Getting Paid in Kind of Wine

David Finlayson peers from behind a vat while a cellar-hand helps himself to some wine.
David Finlayson peers from behind a vat while a cellar-hand helps himself to some wine.

The much-maligned tot-system is alive and well, and I am sure I am not the only one willing to work for wine. This week past saw me straining under tremendous physical and emotional toil for nothing but the prospect of a good stiff drink from my temporary employer. The sweat-drenched brow, the aching lower back and the pulsing veins were all worth it, though, when said employer produced a few bottles of alcohol. Within minutes the pain was gone, a pleasant coolness had set in and a feeling of good-will to all men – well, almost all – was taking grip.

What’s there not to like?

Each year I am roped in to barbecue, as in braai, for David Finlayson and his harvest-colleagues at Edgebaston Family Vineyards. This means shopping for the finest cuts of meat, stoking a raging fire and then grappling with a stainless steel grid laden with aforementioned flesh while the workers watch your every move. These guys are serious about their braaiied-meat: One burnt chicken-wing can mean the difference between reverence, disdain and “Jou Ma se Pap Boerie”.

Said employment is engaged in free of charge, except for the unwritten agreement that Finlayson will provide some decent wine to replenish the sated cells and morale depletion of the braaiier. This year’s selection did not disappoint, although it was the first year a wine from Burgundy did not make it to the occasion, the exchange rate even taking its toll on the Simonsberg winefolk.

What we did have was a Penfold’s Bin 138 Grenache, Shiraz, Mourvèdre followed by a Cornas and then just to finish on a high, two great Pinot Noirs.

My payment for the day's work at Edgebaston.
My payment for the day’s work at Edgebaston.

The first Pinot Noir was a Mount Edward 2006 from Central Otago, a much revered wine and quite rightly so. This is an explosion of gamy and tangy wilderness followed by a very yummy lashing of black fruit and Zanzibar cloves from the more northerly parts of the island. It is truly delicious and quite unlike any Pinot I have had from New Zealand. The unbridled delectability was truly surprising as well as its dark colour. But then again, long slow Otago ripening is going to inkify the wine through well-formed and densely coloured skins now, ain’t it mate?

Mount Edward, now that is a wine I am going to remember. I can’t think of anything this classy that has ever come from New Zealand, except perhaps for Bryan Williams. But then again, he was a re-tread Samoan.

I was just contemplating whether this wine would kick the arses of most South African Pinot Noirs when Finlayson plonked down an unlabelled bottle. His new reserve Pinot Noir 2012, to be released shortly.

Made from a vineyard close to the Stellenbosch golf course, the wine was given the full hard-on by being oaked in new French barrels for18 months. This Pinot also croons a bit of a Black Velvet rhyme being dense in colour and with an evocative richness on the nose. However, there is a perfume on this wine that many Burgundians will sell their daughters to camel jockeys for.

The perfume is not concocted, nor contrived. It just evolved from great fruit and the kind of skilled wine-making Finlayson is known for, and this refined excellence on the nose continues through to the palate. An ethereal wet-mossy note leads to a Pandora’s box of delicious wine-flavours. Crunchy black-currant, a whack of oyster-shell, smoked Paprika and Iranian saffron all rounded off with a splash of fresh fig and a strap of leather.

It is all almost as breathless as hours of grilling and toiling, and yes Boss, it works for me.

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