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Dublin, Ireland
Hi, I'm Dermot Nolan, and I became a Master of Wine (MW) in 1997, and resigned from the Institute of Masters of Wine in 2023 after being an MW for exactly 26 years. I opened a wine shop in Dún Laoghaire, Ireland, called The Wine Library, which closed in 2018, and this is my personal wine blog. I will do my utmost to be fair and responsible in my posts – please read my Who Pays article in re the ethics of wine trips and writing. I have worked in wine education, retail, and consultancy since 1990. I was a Director of the Institute of Masters of Wine (IMW) from 2008 to 2014 and was also a member of the Events Committee, founder of the Trips Committee, and member of the Governance Committee. Having had problems with potentially libellous comments from unidentifiable posters, I now require that if you post a comment, you must identify yourself properly or it won't be published. Please note that I do not review products or services on request so kindly don't ask. I value my independence and I believe my readers (few that they may be) do so also.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Black and white views

I am frequently told that I can be too dogmatic about things, that I see things in “black and white”. Well, here’s a tale that is black and white. On a recent visit to a wine farm near Stellenbosch we were told by the owner that his parents had been attacked on the farm. His father was in bed, his mother sleeping in front of the television when she was woken by the dogs barking. She opened the door to see what was the matter, and a number of men rushed in. They demanded to know where her husband was and, on being told, dragged him downstairs and then told him that if he did not co-operate they would kill his wife. They made off with some money and jewellery but not much more as an alarm had been triggered.

Naturally, the thieves were all black, the victims white and this sort of incident is very common. Every time I go to South Africa I hear these stories and I am sure that most of those who live in isolated wine farms are ticking off the map to see how much longer before they are attacked. In this particular case the owner has decided to up sticks and go, pretty much. He no longer replants when vines are grubbed up and the farm is decreasing in size every year. His family has been on the farm since it was granted to an ancestor by Simon van der Stel but the current occupant has decided that, if necessary, he will bulldoze the farm before he goes. He has even trademarked the farm’s name worldwide so that the brand can only be used by him and not any later owner of the farm – he assumes it will be taken from him by the government or that his family will be forced out by intimidation.
So, how do you feel about this? Are you someone who has always believed that having the ANC come to power all those years ago was a good thing, who saw hope in the rainbow nation? If you’ve visited the Cape a lot you’ll have seen amazing changes in the past 20 years and you’ll think that the blacks and whites are getting on well. But the question is, is this the reality? When I was at this farm, all the farm workers were heading off for the night, with their bags of rice or meal, having done their days work. Where do they stand on the issue of these attacks? Do they not care that their livelihood depends on the success of the farm? Don’t they care about the people they’ve worked with for many years? Where is the black voice complaining about the stupidity of these often violent attacks?
When you tell this story to an Afrikaans you can get some brutal replies about the capacity of the black man and you are quite shocked by these views. But the underlying anger is real and so is the fear. Whatever the rights and wrongs of the past history of South Africa (or even Africa itself) at some point the black community has to rise above this type of behaviour and make a moral stand. If not, then South Africa could easily go the way of Zimbabwe. It really is that black and white.

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