| Tim James again wins Annual SA Wine Writers Prize
Cape wine master Tim James was again announced on Friday evening as the winner of the 3rd Annual South African Wine Writers Prize at a function hosted by Franschhoek Wine Valley, in association with the Franschhoek Literary Festival. James was also the winner last year.
The article that won him the R25 000 cash prize and an artwork by Dylan Lewis, was entitled The ghost grape and other mysteries of Constantia, published in The World of Fine Wine, Issue 29, 2010. It was also published on Grape.co.za.
Joanne Gibson’s entry Holy Cow!, published in the August 2010 edition of Wine Magazine, was highly commended by the judges. Gibson was present to receive a case of selected Franschhoek wines as recognition of her contribution. Co-incidentally, Gibson was the winner of the first SA Annual Wine Writers prize in 2009.
Established in 2009, the South African Wine Writers Award celebrates the literary art of wine writing in South Africa.
“It was again an honour and a happy surprise to win, especially knowing some of the other entrants. I think it's wonderful that the sponsors are trying to encourage South African wine writing in this way and I'm also pleased that they want to reward more "serious" well-researched sort of work rather than frivolous stuff that gets an easy, undemanding readership anyway,” said James. “It is a pity that it's not easy to place longer, serious articles locally. Hopefully the Award will encourage local publishers as well as local writers,” he added.
James’s wine writing career dates back to 1996 when he won SA Wine magazine's inaugural “New wine writer of the year” competition. Since then he has written on the subject widely and as a columnist and occasional contributor to various local publications. As the prime mover behind this founding of Grape he acted as its editor in its incarnations as print magazine and formal website. Nowadays in print his main local contribution is as wine columnist for the weekly Mail & Guardian newspaper. Internationally he is one of a tiny number of local wine writers with a consistent presence: for example, he has consulted to the World Atlas of Wine, has been correspondent with Cathy van Zyl for Tom Stevenson's Wine Report, and writes frequently for the World of Fine Wine.
He has for many years been a taster for Platter's South African Wine Guide, for which he is also an associate editor. Sceptical of large line-ups of wine, he avoids big panel tastings, though has judged smaller competitions. He used to lecture on international topics for the Cape Wine Academy, and became a Cape Wine Master in 1999. James still happily recalls Jancis Robinson describing him as “South Africa’s wine controversialist” and hopes not too much has changed in that regard; she also referred to his 'scepticism' and 'romanticism' – for which he'll settle, given the harsher things some other people have had to say. James is at present preparing a book on South African wine for the University of California Press.
The purpose for initiating the award is to celebrate the art of wine writing, and the articles were evaluated anonymously on both technical accuracy and literary quality by a panel of three independent judges. The judges for this year were South African author and journalist Martie Retief-Meiring, author and US wine critic Jay McInerney and France-based Andrew Jefford, who was international wine columnist of the Year at the Louis Roederer Awards 2010.
In addition to the cash component of his prize, James also received an award in the form of a serigraph Avocet by acclaimed South African artist Dylan Lewis. “No-one else seemed to notice at first, as I did, that the form of the long-legged, big-footed bird was somewhat reminiscent of a wine-glass (specifically that old-fashioned flat champagne glass),” said James. “It certainly made it particularly appropriate!” he added.
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