Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Challenging All Wine Media!!

With the announcement of their Top 100 wines by Angela Lloyd on Grape, which wasn’t very surprising or exciting, it urged me to write this blog. The same names whether you published it last year or in two months time was there. Honestly is this how boring our industry has become, no new and exciting producers with Top Quality? No wineries that have shown over many years that they can stand up against any competition without being main stream. Like she says, certain wineries ‘will’ always be included in a Top List or rarely miss out on one…really? So basically another Platter judging on name and label without even tasting the juice. Geesh, I really thought there would be something new after all the years of debacles.
If the Top 100 competition wanted to really make an impact they should’ve just made their whole entry criteria a lot easier and viable for everyone, big and small. That would’ve caused a stir I am sure.

Why, I ask the question? Because no one dares to try something new or search for new exciting wines and actually promote them? Would Eben Sadie have had the profile he has today without all the PR and write-ups? We all know the power of the pen, or these days the keyboard, and the journalists know it too. Especially those writing for big websites or magazines that have a huge amount of followers/readers and who can change perceptions. Yet they all go to the same events, write about the same events and review the same wines.

Last week someone tweeted about the amazing launch of Brampton etc, and I had to reply “anything can be done with money”, because that is what the smaller guys don’t have. Have you ever seen a rich guy without a HOT girl on his arm? In a previous blog I gave a couple of ideas on how a smaller producer can use his budget effectively and they are the people who will benefit most in this regard…so here goes.

Why don’t you stop writing about all the well known brands/wineries and do yourself a favour by searching for hidden gems. Search for Estates/producers who have been around longer than you have been walking, but who can’t afford a launch or tasting at The Mount Nelson or Butcher Shop. What about the new guy who started a boutique brand on his family’s farm or renovated his Great Grandfathers cellar to make his dream come true. This is the wines that I believe the public wants to know about and the kind of information that is newsworthy and interesting don’t you think? How many times must I read about how old Winery X is or how wonderful C Wines are when I can go to the local Supermarket and buy a bottle. These brands are well advertised, promoted and accessible all over the country.

The social calendar of journalists/bloggers/wine writers has probably been filled with events for the ‘big wine brands’ launching new vintages, new wines or a new cellar door sales girl. Just ask Anel Grobler, Spit-or-Swallow fame, how quickly she started to get invited to all kinds of events once Spit-or-Swallow got noticed!! Flying them all over the country to taste and attend events and of course, write about it. Spit or Swallow presents a very good platform to smaller wineries to get noticed and talked about because of their Wineflies. The Wineflies are normal people who just want to travel and have fun with wine while discovering new producers, new wines and not necessarily go to your mainstream places. Visit the website www.spitorswallow.co.za and you might even learn about places.  

Jean Engelbrecht mentioned at the Vinpro Day in January that the local media must be more positive about our industry rather than always looking for problems or negative topics to write about. Maybe this is a good start by really trying to discover more of the unknown, lesser known or even older Family brands who just do not have the money to compete with what goes around. The journalist who starts this will get more followers on twitter, more friends on Facebook and much more pats on the back from the father, son or grandson who has to continue his family’s legacy. The information that you supply to the consumer is invaluable and cannot be measured in Rand and Cent, but definitely by the number of people who suddenly knocks on your cellar door or orders from the farm.

I can imagine that life is tough up there to decide which events you will actually like to attend, after all who will say no to a Freebie of some kind. Next time weigh up your options on where you will actually find something new, exciting, informative and special that will easily make up 3000 words. What about a chat with Oom Johnny Burger about the history of Rietvallei Estate, stories about the days before screwcaps and PET bottles, the industry 30 years ago and funny things that have happened over the years with him, his forefathers and what he thinks of the industry today. This is the kind of stories that keeps glasses full and ‘hits’ on websites increase…try it, you have nothing to lose!!! Or maybe what I will do is launch a wine at R10000 only 100 bottles made and 10 barrels used…bet that will get a S#%t load of attention and LOTS of write-ups J

Colyn Truter
Twitter: colyntruter
Facebook: rietvalleiestate
Twitter:    rietvalleiwines
Facebook: johnbwines
Twitter:    johnbwines


  1. Well said Colyn. Too many writers rely on negativity to get readers for themselves. Not a week goes by where someone doesn't bitch about WOSA or write some other negative piece about the industry. We can seriously take a leaf out of the book of the Aussies, who dominated the world of wine for a long time because they all stood together.

  2. thanks Hennie, Yes there will always be negative things in life in you look hard enough and search for it. SA has a unique industry and if we can do half the work that some other countries have done we will do much better than them. We should strive for quality and less quantity, drive up our pricepoints and not be scared of charging prices for our wines. But there is still too much of a divide in people backstabbing others or talking crap about certain growing regions, when there is actually a place in the sun for us all. Anyway this blog can go much further and in more detail. the main thing for me is to get conversation going about new, small or big producers that people have not head of before.

    Thanks for the comment!!

  3. I'm new to the writing industry, so can't comment on all the ins and outs of your post, but I'm nicely inspired to take on your task, one bottle of undiscovered wine at a time.

    As is Le Fake Wine Club, I'm sure. :)

    I enjoyed your heartfelt piece - well done.

  4. Nice article Colyn and thanks for the mention. Very inspiring indeed. Time we all go back to our roots and write about what's in our hearts and not just about the stuff we get force-fed. People who actually pay for wine does not want to read about bitchy quarrels between wine journos. There's more than enough soapies on TV for that.

    I actually bought some or other unknown wine at my corner liquor store yesterday, so GAME ON!

  5. Colyn, you're absolutely right. There are so many great stories to write. I for one gladly accept your challenge!

  6. Thank You Anel and Joanne, we all look forward to reading about your adventures into the Cape Winelands and beyond. I can assure you that you will be a better writer/blogger after that :-)and hey what better way to learn about someones product than walking into their home and sit down at their dinner table??

  7. Found many small and family wineries under Angela Lloyd's Top 100:
    Le Riche
    Neil Ellis
    Stark Conde
    ...to name a few.
    Most importantly, it's her personal list, you're more than welcome to include a personal Top 100list on your blog too!