Jul 25 2009
South AfricaΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s Wine Magazine has come in for a bit of a pasting of late, and the magΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s current obsession with babies due to its fertile editorial staff, will no doubt lead to a bit more. Top of the hit-list remains, however, the Cellar Door Shoot Out Section presided over by Jeanri-Tine van Zyl, a column that has seen grown, mature men in the wine business converted into sulking heaps by the in-your-face way Jeanri reports on her visits to certain wineries in the Cape.
Tim James, Cape Wine Master and head of South AfricaΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s leading amateur wine blog collection www.grape.co.za leads the pack of unneutered hounds baying for Jeanri-TineΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s blood. The audacity of witnessing a 25 year-old daring to tell it like it is and refusing to partake in the vainglorious, self-centred wine-speak of the wine philosophers is too much for James and many others who feel done in by the job Jeanri-TineΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s pen does in pointing to the weaknesses evident in wine-tasting venues.
So frustrated is this man, that he even backs up his criticism of her by hitting out at her name Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ Jeanri-Tine. This he does not like, and finds silly.
Tim, for ClaretΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s sake, what is the woman supposed to do about her name?
Oscar Foulkes, one of the finest wine writers around, is the latest example of a man hurt by this womanΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s none-too flattering report of the winery where he works out of in the August issue of Wine. Read his rather self-pitying reply to Jeanri-TineΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s take on Cloof.
Having been in the business of reviewing for close on 20 years, I think those objecting to Jeanri-TineΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s articles are a bunch of whingers who need a bit more experience in the dog-eat-dog world of tourism. Actors, artists, writers and musicians, who are exposed to a horde of critics each time they are involved in a new play, film, exhibition or novel, will surely laugh at the sulky reactions of those who are not able to take any form of criticism on the chin.
I mean, what is the big deal?
A winery has a tasting centre. It has taken a decision to open said tasting centre for visitations from the public. For this, visitors are encouraged Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ through advertisements, Platter guide notes, websites and newsletters – to embark on a journey to the tasting centre.
In this relationship between winery and patron, a certain degree of expectation is created. The winery expects the visitor to invest in time and travel to call upon the winery. In turn, the visitor has the right to expect a certain experience and level of service from the winery.
What is it about this that James and his anti-Van Zyl brigade do not understand?
Okay, letΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s forget about them for a moment and get back to the real world of normal, paying customers prepared to invest in having that enlightening and original experience promised by the winery.
If there is a chance that the experience may not live up to expectation, we have the right to be aware of this. The right to know.
And if not the media, on whom else can we trust for the right to know?
So Jeanri-Tine does not beat about the bush. She has a sharp pen and calls a spade a shovel. But that is exactly what the public expect from the media, in case anybody has forgotten.
The real reason so many people are pissed off is because Wine Magazine is, to my mind, the first local publication to embark on this concept of delivering critique on wineries. For the record, years back I was asked to write a similar series for a journalism unit Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£Γöñ as long as nothing negative is reported Γò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├║otherwise weΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗ll lose advertisersΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö¼├æ. (I told them to fuck off phenolically.)
Hopefully Jeanri-TineΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗s writings will lead to a bit of navel gazing. Perhaps there are certain aspects of wine tourism that are not as great as we think they are. Perhaps we yet have certain things to learn. Maybe there is room for improvement.
Maybe we donΓò¼├┤Γö£├ºΓö£├╗t realise how important this criticism is, once we stop being so damn over-sensitive.