Food and wine appreciation in a time of anxiety and anger

By , 23 June 2020



The individual post to attract the most traffic on this site last week was not, as you might have guessed, the Prescient Chenin Blanc Report but rather Daisy Jones’s piece entitled Best Cape Town take-aways, in which she listed some of the more compelling home delivery options available under lockdown from such top-end establishments as, Chefs Warehouse Beau Constantia and FYN amongst others.

It did not find universal favour, however. In the comments section, “Mark” was moved to remark “You jokers have too much money… and to call this article Best Cape Town Take-Aways just highlights the disregard you have for the other Cape Town… check your privilege”. Jones replied: “I’m sorry this article came across to you as elitist — and worse, insensitive to suffering. This is mainly an article about fancy food, and even though it’s less expensive now, it’s still unattainable for most — I get that. You’ve made me think. My next article will be about the best, most affordable take-aways in Cape Town. I’m going to focus on local independents, not wealthy fast food chains. Please let me know if you have any tips.”

Great cooking comes from anywhere and not that Jones needs me to plead her case, she’s always been as much inclined to write about Rogan Josh from Bibi’s Kitchen in downtown Wynberg as high tea at the Mount Nelson. That the fine dining restaurants are generally valued above the neighbourhood hole-in-the-wall is problematic. You can decide how much racism and social division (in the sense of the rich needing ways to differentiate their dining from the masses) plays a role…

Too cheap to be taken seriously?

In a not unrelated vein, what to make of the spread of prices across the top 10 wines in the Prescient Chenin Blanc Report? The average price of these is R247,30 a bottle which might appear healthy enough in terms of ensuring the economic sustainability of the industry but the deviation from that average is extraordinary with the unwooded Stellenrust 2019 the cheapest at R68 and Raats Family Wines Eden High Density Single Vineyard 2018 the most expensive at R800.

Revisiting the Stellenrust 2019 after the release of the Report, I tweeted “Stupendously good – Top 10 in the Prescient Report. Unoaked, total production 240K bottles, cellar door price: R68/btl. Give it a funky name, keep volumes a closely guarded secret, jack the price up and then let’s see what happens…”

Some seemed to take this as an argument on my part to make what is clearly a good wine less economically accessible and thereby perpetuate wine elitism, snobbery or something else nefarious… It was, rather, a call once again to producers that they should always be looking to scale and scale in such a way (build brands) as to demand the best price possible – there is no environmental sustainability and social upliftment without economic viability.

Is the Stellenrust too cheap to be taken seriously? Winemaker Tertius Boshoff, tells me even at this cellar-door price of R68, he is still making “margin and profit” (it bears mentioning that this wine sells for around £10 in the UK, equivalent to R215 at the time of writing, which poses questions about how optimally aligned the supply chain is and whether or not the Rand is fairly valued relative to the Pound). In addition, Boshoff also makes multiple versions of Chenin Blanc, the others all selling for more than this supposedly entry-level version so a low-priced wine can be justified when the overall business model is carefully though-out.

It took Gavin Slabbert, responsible along with Bruwer Raats for the most expensive wine in the line-up, namely Eden High Density Single Vineyard 2018 to observe that the Stellenrust 2019’s good performance has more pros than cons. “Wines like this and our own Original [unwooded and R145 a bottle] show that Chenin Blanc from old vines made with attention to detail can be exceptional without being small volume and they catapult the category into the spotlight. When it comes to something like Eden, then consumers typically have a greater wine understanding and you have to give them more reasons to purchase.” To summarise, then: “Expensive” doesn’t necessarily equate to “best”, thank goodness, but be aware that always shopping down is not without consequence.


5 comment(s)

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    Tertius Boshoff | 24 June 2020

    David, thanks so much for clarifying the issue with export pricing and retail prices abroad. As you wrote, we definitely do not see the UKP10 it sells for in the UK – not by a very long shot.

    John and Ant – thanks so much for the positive comments. This wine has always been a brand builder for us and we have used it as a foot in the door to enter many big markets overseas. And brand building for us is an imperative part of the value chain.

    Rolff, I thought of not responding as I don’t think an unsubstantiated negative comment like yours deserves a response. Still to clear the air: please take note of the entry requirements of 600 bottles at the time of the release of the results. Secondly, you are more than welcome to enter my warehouse and come and check the current stock levels which carries into the thousands and not hundreds of cases. Thirdly, I have stated on twitter that we had issues with our outsourced online sales portal suppliers and deliveries and due to the influx of orders and no limitation option of cases per customer on the website, we chose to remove the wine for the time being to avoid disappointment. If you want to see my sales record and supply chain of the past year on that wine to justify the 240k bottles – I am sure we can arrange that for you.

    Please don’t launch a public attack on wineries if you don’t have all the facts as you are not only attacking a brand, but the integrity of the people behind it.

    Ant | 24 June 2020

    Not sure why Sold Out appears on the Stellenrust website! I phoned the Estate and have ordered 4 cases @ R68 a bottle. Speak to Heinrich.
    I enjoy the Prescient reports as they invariably unearth a wine of excellent value in their Top 10 eg Croydon Cabernet, Leopards Leap Gran Vin. Unfortunately the average consumer cannot afford to drink a bottle costing >R200 every time.
    Maybe we need some more value suggestion like the Wine Magazine (hard copy) used to have?

    John Ford | 23 June 2020

    On our trip to the UK last year, we made a point, when visiting friends and family, to take a bottle or two of South African wine with us, almost always including a Chenin, because we see it as such a good flag-carrier for us. The Stellenrust was one of the most frequently available, and affordable, and was always very well received. Well done to Stellenrust for being such a great ambassador

    David | 23 June 2020

    Comparing the Stellenrust cellar price with the shop price in the UK. Not fair is it?The import duties and alcohol tax alone takes up 5 GBP of the shop price. Then you have two more companies that have to make money (the importer and the shop). Not much of a profit margin then.

    Rolff van der Linden | 23 June 2020

    Disappointed that no stock of Stellenrust CBl is shown on the website????
    Where does 240k bottles disappear to?
    Before entering the CB report make sure there is stock!

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