This year I and my fellow descendants of the French Huguenots celebrate the 330th anniversary of our forefathers’ landing at the Cape of Good Hope. Francophiles and proudly so, we have of late been swirling glasses of Burgundy Chardonnay, downing huge glugs of Armagnac and jetting-in mounds of Roquefort and Comte while attempting to hum Le Marsellaise without stumbling over that tricky seventh beat-change.
Quite aptly, the greatest wine-tasting of this year on local soil occurred at South Africa’s most lauded winery. Kanonkop Estate in Stellenbosch may be the country’s First Growth in terms of red wine pedigree, but co-proprietor Johann Krige’s love of old fortified wines also makes this site the venue for an annual showing of sweet South African jewels.
Cape Town heated-up again, and it was time to drink seriously. None of those one-third-filled glasses swirled, sniffed and sipped in amounts tiny enough to just-wet the crotch of the first summer butterfly. For big drinking is best done in gulps of ice-cold liquid, guilt-free glugging of wine made to satisfy the primal parts of sense and need. And rosé does it best.
A touch of South African winemaking flair hit America in September when Hamilton Russell Vineyards cellarmaster Emul Ross headed to Oregon to oversee the maiden harvest of Hamilton Russell’s first Pinot Noir to be made in the American North-West. That’s right, folks: the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley’s pioneering Pinot Noir producer has decided to spread its wings and make Hamilton Russell Oregon Pinot Noir, which is to be released in October 2019.
Okay that’s it. All wine is bad. First it was the recent suggestion from health-watch rottweilers that drinking more than two glasses of wine a day will have you keeling over from assertive cardiac arrest or collapsing with a debilitating stroke after making lewd remarks at the sommelier and offering to show him your “Montrachet or Bust” tattoo.
Now, this year, the advice is to stick away from wine all-together if you are serious about living to tell the tale of another (alcohol-free) day.
The adage of location, location and location does apply to curry houses not. Of the thousands of curries I have ordered with which to incinerate my frail insides, only a handful were eaten in environs that could be described as aesthetically pleasing.
Dingy converted garages in Birmingham. Goa gambling dens on the shady outskirts of Detroit. An on-off whore-house in downtown Durban… the look and feel of the venue just does not count if the curry is fragrant, exotic and gum-scalding spicy-hot.
South Africa might have a wine industry going back all the way to 1659 when one Jan van Riebeeck oversaw the first Cape harvest, but in certain aspects the country’s vinous ventures make this neck of the world appear like a new kid on the block. Take, for example, the spirit of independent wine-making where wine farms make wine from their own grapes and bottle the result under an own label.
Just when the fun seemed to have started, Cape Wine 2018 came to an abrupt halt. The largest and the best wine show in the southern hemisphere just appears to be going from strength-to-strength. Some 3 000 people converged on the Cape Town Convention Centre for three days of exposure to the South African wine industry for this showcase, held every three years. Best feet put forward, I’d say.
At this very moment of writing, a guy on a plane is bringing me a bottle of wine. The wine is a Domaine Mugnier Clos de Marechale 2015 and I bought it for R1 250. This is more than double the price of the Kanonkop Paul Sauer of the same vintage, one of the most magnificent South African wines ever made and in the news right now after having scored 100pts in Tim Atkin’s South African Report.
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015 has become the first South African wine to receive 100pts in the annual report on the South African wine industry by respected British wine judge, journalist and critic Tim Atkin MW. For his seventh South African report, which has just been released, Atkin tasted 1 986 wines from throughout the country, with Kanonkop’s iconic Bordeaux-style blend achieving the highest score.