David Cope: Is R4 000 for a bottle of G 2012 too cheap?

By , 31 March 2015



Big-ticket item.

Big-ticket item.

One of the worst things about Cape Town is you will almost always know someone wherever you go. This lack of anonymity has people constantly posturing, keenly aware that somebody they know is watching them and will report back to their peers at the next dinner party or book club. Even those not posing are rarely truly relaxed, unless they are part of the barefoot bunch or older than 65, meaning they genuinely just don’t care.

During an easy Saturday morning stroll along the promenade I spotted a new Bantry Bay coffee shop and immediately felt the need for a coffee. Not having a wallet or a cellphone on me meant I couldn’t just walk in and order, but if only I could find… yes, there was someone I knew, perfect. A hop over the road and a few minutes later I was seated with a friend who generously bought me a coffee and introduced me to his guest, Philipp Axt of 4G Wines.

If you’re South African and love wine but are not familiar with 4G, I don’t blame you. At a retail price of R4 000 a bottle, their current vintage G 2012 is not aimed at the average punter. Amongst South Africans, the first thing a price like that usually generates is scepticism. Even when one hears of the excruciating lengths the winery goes to for quality, it’s easy to disregard them with claims that they’re too new an operation to make wine deserving of that price.

But a winemaking team that includes French winemaker and professor Denis Dubourdieu (consultant at Chateau Cheval Blanc) and Giorgio Dalla Cia (creator of Meerlust Rubicon), a mandate to find only the best grapes at whatever cost, the highest quality cork as used only by Chateau Y’Quem and a label printed in Switzerland are clear signs they’re out to make a statement. The price tag only emphasizes this goal.

My impromptu coffee shop encounter with Philipp resulted in us pouring the G 2012 by the glass at Publik Wine Bar this past Friday night, mainly as an experiment to see how it would be received. At R520 per glass it was never going to fly out the bar but the four people who enjoyed it felt their purchase worthwhile and the lengthy discussions with them and other customers were highly enjoyable.

Not that 4G Wines needs the South African market support. Each vintage of the wine has sold out since launch, mostly to the UK and European markets, and at a recent blind tasting of seven Robert Parker 100-point wines reported on by German magazine, Falstaff , the line-up including Petrus, Latour, Penfolds Grange and Dominus, the G 2012 rated second place. Prices for some of these highly collectible wines dwarf that of the South African so perhaps a genuine question is whether the G 2012 price tag of R4 000 a bottle is too little?

If you’d like to try it for yourself, get in touch with 4G Wines at info@4g-wines.com.

David Cope owns and runs Publik wine bar in Cape Town which focuses on unusual and interesting wines. When he’s not pouring the stuff he attempts to make wine more fun and approachable as a contributing writer to various local magazines.


16 comment(s)

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    Mark Edward | 15 May 2015

    The Bordeaux en Primieur campaigns are always interesting to participate in. The wines that go for £1,000 PB or £12,000 a case are few and far between. They only hit those heights in great years after long bull markets like 2009, and 2010. In order to get an allocation, you have to order a truck load of lesser, but still very good wines, before your broker will “try his best” to get you a case. A friend of mine flipped his case to a disappointed Chinese buyer for an instant £2,000 profit, which paid for 4 cases of very fine second growths! Anyway, good luck to the 4G crowd…….it’s nice to see South Africans have a go at producing a first growth type wine.

    Jane | 22 April 2015

    Going for a song at Signature in JHB…. Just R3000 a bottle.

    Suretha van der Spuy | 7 April 2015

    Oh my word – cannot believe people can’t just agree to disagree without resorting to name calling and swearing.

    My 2 cents regarding the price tag of The G: I hear what everyone’s saying about the cost of making an exceptional bottle of wine but surely you won’t pay less for a Picasso painting just because it’s in a cheap frame? It’s what is inside the bottle that counts, yes? Wine and what people are willing to pay for it is subject to the person buying it (taste, budget etc) – like any other art. Some people are willing to shell out millions of Euro for a painting about a blue Chinese lady, while the next is very pleased with his R130 Mr Price Home print beautifying his living room. Neither is wrong – it’s a matter of personal choice etc.

