A Few Wine Adventures in Gauteng.

In support of the Die Vine Intervention wine tasting podcasts which Michael Olivier and I endure each week, it is always fun to see how others approach the noble art of wine tasting, so I would like to report back on a few recent adventures.

I have always found the most civilised way of appreciating good wine is with a good meal, and indeed my most unpleasant experiences have been on those occasions – for instance at some barbaric media events and investment analyst presentations – where some effort and expense has been put into providing food, but the mantra from the bar is “soft drinks only.”

So I was most appreciative when invited to a wine tasting and food pairing event at my favourite Pretoria tuck shop, Prosopa restaurant.   Hosted by the ever-affable and sometimes-sober Dino Fagas, the guest of honour was Zorgvliet’s charming, talented and articulate winemaker Bernard Le Roux.

We tried an array of wines, most of which were very enjoyable, but none of which shot the lights out.    The food was thoughtfully chosen and prepared, and it complimented the wine well – with the possible exception of a lamb curry which I thought a bit overpowering next to its red wine neighbour.  Now, I have been to similar events, for instance at a pretentious hangout in the Cradle of Inhumanity, where tiny sips of wine accompanied each course, and there wasn’t a lot of food either.  The sort of tasting menu where there is not a lot to swallow, apart from an inflated bill.

Not so with Dino and Prosopa.   Each wine was served in generous measures, with top-ups where required, and the food was ample and enjoyable.  If you want to host a wine event, I suggest you give Dino a shout.  I have subsequently attended a Lanzerac wine evening at Prosopa, where again there was ample food and wine, not too much waffle, and a greatly successful showcasing of some of the finest booze the Cape has to offer.

A more serious, and thus slightly less fun, event was the tasting at Nedbank’s Jo’bug HQ of entries in the Cape Winemakers’ Guild.   I lost count of all the wines which could be tasted, but it was at least 50.     Most of them were presented by the winemaker him/herself.  The Auction itself was a big success, with bidders like Tsogo Sun’s Miguel Chan helping to raise millions for a very worthy cause.  I have to say that while little expense appeared to have been spared by Nedbank to make this a memorable event, the food failed dismally to match the quality of the wine.   Fortunately I was able to soak up some of the wine with crackers.  We were really put through our paces at the tasting itself, with the result that at times I was struggling to recall which wine was which, when choosing from the two glasses in front of me.  It gave me renewed respect for the career wine tasters who took it all in their stride.

Another event I really enjoyed was hosted by Michael Fridjhon, well known as a wine writer, who also runs an importation business.    The tasting at the Rosebank Hyatt hotel was a meander through some of the world’s top vineyards, and I was able to glug back a few old friends from France, New Zealand and Spain.   If you have the budget, and want to explore the world of wine outside South Africa, you can’t go far wrong with Michael.  Literally world-class stuff.

I subsequently had a few problems with one of the kingpins of the hospitality industry, who made the promise of a review of an event a condition of an invitation – a practice which flies in the face of all my experience as a professional journalist.

This does raise a serious point, though?  Are the full-time food and wine writers enslaved under a similar obligation?    If so, it might explain why all too many reviews which one reads are so glowing.    Maybe this is an avenue of the journalistic profession where there really is no such thing as a free lunch?  The only thing I can guarantee at a hosted event is that I will seek out the finest wines, will appreciate them up to the limits of gluttony, and will try not to fall off my chair too often.

If I remember the event with any accuracy the next day, there will be a review.  And if it was awful I will say so.   After all, none of us is ever likely to try harder while luxuriating under a warm shower of purple praise.

A final wine event was the annual Winex at the Sandton Convention Centre, to which I was invited by FNB, and given free parking and some grub (after a few minutes of grovelling) by their sister bank and chief sponsor RMB.   This was the best Winex I have ever attended, with some remarkable gems from producers such as Vilafonte, Warwick, Thelema and others.   Michael Fridjhon is also involved in this event, which is a great stage for tasting a variety of wines, all under one roof.

Tweets of the Day:

Bill Murray (@BillMurray): The trouble with being punctual is that nobody’s there to appreciate it.

Famous-Quote.net (@famousquotenet): My goal is to cut government in half in twenty-five years, to get it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub. -Grover Norquist

ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   For subscription details, to invite us to events with edible food and drinkable wine, or any other communication, please contact:    zaconfidential@gmail.com    

Follow us on twitter:  @zaconfidential @dievinein @clasfras1    

Die Vine intervention: Taljaart Family Wines

Winelands legend Michael Olivier has selected two 2014 wines from the Taillard stable for our latest podcast tasting – the Lobola Belle Blanc and Beau Rouge.
John Fraser is once again joined in the Jo’burg studio by Anelise Taljaard from the Taljaard wine dynasty, Stuart Thompson from Loxton Lager, Duane Newman from Cova Advisory and Dino Fagas from Prosopa Restaurant.

