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Saturday, October 11, 2008


Rickety Bridge, Pernod Ricard buys Vin and Sprit AB and Excelsior cabernet sauvignon upgraded!

Rickety Bridge is a winery in the Franschhoek valley. There was a rickety wooden bridge over the Franschhoek River at this point but it was replaced about ten years ago by a less picturesque but safer concrete structure. But the distinctive and quaint name has been retained for this 50-hectare wine farm.

Like just about everything else at Franschhoek, Rickety Bridge claims descent from the Huguenots, and indeed a grant of land here was made in 1694 to Huguenot farmers. However, its modern era as a wine farm goes back to 2000, when it was bought by a man named Duncan Spence who lives on Sark in the Channel Islands, between France and southern England. Sark is 5,5 square kilometers in extent. No cars are allowed and transport is by horse-drawn carriages or bicycle. Sounds even nicer than Franschhoek.

In the few years since then, Rickety Bridge has developed rapidly as a wine producer and today it turns out ten different wines, four reds and four whites, all classic varieties, plus a blended red named Duncan’s Creek.

A new winemaker, Wynand Grobler, recently took over and has done well with his first vintages of sauvignon blanc, shiraz rosé, and chenin blanc. He is a product of Grey College in Bloemfontein and while he was at Stellenbosch University he made a name for himself as a hockey player, representing Western Province for four years. Rumour has it that he uses his hockey stick for batonnage, stirring the lees (yeast sediment) in a barrel or tank of fermenting wine.

The Rickety Bridge Winery offers accommodation in a manor house, with catering for weddings and conferences, plus a restaurant, picnic baskets, homemade foods and of course wine tasting and sales. The cellar prices of its red wines range from R45 to R150 a bottle, the latter being the 2002 cabernet sauvignon, and whites from R30 to R45.

It is open every day during the summer, October 1 to April 30. Phone 021 876 2129.

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This is a column about wine, not spirits, but I think it is of interest that the French-based liquor company Pernod Ricard, which is very active in South Africa, has bought Vin and Sprit AB, the Swedish state-owned alcoholic drinks company.

The price: 5,7 billion euros, about R65 billion.

This firm produces Absolut, the biggest selling premium vodka worldwide and the fourth largest spirits brand in the world. Last year almost 11 million nine-litre cases of Absolut were sold. In South Africa it retails at about R120 a bottle.

I’m not much of a vodka drinker myself, but on a cold day…

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I wrote recently about the dispute between the Excelsior estate at Robertson and Platter’s Wine Guide after the latter had given a parsimonious 1,5 stars to Excelsior cabernet sauvignon. Excelsior’s owner, Peter de Wet, arranged a literally blind tasting, blindfold, for some of the guide’s tasters and this time his wine emerged with 3,5 stars. I tried the wine myself and rated it 3,5 stars.

I have now had a note from Peter de Wet saying that he thinks this is a fair rating and adding that this same wine, the 2006 Excelsior cabernet sauvignon, has just been given 86 points out of a hundred by the internationally known and very influential American wine writer Robert Parker.

Robert Parker wrote: “The Excelsior estate has been in the De Wet family for well over a century and it represents another of those South African instances where one wonders how the wines can possibly be well-made, distinctively packaged, exported to the States, and still sell for a mere ten dollars”.

Ten dollars equals about R85. You can buy this wine in Durban for about R38. – Michael Green