Monday, October 26, 2009

by NEIL PENDOCK - PENDOCK UNCORKED

Dark ladies are dreadfully overrated. Shakespeare’s sonnets # 127-152, written to the Dark Lady, were described by William Wordsworth (or Turdsworth as Lord Byron disrespectfully nicknamed him) as “worse than a puzzle-peg. They are abominably harsh, obscure & worthless.”
So Dennis Kerrison obviously didn’t have them in mind when he named his Doolhof 2008 Pinotage Dark Lady, as harshness is a fault often pinned on Pinotage as are some of the comments from critics. Perhaps cockney Dennis had Welsh rocker Tom Jones in mind and his classic ballad Dark Lady about the Fortune Queen of New Orleans and her black cat. But after seeing a bleary-eyed Tom interviewed on Sky News the day Michael Jackson passed, associating a wine with Tom would attract only necrophiliacs.
Now along comes Mike Ratcliffe with a Black Lady Syrah 2006 from Warwick. The estate has a whole harem of ladies in the tasting room: Three Cape Ladies, First Lady and now a Black one, presumably connected to Professor Black of Sauvignon Blanc fame? Or a special bottling for Barbara Amiel, socialite and wife of jailed publisher Lord Conrad Black perhaps?
This rush to anthropomorphize wine is nothing new. Pinot Noirs have long been classified into masculine and feminine styles so it makes perfect sense for a Pinotage, which is a 50% Pinot Noir offspring, to be compared to a Dark Lady. Mike is nothing if not a canny marketer and with tourists the Holy Grail for the top end of the market he is clearly getting in early with a brand that rings more bells than Quasimodo.
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