CT De Waal Pinotage 2013

Cape food and wine guru Michael Olivier has unearthed another classic red – the CT De Waal Pinotage 2013.

He presents it to the Johannesburg tasting panel of Stuart Thompson of Loxton Lager, Jeff Osborne of Gumtree Auto and Pretoria restaurateur Dino Fagas.

John Fraser attempts to keep order, while Malcolm MacDonald handles the technical side.

The panel also discussed the possible role of the pinotage cultivar in promoting SA’s wine industry.

Check out the podcast:

Local Manufacturing Gets a Boost from Toyota

We journalists often get a bad press. There is an assumption that all we want to do is to highlight the bad – and certainly that is part of the job.
However, it is sometimes nice to also report on the good, the positive.
So, it is time for a short word on an important announcement this week from Toyota SA, that there is now a new assembly line in Durban, building the commuter taxi.
The assembly of the Ses’fikile minibus taxi follows an investment by Toyota of more than R476m.
In essence, Toyota has moved from just assembling what they call semi-knockdown kits (SKD) to the full manufacturing of the minibus taxis.
Toyota had an official plant opening on Monday, to which our invitation appears to have been lost in the post, attended by our two most active communist Ministers red Ebrahim Patel and red Rob Davies.
Government is busy reviewing its current incentive support scheme for the automotive sector, and this sector has been identified as one which can lead a revival in local manufacturing.
Certainly, it is the best at lobbying government, as the billions of rand a year it receives in government support dwarfs the level of assistance which is given to all other sectors.

Tweet of the Day:
Prince Charles (@Charles_HRH): Dear Oxford English Dictionary, ‘Twerk’ is not a new word; that’s where people from Yorkshire go in the morning. Regards, Charles.
Famous-Quote.net (@famousquotenet): A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have. – Gerald Ford

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Why Is Sasol’s Boss Stepping Down?

There was much speculation in August 2013 when former Sasol CFO Christine Ramon’s speedy departure was announced. Did she jump? Was she pushed? And if the latter, was it down the stairs?
And now the same sort of speculation has arisen with this week’s announcement that Sasol CEO David Constable will not be renewing his contract beyond its expiry in a year from now. The departure of the Canadian CEO will, on the positive side, give a good period in which to find a replacement. So will this allow Sasol to appease its critics and appoint its first black CEO? While most shareholders would, no doubt, welcome the job being allocated on merit, there are powerful and influential shareholders in Sasol such as the IDC, the PIC and the Government Employees Pension Fund who have a far greater political agenda, and who would no doubt encourage the energy giant to make a BEE appointment. Indeed, when our President Jacob Zuma and his team were recently advocating the creation of 100 new black industrialists in South Africa, they mentioned the way in which Sasol and other entities were fostered by the apartheid regime – to help transfer ownership of the economy from the English colonial bunch to a bunch of Afrikaners. If this analogy is to be extended, and there is a mightily strong parallel, then the top job at Sasol is the ideal home for a new black industrialist. He may even get free company petrol if he negotiates his contract wisely.
Constable is not leaving the company after he steps down from the CEO seat, but will act as a consultant. While a bit of handholding for any replacement, black or white, will be wise, this might be an indication that a black candidate might land the job even if he (she?) needs a bit of time and help to fill Constable’s size 11 shoes. (Actually, I don’t know his shoe size, but it helped me to round off the sentence with more than the usual consistency).
However, this might not be the case at all. A Sasol spokesman told Business Day that a “strong desire” from Constable’s family informed the Canadian executive’s decision to return to North America.
If so, it is worrying. Was it a matter of personal safety? Is it just a cultural issue? The top job at Sasol is extremely well paid, so they are clearly not leaving because the cash is running out.


Whatever the true reason for Constable’s decision to step down (if it was indeed his decision) it is a shame. I have attended some of his briefings, and have interviewed him, and while I suspect he might not be the easiest person to work for, he has had a clear vision for Sasol, and I doubt that most (private sector) shareholders will be keen to see him leave. I shall watch developments closely.

Tweet of the Day:
Steve (@WigCannon): I’ll bet the guy who invented socks couldn’t wait for feet to be invented.

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A very indulgent wine tasting at Tsogo Sun.

I have written often about poorly organised events, where the food has been awful and the wine has been absent, so it is only fair to shower with praise my chums at Tsogo Sun, who organised a magnificent media wine tasting this week. Long my favoured hotel chain, it was great to see a combination of generosity and welcome – the sort of thing you can see in adverts, but which is not always delivered.
The event at Montecasino was well attended, and was designed to showcase some of the special bottlings which had been purchased by the hotel chain at the Nederburg and Cape Winemakers’ Guild auctions.
When arriving we were greeted with generous glasses of perfectly chilled Veuve Clicquot, and these were topped up a lot. Tsogo Sun has a policy to put smaller than normal mark-ups on its Champagne, but I am sure the Die Vine Intervention team put a further hefty dent in their profits as we had one refill after another. My mate Norman and I met another chap called Norman, who was our host, along with the brilliant Miguel Chan, who has the rotten job of being Tsogo Sun’s group sommelier.
Bubbling over with bubbly, it was time to taste the auction wines. Now these events can be a bit daunting, with tasters seated like kids in class, as expert after expert tells them about the few sips which are in each glass. Not so at Tsogo.
The room had several tasting platforms, each with a pourer and a neighboring food stand. Each had its own wine, and the food dishes had been expertly paired with each wine.
I did not note down all the wines, as I was too busy guzzling (and there was no crib sheet) but did have a favourite – a 2009 Nederburg Private Bin cabernet sauvignon. This was paired with thin slices of beef, topped with the best béarnaise sauce I have eaten outside Europe. The cheese came with a vintage Monis Port which was also divine.
True to form, I found the most pricey wine – a Shiraz – was my least favourite, but nothing was bad.
The lay-out meant that one could mingle with other guests, who included vintage socialite Edith Venter, another lady who introduced herself as a runner-up from big brother, and several journalists. The atmosphere was fun, and this was because care and professionalism had been deployed in the planning
We weren’t hurried, we ate and drank far more than was wise, and they even gave us a bottle of the cab as we departed.
So bravo to Miguel and team for showing true hospitality, and for generously demonstrating that Tsogo Sun, which is a leading bidder in ZA wine auctions, has some real gems with which to pepper its wine lists.

