03 March 2009

M'Hudi on TV

A three part series on wine came to an end last night with the final programme titled ‘The Future’ focusing on two South African wine brands, M’Hudi and Solms-Delta.

The programme irritated me from the start because they mispronounced Pinotage and called it “a hybrid varietal that remains stubbornly unpopular abroad”. The programme tried to create suspense with the annual visit of Marks & Spencer’s wine-buyers and whether would buy M’Hudi’s Pinotage. M&S already stock the other two M’Hudi wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot and the chances of taking a third, bearing in mind another wine in M&S’s portfolio would have to be delisted, are almost non-existent. But there were no surprises since we already know that M’Hudi’ s Pinotage is not in M&S. There was no discussion of why no other buyers than M&S was considered.

Another focus was on the International Wine Challenge and whether M’Hudi Pinotage and Solms-Delta’s new sweet wine would get awards. Interestingly the programme showed this new semi-sparkling sweet red low alcohol (9%abv) Shiraz being fermented in barriques, which seems most unlikely for a cheap mass market wine

Initially the two farmers seemed to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. M’Hudi is the first black owned vineyard, bought by the Rangaka family who live in a ramshackle tin-roofed cottage among broken machinery and straggling bush vines while Solms Delta has been in the same family for generations who live in a grand Cape Dutch mansion among a landscaped garden and neat trellised vines.

The programme brought out a number of similarities and parallels between the two

  • The Rangaka’s of Mhudi are new owners, having bought their farm in 2003
  • Solms-Delta was inherited by Mark Solms and their first wine was bottled in 2004

  • Oupa Rangaka was a university professor and dean
  • Mark Solms is a brain specialist and translator of the works of Sigmund Freud

  • M’Hudi has black owners whose wines are marketed at sophisticated middle class wine drinkers via Marks & Spencer in Britain
  • Solms-Delta has white owners who are producing sweet fizzy wine for non-wine drinking black people in Africa

  • M’Hudi is bankrolled by government grants and loans
  • Solms-Delta is bankrolled by partner Richard Astor

At the IWC M'Hudi Pinotage got a Bronze medal whiled Solms-Delta's lambrusco like wine failed to win anything.

Oupa Rangaka seemed a little restrained on the programme, but maybe there just wasn't enough time to show him in full speech mode!

The programme blurb says "via the struggles of these two remarkable men, wine becomes a prism through which to view the current state of the Rainbow Nation." Discuss.....

The programme will be repeated on Sunday 9 March at 19:00 on BBC4 and is available via the internet on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK or anyone who can trick the website that their IP address is in the UK. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j0g7v

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