I was enjoying my view of the oak trees and manicured gardens of a leading Cape wine estate this week when some idiot dropped a wine glass into the ashtray. Kid you not: a pink-vested brunette with a pair of white jeans tight enough to give a camel toe-pain, walked out of the tasting room, finished her glass and dropped it into the sand-filled half-barrel deployed for the extinguishing of cigarette butts.
There was a brief verbal exchange between us, best not repeated outside of a pool-hall in Parow, followed by my retrieving the glass and returning it to its rightful place in the winery’s bustling tasting-room.
Which got me thinking. Despite the orgasmic glee with which wine tourism is promoted and welcomed by the wine industry, it is time to get serious and, for the benefit of civility and general standards, ban the following from our Cape wine-land tasting rooms:
- Mini-busses filled with students: Despite all the mind-altering options available in the town of Stellenbosch and the Cape Town suburbs, hordes of students still enjoy a wine-tour where the main aim is to get inebriated at a nominal fee, or in some instances, no fee at all. Most of these kids are too immature to apply restraint, competing to see who can down the most glasses of vino while trying to impress the pourer and other wine-tasters by voicing loud opinions on their infantile impressions of the Chardonnay and Shiraz. Wineries hosting the students on their first one or two stops get off pretty lightly, but by the time the group has arrived at its fourth or fifth port-of-call the hosts are met with something resembling a cross between a Viking invasion, the back-stage goings-on at a Metallica concert and a kindergarten outing. Entertaining as it could be to those longing for their lost youth, this species is best left outside.
- Perfume and Old Spice: Visitors to a tasting room should be able to expect some sort of respect for their own olfactory sensibilities as well as for the wafts of delicately crafted wines that are poured for sniffing, sipping and analysing. This harmonious environment can be rudely disturbed by the appearance of a middle-aged couple who smell like the toiletries counter at Edgar’s. Why mists of Thierry Mugler and lashings of Paco Rabanne Pour Homme have to be applied before embarking on a trip to the country, heaven only knows. Yet such a perfumed tsunami is a frequent occasion. Besides making one’s eyes water, this heady aroma results in the judiciously poured wines smelling like lipstick and shaving cream and provides a most unpleasant experience.
- Dogs: Most wineries sensibly post signs disallowing patrons accompanied by canine companions, but there is always some chancer carrying a freshly-born Schnauzer or coy Maltese poodle. Not only does the visitor hereby wish to show everyone how attached he or she is to our furry friends, but hopes that the dog will bring some much-needed public attention to its owner. However, dogs do emit an aroma hampering serious wine-tasting, tend to leave hair on the tasting counter and slobber onto the gleaming Oregon Pine floor. The real hindrance, however, occurs when aforementioned Schnauzer pup named Sherry is taken outside for a pee where it gets savagely mauled to death by the farmer’s Bull Mastiff, who is just doing his job of protecting the property. Even the best Cabernet gets a sour taste at the sound of all that yelping.
- Provocative Clothing: Being a hot-climate country, there is not much one can do about tourists arriving at your tasting-room minimally attired and showing enough flesh to make a vegetarian whimper. Body-piercings, hastily applied tattoos and female under-arm hair are all part of the modern visual narrative, and as an outgoing wine-lover one is going to have to endure such things. But the line has to be drawn at T-shirts and other items of clothing bearing inflammatory slogans than can injure the sensibilities of other visitors to the winery. Well-stomached moustachioed men donning T-shirts stating Steve Hofmeyr’s superiority and sharp-shoed brothers kitted-out in EFF jumpers and berets sporting Julius Malema’s gleaming noggin are, for example, guaranteed to disturb other patrons as well as bringing the general standard of the tasting-room down. Throw a few glasses of Chenin Blanc into the equation and the simmering tensions have the potential to spill over into wanton physical violence, freshly-drawn blood not being a welcome sight in the most permissive wine-tasting facilities.
- Know-it-alls: They occur in groups or on their own, the self-important wine “expert” offering vocal and self-assured commentary on the wines being offered in the tasting-venue. Why these educated fonts of knowledge and wisdom even have to enter a public winery space frequented by mere wine-loving plebeians is a mystery, yet you find the know-it-all all over the place. “Oh, is that the Chardonnay where the lees contact was extended allowing for autolytic complexity?” he or she will ask the hapless tasting-room assistant. The expert will wink at the assistant. “Don’t know, do you? Pity, but I am sure it is.” Usually this opinionated arrogance will remain between the expert, his or her impressionable companions and the poor wine pourer. However, other guests are often forced into the Holy Grail of Wine Gospel when the expert looks at you and says: “Looks like the 2017 Merlot you are having. Got to try the 2015.”
Try the air outside, squire.