Why is a ZA Bank Showcasing French Wine Exports?

I may sound ungrateful, but that is a risk I will just have to take.  Absa very kindly invited me to the recent Absa Champagne Festival at Summer Place in Johannesburg. It was a lavish affair, with delicious nibbles and table after table of French bubbly. The tasting samples were a bit stingy, with a hell of a lot more air than champagne in each glass, but as you could taste dozens of different champagnes, it was quite possible for guests to still get quite sloshed if they wanted. Personally, once the MC for the evening started bubbling uncontrollably, trotting out stale quotations about champagne, I headed out the door, to enjoy a glass of South African red.

And that is my concern. At this champagne festival, sponsored by a South Africanish bank, the main attractions were the bottles of champagne. No local and lekker Cape bubbly.  Both my chum Malcolm and I reached this conclusion independently, so either we are both paranoid or we have a point…?

Of course, this is not the first time SA has lost out to the French. The fact that we are not allowed to use the word ‘champagne’ to describe local sparking wine was an early concession to the land of our President’s beloved and lucrative Eiffel Tower.

I was told by one of the wine experts at the event that no Cap Classique was allowed, because it isn’t champagne. Klaar?

Now champagne is a French export and Absa is a South Africanish bank. So why is Absa promoting and sponsoring an event to promote a French export sector at the expense of the local wine industry? Does it have no local wine lovers and producers among its stakeholders? I doubt that.  Snobbish stakeholders, maybe?

I have no quarrel with people buying and drinking champagne, and am happy to do so myself, especially when I am a guest at a function and someone else is paying for the corks to go pop.

But as listeners to the Die Vine Intervention podcasts I do with the legendary Michael Olivier will know, I like and admire, worship and promote, South African wines, spirits and the absurdly named Cap Classique bubblies. It is a title foisted on the local wine industry, but you don’t hear it as often as the Parisian prats might wish. Local sparking wine is often equally as good as, and frequently better than, many champagnes. And unless you have a generous Absa overdraft facility, it is also a damm lot more affordable than the imported stuff. Particularly with our local currency drowning in the global spittoon.

So…. What about a more locally-focused SA bubbly event on the same lavish scale as the Champagne one? Surely this is an opportunity for a bank – not headed by someone who got married to a former trade minister on a wine farm in the Cape – to show its true patriotic colours. And if you are looking for an organizer or an MC, let me know. My jokes may be awful, but at least they are mainly original, and I don’t lift them all from a vintage book of crappy champers quotes.  Or gush with more enthusiasm than an over-gassed bubbly bottle as it is opened.

By coincidence, I have just received an invitation to a Cape Town event called ’The World is Your Oyster’ at which both champagne and Cape bubblies are to be served. It is sponsored by Ultra Liquors and will be held at the Waterfront. So it can be done: with local sparkling wines being showcased at a classy event. I am not sure the champagne is strictly necessary, and I would give the oysters a miss, but at least local producers will be given equal or better billing.

While on this hobby horse, I was browsing through the alarmingly premature Xmas catalogue of an Illovo bottle store, and spotted that the first several pages were devoted to another import – Scotch whisky. There were other whiskeys, but while I was glancing through the catalogue, I failed to spot the local Bain’s Cape Mountain Whisky – a personal favourite. Not saying it wasn’t there. Just couldn’t see it through my tears. On the Brandy page, the Cognacs got the best show, but there were some local brandies as well, at far better prices. Including some KWV award winners.

My own approach is simple. I will get far merrier at Christmas with a few bottles of Cape wines, whisky, brandy and absolutely fabulous local bubbly. The quality will be superb, and the savings I will make over the imported imposters will allow my (non-Absa) bank manager to sleep a lot better as the New Year austerity begins to bite.

Tweets of the Day:

Fake Dispatch (@Fake_Dispatch): “Boss? I can’t come to work today. Turns out I talked to a guy who went to high school with a girl that was on the plane with Ebola girl.”

Funny Tweets (@Funny_TweetsQ): Yes officer, I saw the “speed limit” sign, I just didn’t see you.

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