Posted on 27 July 2011 by davidbiggs
I’m very proud to announce the arrival of my new book, In Reasonable Taste. The first batch of copies has been delivered and I think they look good.
I’m hoping to get them into bookshops within the next two or three weeks. Watch out for them. They’ll be selling at R180 a copy.
In Reasonable Taste (published by Moonshinemedia) is a collection of more than 60 short pieces, mostly about wine – or more specifically, taking the mickey out of wine snobbery and the rather self-important world of wine.
Most of them were written for Good Taste magazine over the past few years.
I had great fun doing the illustrations for the stories – one drawing for each piece. Some of my friends have been rather flattering about them, but that’s what friends are supposed to be.
In the chapters I take wry swipes at the art of sniffing and spitting, ponder the origins of the greatest of all drinks, poke fun of the poetic words we use to describe wines and recount a few on my own – not always glorious – wine experiences.
When you’ve bought your copy (which I trust you will) you’ll be able to find out why we break a bottle of bubbly over the bows of a ship when it’s launched. You’ll certainly learn some new stuff about the breezes that blow inland from False Bay and maybe even find a new respect for that old South African song, “Sarie Marais.”
The book is what one friend described as “loo literature,” hastily explaining that he was not implying that it was cr*p or fit to use as toilet paper. He merely meant to indicate that each chapter was exactly the right length to entertain you during a visit to the loo.
I don’t mind where you read it, quite frankly, as long as you do.
And enjoy it.
Posted on 20 July 2011 by davidbiggs
I’ve heard several people wondering why Wine magazine is closing down. It’s always sad to see a publication close – or any business for that matter.
When it happens we need to take a careful look at the reasons for its closure. In these tough times we’re all in the firing line.
One of the obvious reasons in this case (and it’s no fault of the publishers) is that we have a relatively small high-income population in South Africa, and we’re oversupplied with lifestyle magazines. Just take a look at your supermarket magazine racks.
We have magazines about food and leisure, home and travel, food and sport, celebrities and food, sport and sex, health for men, fashion for women, you name it.
Usually the titles involve two activities – House and Leisure or Home and Garden for example.
I suspect this may be a way of catching two categories of reader with one net.
In the case of Wine magazine, maybe that’s where the problem lay – not a wide enough net. For many of the country’s wine drinkers, the price of a cheap bottle is about all they can manage. There’s no point in reading about it, just unscrew it and drink. You could buy another bottle for the price of that magazine.
A rival (and thriving) magazine like Good Taste devotes a good deal of space to wine. After all, it is the official publication of the Wine-of-the-Month Club. But, as the title suggests, it’s about all the other good things in life as well – fine cars, foreign travel, fashion, watches, food, elegant homes, art and music.
Maybe I’m being simplistic, but I suspect Wine magazine’s title might have led to its demise.
Just “wine” ? Too specific. It’s like having a magazine called “Shoe” or “Tyres.” They would have a limited appeal. But call them “Fashion and Footwear” or “Gripping the Road,” and you may have a seller.
I’m sorry to see Wine closing. I wish the members of the team everything of the best. They’re a good bunch and I’m sure they’ll bounce back soon.
Posted on 14 July 2011 by davidbiggs
How important do wine producers think competitions are? Some winemakers shun all competitions, while others claim that gold sticker on a bottle is a valuable sales aid.
We’re inundated with wine competitions in this country, and it’s not cheap to enter any of them.
However the one competition most wine people regard as the industry’s benchmark is the annual Veritas Awards Competition.
Entries for this year’s Veritas competition close on August 10. (Late entries will be accepted up to August 18, but at an increased entry fee.)
The organisers expect more than 1700 wines and brandies to be entered, which indicates a strong support.
Running a competition of this size presents a huge logistical challenge. Panels of judges are appointed for each of the many categories, wines have to be sorted, listed, prepared. Ideally each judging panel should include at least one foreign judge.
Behind the scenes teams of openers, pourers and recorders work all day to ensure the smooth running of the judging, which takes place at the Nederburg Auction complex from September 5 to 8. Workers scurry to and fro carrying trays of tasting glasses. Computers hum busily.
