Our wine, your wine

Living in South Africa has many advantages: the weather, the nice people, the lack of Gordon Brown, the amazing scenery and – especially for us folk down in the Western Cape – the easy access to some great wine.
I know you can get South African wine in the UK as well, but let me make this abundantly clear: there is the South African wine that gets exported to the UK for sale in Tesco, Asda and Thresher and there is the South African wine that we keep here for ourselves.

Sadly, there seems to be a new trend developing: to try and sell those commercially-named “export” wines over here, presumably on the grounds that if it’s good enough for Tesco, it’s good enough for the South African public. And we’re more used to the easy to understand wine nomenclature of <vineyard> <cultivar>, we’re starting to see ridiculous brand names like Railroad Red and Tall Horse appearing on the supermarket shelves of Constantia Pick n Pay – usually in the household cleaners and solvents aisles.

Step forward Flagstone Longitude. I’m not sure where it came from, but it ended up in our kitchen and it bears all the hallmarks of one of those “wines for over there”: Silly name, absence of any named vineyard, importer in Guildford on the back and that all important management style bullshit for people to read at their London dinner parties and nod pseudo-sagely.

Effortless access to masses of information and penetrating technology characterise our modern life. Yet, the more time-saving devices, the less time we seem to have. The more accurate our satellite navigation, the less we know of our origin… [etc etc etc… continues for another twenty minutes without actually making any reference  whatsoever to wine.] 

Oh do [shut up]*.

Flagstone Longitude is a red blend. For the novices among us, that means that there is more than one variety of grape in there. No problem with that, some of my favourite wines are red blends, especially the “Big Reds”, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot. I have to say though, most of my favourites tend to have two or three grapes in there, rather than the… er… eight in here:


That’s: Cabernet Sauvignon 53%, Shiraz 31%, Tannat 6%, Malbec 5%, Petit Verdot 2%, Cabernet Franc 1%, Pinotage 1%, Merlot 1%. Wow.
Strangely reminiscent of our recent election results, with the leading cultivar just failing to secure a two-thirds majority thanks to Shiraz’s last-ditch “Stop Cab Sauv” campaign.

Presumably, those dinner party guests in Hampstead will muse over the unbelievable skill of the vintner in adjusting the delicate balance of the blend by adding subtle  “1%” touches of Merlot and Pinotage. Ja right.

Just so you know (because we know) you’re drinking our leftovers. Enjoy!

* careful and sensible self-censorship in case my mother reads this.

11 thoughts on “Our wine, your wine

  1. Emil > But apparently aged at the Waterfront in town?
    Tried it tonight. Unimpressed. Although it did get rid of some annoying weeds on the patio.

  2. Railroad Red has been around for a long time. Remember trying it at least 9 years ago. A good cheap easy drinking wine even then. Must admit though haven’t tried it for some time. Haven’t tried your brand yet but had some Tall Horse not so long ago and didn’t think it that bad! Hey we need some el cheapo almost decent stuff to have for day-to-day consumption. The good wine tastes even better on those special days!

  3. Probably an older bottle. Bruce Jack has moved his operations to Somerset West awhile ago. It is an easy-drinking quaffer. To share. Even if you only had weeds as company 😉

    Emil´s last blog post was: Iberian Lynx – on the brink of extinction (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  4. I think this must be the first instance where the ANC has been compared to a grape cultivar…

  5. We have a similar situation in Australia – although you do get some of ‘our’ good stuff in Tesco.

    I try to avoid the strange names like Cleanskin(??) and Two Legs, except if buying it at your local micro-brewery!

    DelBoy´s last blog post was: South Africa photos (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  6. This really IS your leftovers…the “esteemed” vintner has probably taken the remains from many different glasses at a local restaurant and bottled it…Genius! Then come up with a catchy name that makes it sound ethereal and “bob’s your uncle”, those posh English dinner party guests lap it up.

  7. Good rant, but misplaced methinks….

    First, Longitude has always been available in SA. It is one of the many quirky labels from one of SA’s most talented and individualistic winemakers, Bruce Jack of Flagstone Wines. Till it outgrew the space, Flagstone’s winery was at the V&A Waterfront and it still had wine matruring in cellars there last I heard. Hence some labels, like this, have pictures/names referencing V&A landmarks.

    Flagstone don’t own any vineyards,although they lease some, hence they are free to buy in grapes from wherever.

    I am a great admirer of Bruce Jack and his wines and his name on a wine is sufficient guarantee for me.

    Historically, though, I don’t think that South Africans are “more used to the easy to understand wine nomenclature of .”

    Until a couple of years ago it was not legal to name the actual vineyard on the label; the smallest named area allowed was an Estate. Even now there are very few registed ‘single vineyards’ under the Wine of Origin regulations. Until the mid 1990’s most SA wines came from co-operatives and organisations like Stellenbosch Farmers Winery and KWV.

    As for names like Railroad Red (from Graham Beck) and Longitude; well they are both inexpensive large volume wines (named vineyard wines are of necessity small volume and thus attract a premium price) and they have to be called something — there are thousands of wineas out on the market — its difficult finding a good wine name that hasn’t been already used. What would you suggest instead?

    (B Jack recently sold Flagstone to Constellation and is now responsible for Constellation’s SA portfolio.)

    Peter May´s last blog post was: Tasting Pinotage Firsts for the 50th Anniversary (Note: 6000 miles… is not responsible for the content of external internet sites)

  8. Val > I suppose it’s sad to waste the decent stuff on cooking. I am reminded of a Punt & Dennis sketch involving fish and white wine. I’ll look for that just now.

    Emil > 2006, according to the label.

    Rashid > Umm. What about Pierre de Vos’ May 2007 post “The ANC is just like a 3 year old Chardonnay”?

    Del > “Two Legs” is a great name. Suggests that only “evolved” people would buy it. Maybe.

    Goblin > Not good. And I don’t know. Wine has an unusual habit of turning up next to the toaster in the kitchen. That’s only a good thing when it’s a good wine though.

    Ant > When I said “leftovers” that’s not exactly what I had in mind. 🙂

    Emil > Only just.

    Peter > Pah – I try and be all tongue in cheek and then an expert arrives. 😉
    Well, whatever your views of Mr Jack and whatever my “misplaced” bits, I can happily stand by the two main themes in my post:
    1. That anyone lobbing in 1% of this and that into their blend is probably relying more on luck than on judgement.
    2. That in this particular instance, Lady Luck was elsewhere at the time this wine was made. Even I, as a non-fundi, can detect the difference between “easy-drinking”, “quaffable” wines and dodgy cheap red.

    This was bloody awful.

    I’m only sorry that my legal people have suggested that I should not take up your challenge of giving the wine a more suitably descriptive name.

    Leave a Reply