    I have tasted The G (as well as the Echo of G) and can agree that it really is an exceptional wine. Would I pay R4000 for a bottle of it (if my budget allowed it)? A big resounding YES.

    Too bad I married for love and not for money…

    Howard Simon | 7 April 2015

    I would seriously be afraid to comment after reading all the previous ones. This must be the most articulate bunch of trolls on the web.Congratulations! It’s a pleasure to read such posh insults being bandied about although I did think that “shitty glasses” was a bit below the belt.I could only dream about drinking a R4000 bottle of wine especially as I am sitting enjoying a glass of Spier 2013 Bay View sauvignon blanc cost R29 whilst writing this.

    Hennie Taljaard | 1 April 2015

    I would love to taste this wine! but not on my salary!

    FCH | 31 March 2015

    David, good write up mate; wont indulge in it anytime soon for various reasons, but good piece nonetheless.
    Marthelize you have a honest and good question; yet what is it you you want to “learn” from knowing production cost.
    Put it this way- you can go out and buy the very best grapes in the country for R10 000 to R15 000 a ton, the very best cellar equipment- R100 0000 (excluding cellar- add 3 mil for a shed like, and 35 mil for a showpony) barrels R10 000 a pop for 225 L, bottle R25 heavy weight import, cork R15 , capsule R3.00 labels R5 to R20 a pop…… Or you can go and buy a actual farm R50 000 00, plant vineyards R200 000 a ha, pay staff and running cost on it for 5 years just to see of you have something semi worthwhile and another 20 before they hit their stride….. Hire a winemaker (ps guess someone like Dubordieu would set you back aboout R75 k a visit (thats one day) exc flights and accom.
    So cracking the numbers to see what a wine actually cost is close to impossible; how many years will you need to just cover your input cost; not forgetting our great little tax system where about 40% of income goes to the bottomless pit of government.
    You are probably correct in your assertion that the investment part of these wines arent meant for SA, but neither is this wine meant for general consumers; DRC and the likes have no problem selling their (granted very limited) allocation of wines in SA; unfortunately R4k to me is a big deal but pocket change to another chap who gets his share dividents once a year and happily spends R50k plus a month on restocking the cellar.
    There is a big difference between worth and value. Unfortunately adding up the sum of components cant be used to access worth, possibly value. But this wine and anything costing above R300 to R500 a bottle is meant as value. They might verywell be valuable, but not value.
    Ps Andrew, dont be a dick, we can do without another one.

      Marthelize Tredoux | 1 April 2015

      Hi FCH

      I ask mostly because I’m curious. I’m also familiar enough with the industry to know I’d probably not get an answer (not a very public one, anyway) and I’m ok with that. Essentially it changes nothing, but I think my inner scientist demands to have all the facts to come to conclusions. I think I want to get a feel for the gap between production cost and selling price as to better understand ‘why’, though knowing the numbers in itself isn’t an answer, perhaps I could glean insight or make some conclusions.

      Let’s face it, R2000+ wines aren’t the norm in SA. That doesn’t mean they’re a bad thing, or that I think badly of them (I think some estates tag an extra R500 – R1000 on the price tag just because they can, but that’s another discussion altogether).

      I suppose I just want to understand the reasoning behind it. Yes, quality up the wazoo (from grapes to winemaker) obviously drives the price up. But the winery doesn’t buy new equipment for every wine it makes, so running costs (while they certainly increase annually) are essentially a capped figure, aren’t they? I slightly disagree with you: cracking the numbers to see what a wine costs isn’t actually impossible, but what to make of it (if anything) is much more difficult to determine. And I don’t even mean to suggest this is something that needs to be quantified or have meaning tacked to it.

      I suppose I just want to understand if eg. a bottle of G costs R1000 to make, where does the other R3000 come from, in the interest of trying to understand the forces behind these wines better more than anything else.

      And asking my question sparked some interesting debate and great comments from you, so I’ve already gained something from piping up 🙂 As for Andrew H’s comments… No. Just no.