Check out the podcast:

Mini Budget. Mini excitement, apart from the riots.

There is often not much to keep you awake on budget day.   But for today’s mini budget, there was excitement outside Parliament with revolting students, and excitement inside the chamber as revolting MPs tried to delay the speech.

If all this depressed you, the underlying message wasn’t much more cheerful.

Minister Nhlanhla Nene’s mini-budget today a stark outlook for the SA economy, and little new insight.

His forecast for economic growth this year has been adjusted downwards from 2% to 1.5%, and it is down for next year from 2.4% to 1.7%.

Meanwhile the Minister warned that as a result of the economic slowdown (partly due to electricity supply constraints) tax revenue will be down by R7.6 billion this year, and by R35 billion over the next three years.

“Without stronger economic growth, the revenue trend will remain muted.  If revenue does not grow, expenditure increases cannot be sustained,” he told Parliament.

However, he indicated no major slowdown in spending, and said he did not expect any downgrading by ratings agencies this year.

“Even though the economic climate has deteriorated, we have been able to stay the course with discipline.”

He noted an up-creep in inflation to around 6% a year “over the period ahead.”

As 6% is the upper end of the 3%-6% target band on which the Reserve Bank focuses, this suggests there may well be renewed pressure for interest hikes, which would put further pressure on cash-strapped consumers.

The minister noted that proceeds from the sale of the State’s stake in mobile telecoms provider Vodacom will mainly go to Eskom, to the tune of R23 billion.  A further R2 billion will go towards SA’s contribution to the setting up of the new BRICS bank.

Minister Nene said Cabinet has approved a bill on the planned new Carbon Tax, but said there will still be more consultation, and that this might delay its introduction beyond the current target of mid-2016.

The mini-budget is by its nature more of a numbers exercise, with most major taxation announcements coming in the main budget each February.

However, it does give the Finance Minister an opportunity to provide an update on how he sees the economy, and how revenue and expenditure are progressing.

Major Energy Efficiency Fund to Expire

What did you learn this month?   Well, I learnt that a vital South African energy efficiency programme for business is about to run out of cash, and could grind to a halt.

The Private Sector Energy Efficiency (PSEE) scheme has helped businesses small and massive to identify ways to cut down on energy use at a time when our public utility Eskom cannot cope with demand.

However, the main funder for this initiative was the British government, which is now pulling the plug.   Surely this cannot be because the magic of Mandela has been replaced by the sleaze of the Zuma era?

Now, energy efficiency is a good thing, because you can achieve it without the scale of investment which might be required to generate new capacity through renewable energy schemes.   Companies which pursue this route are not just helping themselves, but are also helping to solve this country’s biggest capacity challenge.

So what is to be done?    An obvious solution came from green energy expert Duane Newman from Cova Advisory, who addressed a conference being held last week by the PSEE – an event which was more a celebration of success than a wake to bury the programme.

Newman suggested that SA government should step up to the mark and provide the necessary funds to keep the programme going.

A lot of work has been done, a lot of expertise has been built up, and the benefits of keeping the PSEE programme going must surely be obvious.  Certainly, it was praised by Eskom’s participant in the conference Andrew Etzinger.

And there was a small ray of hope from the government official who read out the Energy Minister’s speech (she presumably didn’t have the energy to attend in person?)    He said that ways were being looked at to keep the scheme afloat, and I suspect that if this is the case we might see some sign of this in this week’s mini-budget.

However, one does wonder why there is this last-minute panic, as it seems the UK made clear two years ago that its funding would draw to a close by the end of next month.


ZA Confidential attends a lot of events, pleasurable and awful.    On balance, this event was well staged, with useful breakaway sessions, an MC who kept his ego under control, and edible food.   They stuck to the schedule, and I was pleasantly surprised by the set-up in the Wanderers Club.   My one gripe is becoming a major concern – the conference room had hardly any power points, which is a major drawback, as the paper notebook has now largely been replaced by electronic devices.

Tweet of the Day:

Jewish Comedians (@JewishComedians):  Rodney Dangerfield: My wife only has sex with me for a purpose. Last night she used me to time an egg. | #Quotes

ZA Confidential is a subscription newsletter.   For subscription details, to invite us to events with edible food and drinkable wine, or any other communication, please contact:    zaconfidential@gmail.com    

Follow us on twitter:  @zaconfidential @dievinein @clasfras1    

Die Vine Intervention: Glenelly Grand Vin and Lady May

Vine stalker  extraordinary Michael Olivier has selected two wines from Glenelly for our latest podcast tasting – the 2013 Grand Vin de Glenelly Chardonnay and the 2010 Lady May red blend.
John Fraser is once again joined in the Jo’burg studio by Anelise Taljaard from the Taljaard wine dynasty, Stuart Thompson from Loxton Lager, Duane Newman from Cova Advisory and Dino Fagas from Prosopa Restaurant.

Check out the podcast: