was the last time I saw him, as it fell between his spells in hospital.

Mike was a superb economist, with a magical talent for looking at numbers and interpreting them in an easily understandable way. But he was more than that. He was a generous, kind, thoughtful and lovable person, and one of the very best people with whom to enjoy a long, liquid lunch.

This set of podcasts is a tribute to Mike, to whom we all raise a glass. He is sorely missed.

Glen Orsmond had his own challenges when airlines Kulula and the regional British Airways collapsed, after his efforts to find new funding had failed.

However, these were happier times, and we celebrate the time we spent together.

Click below to listen in:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

ZA Confidential Podcast. Mellish Bakenkop Blanc Fumé 2019

By John Fraser

It has been a difficult time since we recorded this podcast with economist Mike Schussler, airline executive Glenn Orsmond, broadcaster Cobus Bester, IT consultant Malcolm Macdonald, and wine guru Michael Olivier.

As many of you will know, Mike Schussler has lost his battle against cancer. This was the last time I saw him, between spells in hospital.

As many have already written, Mike was a superb economist, with a magical talent for looking at numbers and interpreting them in an easily understandable way. But he was more than that. He was a generous, kind, thoughtful and lovable person, and one of the very best people with whom to enjoy a long, liquid lunch.

This set of podcasts (more to come) is a tribute to Mike, to whom we all raise a glass. He is sorely missed by so many of us.

Glen Orsmond had his own challenges when airlines Comair and the regional British Airways collapsed, after his efforts to find new funding had failed.

It was a difficult decision to preserve this recording and post it, but it is a warm encapsulation of happier times.

Click below for our tasting of the Mellish Bakenkop Blanc Fumé 2019, an excellent wine, tasted by a convivial group of wonderful people.

NB: Michael Oliver’s new cookbook is a must-read. If you don’t yet have a copy, get one!

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

ZA Confidential Podcast: Spier Sauvignon Blanc in a can

A pocket-sized treat

By John Fraser

More podcast fun. Michael Olivier introduces Spier’s 2020 Sauvignon Blanc in a can to a panel of top tasters.

They are Cape Wine Master Debi van Flyman, Cova EY’s Duane Newman, branding consultant Jeremy Sampson, IT consultant Malcolm MacDonald, and auto industry expert Jeff Osborne.

The panel also discusses the merits of varied methods of wine packaging, and decides cans should not be canned.

Click below for a listen:

NB: Michael Oliver’s new cookbook is flying off the shelves and you must shoot one down and read it:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

ZA Confidential Wine Tasting Podcast: Overhex Survivor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018

By John Fraser

Corkscrews at the ready, a team of intrepid tasters scaled the dizzy peaks of another Cape red.

Author, restaurateur and astronaut Michael Olivier doled out the Overhex Survivor Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 to a top team of tasters.

They are Cape Wine Master Debi van Flymen, branding master Jeremy Sampson, auto industry legend Jeff Osborne, IT consultant Malcolm MacDonald and EY Cova partner Duane Newman.

The tasting team also held a robust discussion about the greed – or otherwise – of restaurants as they try to adjust to the fallout from the Covid lockdowns.

Click below, as the fun is about to start…..

NB: Michael Oliver’s new cookbook is flying off the shelves and you must shoot one down and read it:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

The economic impact of the Russia-Ukraine crisis

Table talk

Opinion article by Sanet Madonsela, PhD Candidate in the Centre for Gender and Africa Studies, University of the Free State

On the 24th of February 2022, the world woke up to the news of Russia announcing its’ “special military operation” to “demilitarise” and “deNazify” Ukraine. This announcement was followed by a sophisticated, all-out attack by land and air. As Russia began its invasion, the rest of the world watched in anguish, contemplating the unavoidable international political and economic implications.

There are competing views as to why Russia invaded Ukraine. Some argue that the attacks were based on Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, while others link the invasion to the Minsk agreements. The Minsk agreements are two treaties signed in 2014 and 2015 aimed at ending the war in Donbas. To provide a bit of context one needs to go back to 2014.

Resolution to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk

Moscow was angered that its candidate lost Ukraine’s presidential mantle in elections in 2014. This resulted in Donetsk and Luhansk announcing their autonomy from Kiev. In September of that year, the government of Kiev and the separatist leaders agreed to a 12-point ceasefire called Minsk I. Despite the signing of the agreement, the fighting continued resulting in Russia, Ukraine and the Special Monitoring Mission of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) signing Minsk II.

The agreement called on Ukraine to control the state border, constitutional reform and decentralisation. Despite an election held in 2018 in the eastern regions, the US and the EU have refused to recognise the legitimacy of the vote, thus, violating the agreement. The OSCE has reported significant daily increases in ceasefire violations in the affected areas since February 2014. While the US is not a signatory, it has expressed the importance of implementing the agreement. Instead of accepting the existing agreement, Ukraine allegedly never implemented its provision thereby incensing Moscow – as well as ethnic Russians in Ukraine.

