They say that the days of PR companies throwing money at events are dead. No more five-day jollies up the Zambezi or chauffeur-driven, champagne-fuelled excursions to 6-star game lodges - the average wine launch today is usually a modest affair, generally with nice food and increasingly some form of transport to beat the drink/drive problem, but for the most part, these are working lunches and not much more.
Well, clearly no-one told Rust en Vrede’s Jean Engelbrecht that the industry was down-sizing, because the only thing small about the launch of his two wines was the number of journalists invited (oh hang on….). Six lucky hacks boarded the plane for Windhoek, where all we knew was that we were going to visit Jean’s new wine bar and go to a wine show. Not terribly exciting, but an interesting foray nonetheless.
Jean and his family have strong links with Namibia going back many years. For four generations the Engelbrechts have owned property here, holidayed here and now Jean is returning to his birthplace with the opening of The Stellenbosch, a steak and wine bar which has become Windhoek’s centre of wine in the space of less than a year. Why this is so becomes evident when you see the prices of the wines – Jean is determined to offer the wines from his portfolio (Rust en Vrede and Guardian Peak), plus as many others as possible, at rock-bottom prices and consequently is welcoming guests back three and four times a month – not only to eat and drink in the restaurant, but also to buy wine to take away with them as well.
The new red wine from Jean’s portfolio is the Stellenbosch Ridge 2009, a four-way Bordeaux blend, the result of a collaboration between Jean and two other friends. The first vintage was made in 2005 and four years later is commercially available for the first time. But not to just anyone – it won’t be available at Rust en Vrede for tasting, and only a few selected wine shops and restaurants will be able to stock it. The wine itself is extremely drinkable – plenty of soft black berried fruit with a good, solid structure and robust tannins which make it a great steak-friend. If you REALLY want to try it, you can order it through R&V at R280 a bottle.
So this all sounds quite normal right? Apart from a little sojourn in Namibia, which is all very nice – so far it’s not much different from your usual launch. Ah-ha – wait for part 2!! And in the meantime, just in case you think wine writers get spoilt beyond all recognition, here is a link to the airline food that Namibian Airways were delighted to offer us on our flight from Cape Town to Windhoek. We’re taking a vote – anyone got an idea what it is?