Christian joined Wine Magazine, South Africa in 2000 and from May 2008 to December 2009 served as its editor. Christian now chairs and judges various wine shows and also tastes for Platter’s South African Wine Guide
(1) How did you get into the world of wine originally?
My late dad Harold was mad about wine, and I was encouraged to take a glass or two with meals even as a teenager. He always had a good cellar and it didn’t take long for me to develop a fascination for the product. During my 20s, I did some formal studies towards becoming a Cape Wine Master but dropped out as it all became quite dour and academic, which is not what attracted me about wine in the first place. My dad had founded Wine magazine in 1993, and when my fledgling advertising career came to nought, he was compelled to take me off the streets, and I worked there from 2000 to 2009, before going freelance in 2010.
(2) South African Chenin Blanc has recently been subjected to a slightly disparaging tasting by Decanter magazine. Do you think the comments were fair and does it remain South Africa’s “great white hope”?
We all know that panel tastings have shortcomings but it wasn’t so much the results of the Decanter effort that rankled (there were a number of wines to rate 4 Stars with which nobody could have a problem) but rather how the magazine chose to editorialise the tasting in general, the excessively negative tone being rather sensationalist. As for whether Chenin is the “great white hope”, moot point. I would say however that I am one of those who belong to the camp that believes that litre for litre, South Africa’s whites are currently better than its reds.
(3) Where do you stand on the subject of Pinotage? Is this a wine that South Africa should be proud to export?
I’ve tasted Pinotage from the 1970s in the last while that are very good, even great, so there’s nothing inherently wrong with the grape, it’s rather how it is treated viticulturally and in the cellar. Sanctions and isolation in the period before political transformation meant that winemakers lost their way a bit, and when SA re-entered international markets in the mid-1990s the product wasn’t up to scratch and some hard lessons had to be learnt. There’s now some really top stuff being made again, but I’m still not sure it needs to be considered the country’s “signature grape”.
(4) Are there are winemakers or wineries that you particularly admire?
It’s a cop-out but I’d prefer not to single anyone out. The South African wine industry has never been more dynamic and fluid than it has been in the last 10 years, and there a whole bunch of guys and girls making very cool stuff.
(5) And finally, if you were to be any wine, what wine would you be and why?
Left Bank Bordeaux – I’m a late developer.