A gay rosé, a family feud and a wine made with love by 38 friends
Posted: November 19, 2004
If you happen to be dining out Down Under and hear someone tell the sommelier to "bring some of that Pansy wine," it's not a colorful Aussie expression for a light, fruity bottling. Pansy! is a real brand name, and yes, it's targeted at the gay community, which is viewed as a lucrative wine market. The name is tongue-in-cheek, co-opting what was once considered a derogatory term, and the wine and label are--no surprise here--pink. The rosé is made mostly from Merlot by New Zealand's Kim Crawford Wines, known for unconventional practices such as using screwcaps to top its wines. Pansy! first debuted in New Zealand as a fun thank-you to Kim and Erica Crawford's gay friends in the hospitality industry, but was discovered by visiting Aussies. So the couple launched it this week in Sydney at the annual gay Mardi Gras. It's also reaching the States (minus the reference to the gay community on the back label) and is set to come out in Orlando in April. If Pansy! is successful, we can just imagine what other wine names might follow.
A family feud has left the future of one of South Africa's top wine estates uncertain. Jean Engelbrecht, who has run Rust en Vrede since 1997, has resigned effective immediately, as part of a settlement ending a convoluted conflict that has divided the Engelbrecht family. Earlier this year, Jean's mother, Ellen Engelbrecht, and her three children asked a court to rule that Jean's father, Jannie Engelbrecht, and his trustees were unfit to be directors of Rust en Vrede; the family had accused Jannie of withdrawing large sums of money for personal use and of firing his children as trustees to consolidate his power. The couple--a former Miss South Africa and a former Springbok rugby star--recently divorced. Jannie had allegedly been involved in an extramarital affair, and following that revelation, he and his son had had disputes over the management of Rust en Vrede. Jean and winemaker Louis Strydom are credited with much of the winery's recent success. (The red blend has appeared in Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines the past four years.) They had also developed a wine in partnership with well-known golfer Ernie Els, and are now expected to concentrate on this project. There's been no word on what will happen to Rust en Vrede.
Bottled Love: When Oregon winemaker Bryce Bagnall was diagnosed with ALS ("Lou Gehrig's disease") last February, friends rallied to his side and started a fund to defray the cost of living with the incurable disease. Last spring, Brick House winemaker Doug Tunnell created a special bottling of Gamay Noir and named it St. Bartholomew's, after the patron saint of neurological disorders. Now 38 Willamette Valley producers-including Argyle, Erath and Ponzi--have donated their own juice to create 575 cases of 2003 St. Bartholomew's Pinot Noir. "The wine came in carboys, kegs and barrels," said Tunnell. "People were still bringing in wine until the day before we started bottling." The St. Bart bottling will be available for $25 at participating wineries on Thanksgiving and at www.avalonwine.com; all proceeds go to the Bryce Bagnall Fund (www.supportersofbryce.org). Bagnall, who is the winemaker at Witness Tree Vineyard and who produces his own Bryce Vineyard label, created the blend himself along with some of his friends.
Does $20,000 sound like a high price for one person to pay for an evening of wine? Well, not when the bottles are eight of the most heralded Bordeaux ever made: 1870 and 1961 Latour, 1870 Lafite, 1900 Margaux, 1945 Mouton, two bottlings of the 1947 Cheval-Blanc and, the baby of the bunch, 1975 Lafleur. (Read Savoring the Past.) Hard-core collector Jeff Staiman of Seattle jumped at the chance to drink these wines, purchasing the privilege at last year's A Taste for Life, an annual San Francisco auction benefiting the American Diabetes Association. (Staiman's employer, Microsoft, kicked in another $10,000, bringing the donation's final tally to $30,000, close to the wines' current value at auction.) But the lucky bidder had to wait to indulge until this year's event, held last month in the stylish Art Deco confines of the City Club in downtown's Stock Exchange Tower. Staiman showed no signs of buyer's remorse after sharing the bottles with eight friends. "It was an opportunity to try the most incredible red wines ever made," he said.
October was a momentous month for the 5,000 residents of Prosser, in eastern Washington's Yakima Valley wine region. The town--home to 12 wineries, including Hogue Cellars and Snoqualmie Vineyards--received its first full stoplight. Turns out the increase in wine tourism (30,000 to 40,000 people visit each year) led to a need for better traffic control. "I never thought I'd see the day," said Hogue cofounder Gary Hogue, who was born and raised in Prosser. He's going to see it at least once more. The town will add a second traffic light this spring.
|Jannie Engelbrecht is at the center of the Rust en Vrede fracas.|| |