    Tom P | 31 March 2015

    I’d replace the word ‘worst’ with the ‘best’ personally 🙂 Nice article David. Keep up the good work at Publik. Delicious or otherwise interesting – always chilled! – wines poured by passionate, well informed and (well yes) hip staff. A good lesson for any estate tasting room!
    And please do let us know when you have another btl of this in…

    David Cope | 31 March 2015

    Hi Marthelize,
    Good to hear your trusted source reported positively. I would love to know the true cost of producing a bottle of en primeur Bordeaux that sold for 1000 Pounds before release! But wine is like any business and price is determined by supply and demand as much as true cost.

      Marthelize Tredoux | 31 March 2015

      Hi David

      Yeah, I’ve often wondered about the actual ‘cost price’ of a bottle of Bordeaux Premiere Cru. Though I doubt the market forces that drive those prices to the thousands of pounds/dollars are the same that drive local wines 😉

      Actually, that brings up an interesting thought: supply and demand. For Premiere Cru, that’s a given. They will always be expensive, often considered “investment” wines. But what type of demand in SA would have driven the G to R4000? Or, perhaps less specifically, would drive more such wines to such lofty prices? Is it even a question we can answer, really?

    Andrew H | 31 March 2015

    Wow this certainly epitomizes the hipster culture. (or lack thereof) You need to find yourself some new friends. If your group of peers and acquaintances will report back on your choice of drink… well son… you are associating with a bunch of assbags. I know few people as pretentiously idiotic as this, and none of them fall in the barefoot or over 65 crowd and ALL of them are lovers of fine wine.

      David Cope | 31 March 2015

      Hi Andrew,
      I think you misread the first paragraph.
      Give it another go.

        Andrew H | 31 March 2015

        No David, pretty sure the opening paragraph said what it said. You (or perhaps it is just the people you know?) posture and pretend because of a concern over appearances. Hyacinth Bucket much?

        Or was it just an idiotic opening paragraph with little thought going into it?

      David Cope | 31 March 2015

      Firstly, such anonymous aggression verges on ‘troll’ territory.
      Secondly, the paragraph that offended you such is merely making fun of Cape Town’s general posturing and posing, not a drink-related statement. If you are one of the lucky people that couldn’t care less about your appearance, I salute you for your indifference to society and its trends! Ironically there’s a trend now called Normcore which you’re probably slotting perfectly into, undoubtedly to your annoyance.

        Andrew H | 31 March 2015

        It is hardly anonymous David. I am sorry that you don’t know me. And thank you for the salute. I’ll remember that the next time I drink warm wine out of shit wine glasses in your establishment. Oh wait. Isn’t those shitty wineglasses directly related to the Cape Town posturing and posing?

        And thanks for the reference to normcore. I’ll Google it immediately to bring myself to your level of enlightenment. Good on you for having your fingers on the pulse of the latest trends and topics.

        But back on topic – what were YOUR thoughts on the 4G? Or did you just think it necessary to write about it because of the price tag?

    Marthelize Tredoux | 31 March 2015

    I’m so glad you wrote about this, David. Whenever I encounter wines that are (for me) over R1000 per bottle, the feelings of “Yeah. Suuuuuuuuure. Whatever.” become strong.

    There’s a lot to be discussed around why local wines are priced at thousands of ZARs. I’d like to think I know enough to appreciate the rationale, at least academically; the endless quality measures obviously play a role (best grapes, best winemakers, best consultants, unicorn horn dust etc.) but my question – more often than not one that’s left unanswered because they choose not to divulge the details – is how much does it actually cost to make one bottle (even generously factoring in what the experts’ time and knowledge is worth) and how big the gap between that and the selling price is. Is it relevant? I don’t know. Probably not. But I’m curious about it. And perhaps I’m too young at this wine thing to emotionally agree with all the justifications that add on all those ZARs.

    Or maybe I’m just grumpy because I wish I could buy the type of status that comes with obscenely expensive luxury items.

    P.S. One of my trusted sources was one of the four customers that bought a glass. He said it’s genuinely a good wine (probably best he’s ever had), so there’s that at least.

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