Demystifying Wine pt.1
The wine blogger on having a poncy name, the katemba and dominating the wine list...

October 24, 2011

The wine blogger on having a poncy name, the katemba and dominating the wine list…

Although he doesn’t have any certificates hanging on the wall of his cellar, to be honest he doesn’t even have a cellar, the marketing co-ordinator for Backsberg Estate Cellars and laugh-out-loud blogger is all about approaching wine in a non-pretentious way.

Is it difficult approaching wine in a non-pretentious way with a name like Harry Reginald Haddon?

That’s His Royal Highness to you buddy. No, just kidding. I haven’t really thought about that but I guess it comes in useful getting into fancy-pants tastings. Then they meet me, and my cover is blown.

How does your ‘kak en lekker’ scale of wine compare to, say, The Platter Guide?

The Platter Guide is far more useful, the Kak en Lekker scale a lot funnier. I’m not into wine scoring, awarding points and stars bore me. It’s like scoring a book, what’s the point? Would you give T.S Eliot 4 and a half or five stars? Does Beethoven’s Fifth get 94 points or 96? The kak en lekker guide is just a bit of piss taking. I did hear though that a winemaker and his buddies went around Constantia scoring all the wines according to my scale, they refuse to give me the results.

What’s your take on the Katemba?

A simple way to ruin a nice glass of coke.

Your best value for money local wine is?

Tough. I find excellent priced Chenin Blancs, there are loads that over-deliver on quality. The last one I had was Adi Badenhorst’s Secateurs Chenin Blanc. Ripe, fresh, delicious, a bargain. On the red side I would say it is the Hermit on the Hill Red Knight, a blend of Syrah and Cinsaut. Those are low-priced wines, but you can get value at any price point. Like the Mullineux Syrah for R180 is great value, where the Rust en Vrede Shiraz at a similar price is not.

Who would win in a fight between Neill Pendock and JP Roussow?

I think JP would start off strong in the first couple rounds, but would tire quickly. Neil taking the punches, soaking it all up would then, with one big, arching swipe, knock JP to the canvas. He wouldn’t get up.

How have you managed to build your following and become the authoritive young SA voice on wine?

Ha, authority, really? Crazy. I just fell in love with wine’s differences. I remember tasting two Pinotages; they were from the same vintage and the same general area. I smelled them and was like, “What the? These are completely different. Why?” And so I started finding out. And along the way I started blogging about my discoveries. I think the reason that people read what I say is that I am sometimes amusing. I am also very happy to call a wine kak when it is. I don’t believe that if you like a wine that makes it good – people love Paulo Coelho, right? I write ridiculous tasting notes. I get drunk. I’m a wine snob that you can be friends with. It could be any of those things, but mainly, I think it’s because I make people chuckle. If you get people to laugh they’ll believe anything.

Harry Haddon’s tips on dominating the wine-list

2nd isn’t best

Be wary about the second most expensive wine. Restaurants know you like to choose that one. People reckon it’s a safe bet, they don’t bust the bank, but don’t look cheap. I’m not saying that every restaurant is ripping you off with their second most expensive wine, but some definitely are.

Ask questions

Unfortunately most staff at restaurants know more about cocaine than wine. Best bet is to try and find the person who put the wine list together and pepper them with questions. Don’t worry about wine-language. You’re paying, you should get what you want.

Don’t generalize

White wines will be better than red. Blends are a safer option than single variety wines, if something is super expensive and super young, it’s probably not worth it. If the restaurant has a decanter, use it.

Drink wine

Drink cases of the stuff. Drink different wines. Taste widely with gay abandon. Taste wines next to each other. Taste with friends. Taste alone. Drink, argue, think. Think about the differences and similarities. Think about where the wine is from. Think about what you are drinking. Wine isn’t supposed to be serious, it’s supposed to be fun, uplifting, joyous, it’s all about the joie de vivre; if wine isn’t creating some bonhomie in your life you’re doing it wrong. The more you taste, the more you will learn, and the more you learn the better wine becomes, trust me. Read, drink, think. Drop some bucks as well, it’s worth it. You never pay for an Uno and get a Ferrari, it’s just not how the world works.

For advice on what to say and what not to say when drinking wine, read Haddon’s article Say this, not that