The competition has been running for more than 20 years now, so the routine has been honed to perfection and there are few hitches.
The winners of the various medals will be announced in the Cape Town International Convention Centre on October 8.
Anybody wishing to enter wines can obtain forms and the catalogue by visiting the website or calling Elsabé Ferreira on 021 807 3104.
Posted on 07 July 2011 by davidbiggs
The news that the Government is trying to have all alcohol related advertising banned is rather depressing – and not particularly helpful.
For many centuries wine has been part of gracious, civilized living.
To ban it just because there are some people who abuse it is like banning motor vehicles because of the bad behaviour of some drivers.
By all means clamp down on drunken driving, step up education programmes about the health hazards of alcohol abuse and issue warnings. But we are too quick to believe that we can cure all ills by issuing a banning order.
Wine-related advertising inevitably focuses attention on the elegant, aspirational side of drinking. We are shown gracious old Cape Dutch farms, diners enjoying fine food with glasses of good wine, good friends enjoying glasses of fine wine together. We see happy, healthy people sharing a glass of beer after a sports match or at the top of a mountain peak. It’s refreshment after healthy activity.
The people the government wants to reach are none of those in the advertisements. They’re the parents who neglect their children because they’re too drunk to care. The drunks who swallow too much cheap booze and stab their best friends, the swaying pedestrians who stagger into the road after drunken binges.
Do you really think they take any notice of the advertisements in Good Taste magazine?
The country’s alcohol industry brings in billions of rands in revenue, excise duty and VAT taxes. It employs thousands of people on farms, in the packaging industry, transport sector, hospitality industry printing industry and many others.
The wine industry is one of the most labour intensive fields there is. Our government is constantly bleating about the need to create jobs.
The wine industry does that generously.
The state wants to punish it for doing that.
Surely what is needed is an intensified advertising campaign to show people how to enhance their lives with the proper appreciation of fine wines, rather than to try to sweep it under the carpet and make the whole wine industry a sleezy naughtiness, like the drug industry.
There’s no advertising at all for drug pushers.
Posted on 01 July 2011 by davidbiggs
Some people say we are over-supplied with wine-related events. Just take a look at the crowded wine calendar over the next couple of months.
There’s the Franschhoek Wine Festival on July 16 and 17, Caroline’s annual Red Wine Review in Cape Town on July 26, the Stellenbosch Wine Festival on July 28 to 31, Michael Fridjhon’s Telkom Business Wine Experience in Johannesburg on August 27 and 28, the Soweto Wine Festival on September 1 to 3 , and the Juliet Cullinan Standard Bank Wine Festival in Ilovo on September 21 and 22.
Just for starters.
Do we really need all these events?
Well, judging by the number of people who attend them the answer would seem to be a big “Yes!”
The wine industry certainly knows how to market its products, and this is good, because it’s becoming increasingly complex. New wineries are opening almost every week and established cellar are launching new products almost daily. How’s a wine lover supposed to keep up with it all?
The answer is to attend wine events near you. You don’t have to head out into the winelands looking for new wines to enjoy. They come to you.
This is important, with the ever-increasing price of petrol. Take a single journey to a wine show and you can taste all the wines you like. It certainly saves kilometers.
If you compare the price of admission to a wine show with the cost of fuel to travel round even six cellars, you’ll see the shows offer pretty good value.
The trick, of course, is to get the most value from your wine show visit. You can wander vaguely from stand to stand, sipping here and chatting there at random, or you can do some organized window-shopping.
You know the kind of wines you enjoy drinking, so concentrate on those. If Chenin Blanc is your favourite, do a tasting of all the Chenins on show. Take a note-book and list the ones you particularly enjoy. Concentrate on those you have not had before.
As a general rule taste whites before reds, dry wines before sweeter ones.
Chat to the winemakers and ask whether they made the wine for early drinking or to lay down for a few years. They’re the ones who should know.
A few careful wine show visits could provide you with an enjoyable and interesting selection of fine wines to offer your guests, and some that will delight you for years ahead.