It would be wrong for me to gush too enthusiastically about the tasting event, as there were a few things I would have changed. While I was thrilled to renew my acquaintance with the Clicky Widow, I wonder whether it might have been more apt to serve us a really brilliant local bubbly? There are many of these and Miguel know them all. Then the selection of cheeses was magnificent, but I believe many were imported. I am convinced that we could have had a range of locally-sourced cheeses, which would have been even better, and would have kept to the theme of showcasing local excellence. And then there was the Scottish salmon…..

Tweets of the Day:
PUNS (@omgthatspunny): A bicycle can’t stand on its own because it is two-tired.
Male Thoughts (@SteveStfler): Diets are hard because I get hungry.

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Die Vine Intervention: Fairview Viognier and Caldera

Michael Olivier rolls out the barrel for our latest wine tasting podcast, with two treats from the wine, cheese and goat estate of Fairview. They are the 2014 Viognier and the 2013 Caldera.
John Fraser is joined for the tasting by Brother of Branders Jeremy Sampson, Corlien Morris from Wine Concepts, Tsogo Sun’s Miguel Chan and Haute Cabriere’s Uschi van Zweel.

Check out the podcast…….

Zuma’s New Black Buddies: Industrialists or Oligarchs?

President Jacob Zuma has been spending a lot of time in Russia. Geographically, our two countries have little in common, although there is no reason why the much-criticised Russians should not be lapping up South Africa’s fine wines and produce by the imported container-load, and cooperating on mining and energy projects.
Certainly, there are massive opportunities for Russia to cash in on SA’s planned nuclear programme, with opportunities for graft and facilitation fees which will make the current FIFA scandal look like a storm in a vodka glass.
But a chat recently with one of our leading South African entrepreneurs gave me an insight into what may actually be happening below the surface. And it’s scary.
Last year I did a lot of work editing a new book on the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa). ‘Halfway There’ is an excellent read for a number of reasons, as co-authors Chris Hart and Glenn Silverman of Investment Solutions are two of the brightest people I have ever met, and were able to draw on their own visit to Russia to analyse and understand how each of ZA’s BRICS partners works. Or doesn’t.
A key economic development in Russia has been the emergence of a class of Oligarchs. Small in number but big in wealth, these people emerged in the chaos that accompanied the fall of Communism and the rise of capitalism, cashing in on numerous opportunities as state assets were switched to, or stolen by, the private sector. Many dirty tricks and much villainy appears to have accompanied this process, and there is no doubt that Vladimir Putin is very close to most of these people. If he favours you, you will prosper; if he fails to favour you, then you had better be fearful.
A bunch of powerful businessmen with a ruthless streak, with immense power and patronage, beholden to a protecting President. Where have we heard of that before?
Switch to Midrand a month or so ago, when I last saw President Zuma in the flesh.
He was pushing ahead with a plan to transform the (mainly-white) face of ZA industry, by fostering the emergence of 100 new Black Industrialists (BIs).
A benign interpretation of the President’s plan would see many dozens of worthy, talented people being helped up from the trenches, becoming our new black Captains of Industry. The example was given at the conference of the way in which the apartheid strategists of this country sought to eclipse the colonial heritage of English entrepreneurs and industrial giants, by encouraging the growth of Afrikaans-led industrial giants. Sasol and Iscor were two of the best examples of this.
What may happen when the white dominos fall and the black ones are stacked up? Well, if JZ has been learning anything from Putin’s undoubted personal success, which is believed by some to include self-enrichment beyond the dreams of the Czars, he will been impressed by the role of the Oligarchs. What might be disturbing, then, about the perfectly understandable plan to transform the business landscape of this country, making room for these cohorts of BIs?
Well, if the cynics are to be believed, political favour comes at a price. When our President travels with delegations of businessmen, they can often be categorised as Friends of Zuma.
What would be more natural than those fledgling BIs who are to be supported with billions of rand of taxpayers’ money being picked from the (fire) pool of Zuma’s buddies? And what would be more natural once they have been elevated to immense wealth, wisdom and influence if they were to show their gratitude? By helping out a President whose appetites far exceed his income? The era of the BI Oligarchs may be just around the corner.

I often hear of cuts in this county’s newsrooms, and this fills me with despair. Even the most talented hacks will fail to get ideas, inspiration and scoops if they fail to get out and about. The best bosses and editors understand this; the cash-conscious often fail to fund journalistic jaunts, with a shortness of sight and budget which is disgraceful. The ideas above are not all my own, but stem from conversations with people who are at the coal face of business. Long may my own conversations with these people – black and white – continue.

Tweet of the Day:
Mike Levington (@navitassa): I would love to see the list of “black industrialists” that have been anointed by the SA government.

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