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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2003-02-15)

Imported wines do not have to cost the earth. A bright and experienced entrepreneur named Graham Katz proves this with his list of wines imported from France, Italy and Australia.

Graham Katz is a recent immigrant to South Africa. For many years he ran a wine importing business in Zimbabwe but, as we all know, things have gone from bad to worse in that country. So about three months ago Graham Katz locked up his house in Harare, handed the keys to a neighbour, loaded his daughter and his personal possessions into his car (his wife died recently) and headed south, for Cape Town.

He is now re-establishing himself as a wine importer, and he must have good contacts and good taste sent a sample consignment of his wines to his brother-in-law Pat Acutt of Durban, who is well-known as a property man and as a military officer, and these were presented at a tasting. Pat Acutt’s wife Brenda, who is Graham Katz’s sister, is handling the KwaZulu/Natal end of the business.

The tasting disclosed some excellent wines at moderate prices. The item the seven tasters liked best was a cabernet-syrah (shiraz) blend from J.P. Chenet in France. This is a lovely red wine, 2001 vintage, smooth, deep flavour, slightly strawberry bouquet, 13 percent alcohol. It comes in an “antique” type of bottle, squat, dark glass, with a slightly lop-sided neck and an indentation on one side of the bottle itself, most distinctive. This distinguished wine is R34 a bottle.

Also highly rated was a 2001 merlot-cabernet blend from the same J.P. Chenet shipper, also in an antique-style bottle. This is R44. Hardy’s Merlot 2002 from south-east Australia was also greeted with enthusiasm. Hardy’s was established in 1853. This merlot is a big wine, 14 percent alcohol, with strong berry, plum and vanilla flavours, and a good long, lingering finish. Price: R46.

A white wine, a 2002 chardonnay, from the same producer, is called Nottage Hill, after a man named Thomas Nottage who managed the Hardy’s winery and vineyards at Tintinara for more than 60 years. The name is known in Durban, where occasionally in the past I have bought Nottage Hill wines. Price of this chardonnay: R46.

A French white, Louis Eschenhauer sauvignon blanc 2001 from the south of France, caused much discussion. It does not have much of the grassy, green pepper, flinty character of sauvignons from South Africa and New Zealand. But it is a lovely, full-flavoured wine, and remarkably good value at R30.

Other wines tasted were an ultra-dry Chablis from Burgundy (R75) and a Chemin des papes Cotes du Rhone, a blended red from the Rhone Valley ((R40).

Graham Katz has 23 items on his price list, including a champagne, Prince Laurent, at R160 a bottle, two cognacs, and a chianti. Most of the wines and spirits come in six-bottle packs, a few in 12-bottle cases.

The prices are consistently reasonable, and they make one wonder about some South African producers who are now asking R100 to R200 a bottle for their wines. The wines are available from Brenda Acutt at 082 441 2753. Trade inquiries should be directed to Tentex Import/Export, phone/fax 021 683 8886, cell 072 193 8682.




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