On 16 February 2022, the Russian parliament adopted a resolution requesting Putin to recognise Donetsk and Lugansk. This agreement was signed on the 21st of February 2022 and was followed by a request to deploy armed forces. Inevitably the conflict dynamics have escalated.

While some believe themselves to be immune to the conflict, economists warn that it will have far-reaching global consequences as armed conflict tends to disrupt supply chains and increase the price of food and gas. They predict a further increase in oil prices per barrel as Russia is the world’s largest natural gas exporter and the second largest exporter of crude oil. This is important as oil prices directly impact transportation, logistics, and air freights. On Thursday, 24 February, global oil prices passed $105 per barrel warranting these predictions. In addition, Russia is the world’s largest supplier of palladium, a material used by automakers for catalytic converters and to clean car exhaust fumes, a delay (in supplies) would affect auto production. It is worth noting that Ukraine is a major provider of wheat, corn, and barley. A lack of yellow maize, or even a slowdown in production, could result in an increase in meat prices.

Exports and sanctions

Combined, Russia and Ukraine export more than a third of the world’s wheat and 20% of its maize. They also account for 80% of global sunflower oil exports. They supply all major international buyers, as well as many emerging markets. In 2020, 90% of the African continent’s $4 billion agricultural imports from Russia were wheat and 6% sunflower oil. South Africa does not produce enough wheat and is heavily reliant on imports from these countries. It imported more than 30% of its wheat from these two countries over the past five years.

Western states have announced a coordinated series of sanctions aimed at Russian elites; however, critics warn that they may be ineffective as the country’s economy is large enough to absorb even the most severe sanctions. Its central bank has more than $630 billion in foreign reserves and gold. Its sovereign wealth accounts for an additional $190 billion. Russian debt accounts for a mere 20% of its gross domestic product (GDP).

The European Commission’s president, Ursula von der Leyen, states that the bloc would target Russia’s energy sector by preventing European companies from providing Russia with the technology needed to upgrade its refineries. The US Department of Treasury has committed itself to preventing Russia’s state-owned Gazprom from raising money to fund its projects in the US. It is worth noting that Russia and Ukraine’s imports and exports to the US account for less than 1%, while Europe and Russia are interdependent. The EU needs Russian gas, while Russia needs the EU’s money. Some warn that the EU’s decision could be detrimental as it receives over a third of its natural gas from Russia. This is used for home heating and energy generation. These fears were intensified when the natural gas price in Europe increased by 62% on the 24th of February. It is believed that Russia has been preparing for economic isolation for years and that it could better absorb the sanctions than Europe’s ability to reduce its dependence on Russia’s oil, gas, and coal. Despite all these, Gazprom announced that its gas exports to Europe were continuing as normal.

While the world watches with bated breath as the conflict rages there are some promising signs. Russian and Ukrainian delegates are currently meeting on the border with Belarus to start a dialogue and Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy has called on Israel to serve as a mediator between himself and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Let us pray that reason prevails.

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Superstar Podcast Wine Tasting: Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve Pinotage

By John Fraser

Don’t sit sulking and waiting for the noonday gun. It’s time for a tasting!

This time the gluggers and gulpers are nosing and swilling the Durbanville Hills Collectors Reserve Pinotage, a cheery red from the Cape.

Once again, the bottles were expertly uncorked by Michael Olivier, who handed around miserly samples to our class of tasters.

They were Duane Newman from EY Cova, Jeff Osborne from TransUnion, Jeremy Sampson from the glittering world of branding – and Cape Wine Master and part-time Siren, Debi van Flymen.

We also discussed South Africa’s food heritage and what needs to be done to better promote it.

Click below to check out the podcast:

NB: Michael Oliver’s new cookbook is a must-read and you must buy it and read it:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za

Wine tasting podcast: Bizoe Morningstar Semillon 2019.

By John Fraser

You just can’t get rid of us. Some of South Africa’s most sophisticated and knowledgeable wine tasters (and me) have got together again to try out a fine Cape White – the 2019 Bizoe Morningstar Semillon.

The man with a pan and a corkscrew and an encyclopedia knowledge of all things pleasurable (and legal), Michael Olivier, did the pouring and introduced the wine.

Guest tasters were Cape Wine Master Debi van Flymen, branding consultant Jeremy Sampson, auto expert Jeff Osborne and EY Cova partner Duane Newman.

The importance – or not – of wine vintages was also debated as we glugged our way through the bottle.

Click below to check it out:

NB: Michael Oliver’s new cookbook is a must-read and you must buy it and read it:

An excellent choice for any time of the year

Like this podcast? Subscribe to ZA Confidential to receive our newsletters.  Twitter:  @zaconfidential  

Do also check out:  http://www.michaelolivier.co.za