One of the most energetic wine-tasting experiences, for me, is a visit to Welbedacht in Wellington, home to one Schalk Burger and family, as well as a range of wines individual in style portraying an exciting uniqueness and true taste-of-place. And then, of course there is Schalk senior himself, one of the industry’s great conversationalists who also happens to have an exceptional knowledge of wine, geography, soil, botany and chemistry.
As Michael Caine would say, “Not a lot of people know that.”
I first met Frank Meaker in one of the coldest winters Paris has ever experienced. It was 1985, the weather so cold that the Five Nations rugby match between France and Scotland, which had drawn us to meet up in the City of Light, was cancelled as the Parc des Princes’s turf had frozen solid, making play unsafe and not conducive to avoiding cracked skulls and crushed bones.
The Gauteng propagandists constantly claiming the superiority of Johannesburg and Pretoria in wine -buying terms were dealt a bloody nose recently. A consumer survey commissioned by Caxton Media showed that the region with the highest per capita consumption of wine by value happens to be Cape Town’s Northern Suburbs. That is Durbanville, Bellville, Tygerberg and Parow, otherwise known as the Boerewors Curtain.
The one thing I dread about attending any formal wine industry discussion is that corny cliché of “South African wines are too cheap” and producers must therefore simply go ahead and raise their prices. Just like those who encourage the eradication of “boring commercial” grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and propose replacing them with trendy Trousseau, Cinsault and Verdelho, the urge to raise price is usually made by folk without any real economic dependence on or general clue of the business side of the wine industry.
Besides both having their respective important uses, Dias Tavern is like a prostate gland: you have to check-up on it regularly. Dias sees me about twice a week, and after a recent clock-in, the decision was made to place this eatery under a bit of media scrutiny.
Despite the pressure placed on my physical and mental stamina, a marathon wine-appreciation session this week-end past has me beating the South African Chardonnay Drum with admirable vigour this Monday morning.
When talk of Lourensford Wine Estate first started hitting the wine scene some 20 years ago, expectations were simply stratospheric. This is a magnificent old farm above Somerset-West, part of WA van der Stel’s spread going back to 1709. And if all the reports and hype were to be believed back then, Lourensford was going to be unlike anything the wine industry had ever seen.
Ek het verlede jaar hierdie brief vir Spatz geskryf. Deur Stellenbosch Visio. Ek wonder of hy dit gelees het. Rus in Vrede, meneer Legende.
Beste mnr Sperling
Vir almal is jy Spatz, maar ongelukkig sukkel ek om jou met ’n mossiekuiken te vergelyk, soos wat jou Duitse bynaam beteken. Met jou kenmerkende breërand hoed, kruisbande, fors fisieke teenwoordigheid en permanente wye blink glimlag is die beeld van ’n kuiken van enige aard nou nie juis wat by my verskyn wanneer ek dink aan Michael Spatz Sperling nie. Miskien eerder ’n arend as ’n mossie – ’n wyse arend vol durf en versiendheid en grasie wat met die lugstrome teen die rotswande van Simonsberg sweef en afkyk op Delheim en sien hoe hierdie prins van wynplase nou lyk, en dan terugdink hoe dit was toe jy in 1951 hier aangekom het.
There’s been a lot of talk about the recorking of old South African wines currently being undertaken by Joaquim Sá of Amorim Cork, but for me the real revelation was the contents of those bottles. It was, indeed, rivetingly exciting watching Jean Vincent Ridon, a world-leader in cork-extraction, prying open the dust-covered antiquities with surgical-like precision and refined expertise.
Being a result of humanity and culture, wine is inextricably linked to the language spoken in the regions where it is made. That is why, as I have stated before, one cannot truly understand the completer depths of the South African wine industry without a basic knowledge of Afrikaans.