The Art of Nonchalance
This is not a wine. This is Rascallion.
But in reality, it is actually a wine.
The Rascallion range of wines is the brainchild of businessman and longtime wine professional Ross Sleet, previously linked to Kleine Zalze, Distell, and Constellation Europe. The range presents itself as a whimsical, brand-heavy, technically-averse maverick subversive that laughs in face of wine of wine snobs everywhere.
Ross’s clippy “Change the conversation” tag line perpetuates the narrative that Rascallion is the devilishly handsome rogue that reminds you that he’s all about having fun. He yawns at wine speak, flavour notes, and profuse pontification about terroir and cultivar. Because, heck, he’s not a wine. He’s Rascallion.
And I guess, this little charade makes Rascallion the most hipster wine I have ever encountered. The entire range cares awfully much about its aesthetic (vinyl records, circus bears, & delightfully obscure enlightenment-era locution), shuns the status quo, dismisses the establishment, and does everything to communicate how little it cares…all the while caring ever so dearly about every little detail. If that is not hipster, then I don’t know…
Because the truth is that while Ross and his wine consultant wife, Jan, may smile disarmingly, telling everyone to relax and “not take life so seriously”, in the background he has been very serious indeed, carefully crafting a range of wines that couldn’t have been more on trend if they tried. The list of varietals and growing regions is cooler than Post Malone in an ice bath. But of course, you’re not supposed to know that.
Old vine chenins, pockets of grenache blanc, splashes of roussanne and verdelho, alongside SMG blends from the so hot-right-now Swartland ward of Piekenierskloof… these were not chosen by accident. They are final result of a very savvy team’s hard work, with regards to both what looks good on the label, and what will deliver an accessible profile from both a sensory and economic perspective.
More than mere marketing roulette
And the critical acclaim has not been sparse either (supporting my theory that Rascallion really is a wine).
Across both their entry level “lifestyle” range and their more serious “Word Collection” critics seem to have all come down on the same side of the artisanal, hand-made, original Swartland farm-style fence.
Their supposedly lower-level lifestyle white blend – 33 1/3 RPM – garnered a 92pt rating at the Decanter Wine Awards; their premium Shiraz/Grenache noir blend, Bombinate, calmly collected a 90pt rating at the same awards, followed by my personal favourite; Sursurrous – the wooded Chenin Blanc / Grenache Blanc / Sauvignon Blanc blend (subversive sleight of hand) – claiming another 91 Decanter points.
So, as is often the case when one encounters a wine branding exercise that is design-heavy, but details-light, you might be forgiven for writing these wines off as the marketing equivalent of booze marketing roulette in an effort to catch eyes in the overcrowded supermarket wine aisles. But while you would be forgiven, you’d also be wrong.
This is not a list of stockists.
So, don’t be that biped. Don’t make that mistake.
If you’re Cape Town based, head out to Wine Concepts, Vinopronto, or Liquor City on Palmyra.
If you’re already in the winelands, you can find these at The Vineyard Collection on the R44.
Up in Johannesburg, Norman Goodfellows is as reliable as ever, and if you prefer to shop online, visit www.wine.co.za.
All images courtesy of Danie Nel Photography at www.danienel.co.za.