The National Department of Sport and Recreation is seeking an explanation from the South African wine industry after industry representatives comprehensively lost a rugby scrumming contest against a team of national Portuguese wine makers in the Douro Valley. According to Ballus Haarhof, spokesperson for Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, losing to Portugal in rugby scrumming is not only a national disgrace, but the Department is also concerned that the South Africans tried to keep their loss a secret from the sporting world.
Nestled in the heart of the Douro Valley, the village of Pinhão was being drenched by sheets of icy rain riding into northern Portugal on a brutal cold wind from west Spain. It was all grey and misty and chill, but not even the sight of a ugly horde of red-shirted EFF water-bottle throwers or the sound of a whining Donald Trump speech would have rendered the Douro anything but magnificently beautiful. It truly is God’s wine country, the vines clinging to the 40 degree slopes, all granite and schist reaching to the heavens and stopping at about 1000m above the river.
Before fleeing certain death at the hands of the rampant Catholic hordes, my forefather knelt before the grave of his old man in the cemetery in La Motte D’Aigues. There Pierre Joubert promised that «Notre sang Joubert continuera à travers les vigne de l’Afrique » (Our Joubert blood shall continue through the vines of Africa.)
The current climate in the South African wine industry reminds me of one particular jewel of a saying uttered by the famous American base-ball coach who had a habit of fluffing his intended opinions.
-When asked if he still frequented a certain Italian restaurant in Brooklyn, Yogi answered: “Are you crazy? Ever since that joint got so popular nobody goes there anymore.”
Spontaneous wine moments always turn-out the most memorable. Like an unexpected glimpse of a vividly hued wild flower growing next to a crumbling farm wall, the surprisingly pungent scent of baked croissants as you pass a non-descript down-town bakery or the sudden scream of a fish-eagle slicing the early-morning air of central Stellenbosch, an unplanned sip turns an amicable wine experience into one great and memorable.
The University of Cape Town (UCT), one of the foremost educational institutions in Cape Town’s Southern Suburbs, has banned wines from the Swartland region from being served on its campus. According to sources close to the Ikey Vivinum Wine Club, the decision was taken by management after a student organisation claimed the translation of Swartland – “Blackland” – is derogatory and insults the ethos of racial sensitivity of which UCT is so proud.
When finding it difficult to explain my preferences, I always refer to the great works of classical culture. Take my love of pink, rosé sparkling wines. In their epic song “Hotel California”, The Eagles did not sing “Mirrors on the ceiling/the lees-matured Champagne on ice”. Nor …”the vintage Blanc de Blancs on ice”. No, it was “pink” Champagne they roped in to colour one of the most magnificent seven minutes of rock music in history.
When he shouldered through the lines
Of our cropped and mangled vines,
His unjaded eye could scan
How each hour had marked its man.
- Rudyard Kipling
Things have been getting quite emotional about the gnarled old vines scattered throughout the Cape Winelands. And yes, they are magnificent plants adding to the brooding atmosphere of some of the more robust and rural wine regions. The sight of an ancient vineyard, dense and obtuse vines pointing their wrinkled shoots at the heavens, set among the rolling hills of Bottelary or Malmesbury, can be mesmerising.
When my hero died, I hit the freezer seeking a bag of dead sheep stomach. Jim Harrison, the last of the great red-blooded male American writers, passed over Easter. And with Jim having been a bit of a gourmand, I decided to make a big pot of something meaty, hearty and comforting, something the great man would have approved of. Remember, this is the guy who once wrote: “Men were not born to eat small portions.”
Last week’s Amorim Cork Alvarinho wine-tasting at Muratie gripped me with soil-encrusted hands, held me against a blue overall smelling of olive oil, garlic and sardines, and threw me over to the Atlantic Coast of north Portugal. Few things can export you to those other places, foreign and exotic and special, the way a wine does. And for this, the white grape of the Vinho Verde region, Alvarinho, does it in a way no others can.