Tim James: What’s really happening in Cape wine these days?

By , 2 October 2015



copy-copy-masthead41In the latest post on Grape.co.za, Tim James accuses two important critics, namely Michael Fridjhon and James Molesworth of “misunderstanding Cape wine.”

Fridjhon gets taken to task for referring to the Zoo Biscuits collective (incorporating Alheit Vineyards, Thorne & Daughte et al.) as the “lunatic fringe” whereas James “can’t see them as bizarre in any way” and celebrates their eschewal of inoculated yeast and new oak as well as their devotion to terroir and old vines.

Molesworth, meanwhile, cops it for referring to the Cape Winemakers Guild Auction wines as “a result of the experimental and behind-the-scenes efforts of a cadre of South Africa’s best winemakers” and his contention that the Guild itself “represent(s) the vibrant South African wine scene.” According to James, neither is the case.

winemag.co.za is inclined to think that Fridjhon was being his sardonic self and is probably more admiring of The Zoo Biscuits than he’s inclined to let on publicly but Molesworth is indeed guilty of sweeping statement – not enough “innovation and diversity” among the Auction wines as we have previously argued here.

James also tackles Molesworth on his scores being “in the dull, non-committal band that the Americans favour for serious Cape wines” which is to say all between 89 and 94 but here we are more sympathetic to Molesworth – SA simply is not producing that many wines worthy of 95 and above just yet.

Read the full Grape.co.za post here.

Read Fridjhon’s assessment of Cape Wine 2015 which included reference to The Zoo Biscuits here.

Read Molesworth’s review of this year’s CWG Auction wines here.


6 comment(s)

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    Tim James | 6 October 2015

    My good friend Michael emailed me from foreign parts to tell me that he’d thought I was referring to the apparently very enthusiastic article he’s written about the Natte Valleij tasting Jonathan refers to: that article is scheduled to appear this Friday in Business Day, and I look forward to reading it. Which explains the extent to which he was surprised that I couldn’t see obvious positivity in the article I actually was referring to!

    (Thanks for changing the comment humanity test from pictures to arithmetical problems, guys. Much easier. I’ve written “apple” as the answer to 2 x 2 = ?)

    jonathan snashall | 3 October 2015

    PS Monday 14 sept was a root day;-)

    jonathan snashall | 2 October 2015

    Christian – surely you have a stronger view than the above but i guess you’re wearing your editors hat. Maybe Michael is protecting his commercial interests by referring to them as the lunatic fringe, but i think it’s offside. I did see Michael tasting them (Zoo Biscuits) at Natte Vlei on the Monday of Cape Wine week btw.

      Christian | 2 October 2015

      Hi Jonathan, I certainly don’t want to come across as an apologist for Fridjhon and if there ever was anybody who didn’t need an apologist, it is him. I suspect what he is doing is playing off the different industry divisions (“the big wine producers, the estate growers and the rock-star guerillas” toi quote his Business Day article of today) against each other with a view to 1) keeping them all honest and 2) assuring his ascendancy as a critic.

      What I think should be a concern for all of us right now when it comes to SA wine commentary is the potential polarisation between those who side with the establishment and those with the revolutionaries. The F. Scott Fitzgerald quotation “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function,” comes to mind.

    Christian | 2 October 2015

    Hi Tm, Thanks for the comment and thanks for persisting in your efforts to post it. If it’s any consolation, I find the image recognition security process equally frustrating but it’s better than having a hacked website. I promise to raise the matter with our techies at the earliest available opportunity.

    Tim James | 2 October 2015

    Not that many wines worth 95 and above, perhaps, but certainly some – including in the CWG line-up. And some worth less than 89 in my opinion! If you’re going to score everything in such a tight band, you’re simply playing safe. I hope you’re right about Michael admiring those wineries more than he indicates in his comments – but as I said, I can’t find evidence on his website that he’s tasted them, seriously and carefully, at least.

    By the way, once more I’m confronted by a near-incomprehensible object to identify – I’m going to guess it’s an egg. If it’s not this comment won’t appear.

    Well, it wasn’t an egg, but I’ve learnt to copy my text for repasting. This next object is undoubtedly a bunch of grapes with a leaf. Let’s guess “grapes”….

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