Wine of the week: A flawed chateau
Neil Pendock goes to a redhead's 80th birthday party
Digital dinosaurs should be forgiven their schadenfreude at the damp- squib listing of Facebook on the stock exchange last month. To see just how overrated social media can be, pterodactyls are pointed to Wikipedia and the entry for William Charles Winshaw.
A 12-year-old runaway from Kentucky, Winshaw was an adventurer who founded Stellenbosch Farmers Winery which merged with Anton Rupert's Distiller's Corporation in 2000 to create Distell, the largest liquor corporate in SA.
This Tom Sawyer of the spittoon hitched down the Mississippi to New Orleans, signed up as a Texas Ranger and ended up breeding mules in New Mexico.
After supplying 400 mules to the British Army during the Anglo-Boer War, he stayed on and became the first garagiste winemaker, expanding his kitchen winery into the largest wine producer in SA.
Yet Wikipedia posts a two-sentence biography: "Winshaw was an American physician who created SFW in South Africa in 1935. He also co-owned the Oude Libertas vineyard there and produced Lieberstein, a dry white wine."
Embarrassingly brief for the founder of a company reputed to be the 10th-largest advertiser of alcohol in the world, and the facts are clearly wrong as a leading SFW brand, Chateau Libertas, celebrates its 80th birthday this year. SFW was actually founded in 1925, the first vintage of Chateau appeared in 1932 and Lieberstein was semi-sweet.
The birthday party to celebrate the anniversary was held last month at The Big Easy, the upscale eatery in Dorp Street, Stellenbosch, established by Jean Engelbrecht and golden-boy golfer Ernie Els in the former Winshaw residence, La Gratitude.
Chateau brand manager Jackie Olivier admits the product has under-gone more changes in the last 15 years than in the previous 65, driven by consumer pressure. But as rude boy restaurateur Cormack Keene used to say: "The customer is always right until she's wrong."
A vertical tasting of eight decades of Chateau confirmed the removal of cinsault from the recipe and its replacement by merlot was a faux pas indeed.
Merlot is the weakest card in the SA hand and replacing the juicy exuberance of cinsault with weediness is not what Dr Winshaw ordered. The 1940 vintage was as punchy as a Battle of Britain Spitfire while the 1978 was a perfumed masterpiece, with Margaux more appropriate than Libertas on the label.