Wine training and Project Laduma

Blessed with wonderful (and wonderfully visitor-friendly) wine regions, the Cape is a fabulous proposition for wine lovers. Our setting can’t be beaten, and as our wines improve in quality there are very few wine regions in the world that can compete on our total package, with the good value of our wines being a certain trump card.

Yet, the one place outside the wineries where our wines could be introduced and enjoyed by locals and visitors – but has historically been neglected or treated very carelessly – is the South African restaurant. I have written before about the ruthless mark-ups imposed on wine by restaurants. These margins come with precious little value added to the bottle. All we can do about over-priced lists is vote with our feet, or complain. 300 percent mark-ups still amaze me, since friendlier wine prices always result in higher turn-around and happier customers.

On another front, restaurants have generally not invested in the training of wait-staff in the nuances and details of the wine that they are serving. Again, it seems a no-brainer: you will certainly sell more if the waiter charmingly explains a wine you may not be familiar with. However, in a competitive industry, where part-time staff come and go, the restaurateur’s argument is that this may well be time and money wasted.

Wines of South Africa, the non-profit international marketing arm of the industry, have come up with an ingenious solution. Spurred by 2010, and to enhance the foreign visitor experience (but with the clear spin-off of making our experience better too), they have launched Project Laduma – the training of 2010 restaurant wine stewards by 2010.

It’s certainly ambitious, but what a great idea. Half of this number represents waiters and waitresses already in the industry and the other half will be a fresh crop drawn from the currently unemployed. Project Laduma is being launched this weekend and you can contribute by buying the Project Laduma wine.

The Laduma wine range has been selected through a blind tasting by the Cape Wine Makers’ Guild and will be sold in restaurants and retail outlets across the country for a limited period at approximately R120 (retail) and R150 in restaurants. Proceeds of all the wine sales will contribute toward the SETA accredited training programme. A total of 17 500 cases will be available for sale, with the hope of raising R4, 5 million for Project Laduma.

Pulque and not pulque

What is the world coming to? Just the other day, I heard that the legendary pulque bars of Mexico are closing down. Seems that most everyone wants to drink beer instead. Now, my thoughts on beer are well known – most acceptable while the sun is shining, but not the drink to take you into the heart of the night with decorum. Too much time reading those crappy ads they stick above urinals these days. Continue reading “Pulque and not pulque”

Deal maker

Teddy Roosevelt was a man known for two things. OK, three – that he was the President of the USA. But the two important ones were his name and his famous three-martinis-and-let’s-have-a-deal lunches. Being called “Teddy” was a mixed blessing. Continue reading “Deal maker”

Health drinks

The other day I went to see my doc. There was something amiss with my old reliable – body – that is. It was not enjoying the merry life quite as much as I was, and I knew I should intervene before it got out of hand. You see, I’ve done my share of philosophy (as you should know by now) and I do not subscribe to that business about your body being “all in the mind”. Rather, I think the mind is all in the body. I put everything else there, so why should it not be? Continue reading “Health drinks”

Whisky 101

More than any other spirit, whisky is the mainstay of the bar counter. There are exceptions, like if you are living in Yakutsk, Siberia where your bar serves only family draughts of pull-tap vodka. Or if you live your life like a bad ad and your mainstay is Mainstay. Continue reading “Whisky 101”

watered drinks?

One of my best friends at the bar has a stock answer when anyone offers him some water with a drink. “Not today, thanks.” If someone offers him some water just so, as a (God-forbid) plain beverage, his reaction is less polite. His unprintable reply far exceeds the quip about drinking something that fish copulate in. It is so horrible that I believe I have forgotten it. Continue reading “watered drinks?”

Salute to ferment

Of all life’s great biological functions, the act of fermentation must rank number one. Sure, fornication’s a close contender, but the by-products of fermentation are not only legion and most useful, they are also the instigator for many biological functions, like what happens between the sheets (for you old-fashioned types) or in chatrooms (for you mods). Continue reading “Salute to ferment”

summer tippling

Thirsty men don’t much like being caught outside; the one exception being the beer garden. There is positively nothing worse on earth than some onerous chore or worldly disaster pulling us out of the comforting shadows of the bar to stand blinking in the sun and have to pull ourselves together, the messiness of daily existence all around. Continue reading “summer tippling”

Is pastis poncy?

Before long, the bartender was standing on his counter, his rather large assistant was next to him, another was packing bottles out from the fridges below. The other patrons had to wait, beer money clutched in hand, thirst mounting. The search was on and it was intense. The staff was looking more and more embarrassed. And all I had asked for was a pastis. Continue reading “Is pastis poncy?”

Pastis

Before long, the bartender was standing on his counter, his rather large assistant was next to him, another was packing bottles out from the fridges below. The other patrons had to wait, beer money clutched in hand, thirst mounting. The search was on and it was intense. The staff was looking more and more embarrassed. And all I had asked for was a pastis. Continue reading “Pastis”