A recent visit by a delegation of MBA students from California had me thinking that our wine scene has an edge on the American industry. In one voice the Americans told me that back home – the world’s leading wine consuming nation – red blended wines were now becoming the big thing, with producers from sea to shining sea beginning to experiment with blends.
Showing my age I’ll admit that when first meeting the John Martin Sauvignon Blancfrom Backsberg Estate Cellars I assumed the wine was named after the iconic South African yachtsman. This John Martin was to round-the-world sailing what Cristiano Ronaldo is to football, and if ever a sailor needed a wine named after him, it would have to be our John.
Speaking on CapeTalk radio recently, one of the foreign judges flown out for the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show said the quality of the Pinot Noir category surprised her. Especially as the Wine Show’s South African judges were, prior to the tasting, “almost apologetic” about the quality of local Pinot Noir.
Shortly after Nelson Mandela was inaugurated, his office had a request from within the South African wine industry. The asking was that consideration be given to a national department of wine affairs overseen by a Minister of Wine. Today just the thought of a ministry with broad statutory powers sends shivers down the spine of the local wine arena – as it would have 23 years ago.
Anybody doubting whether wine is art should be a fly on the wall when winemakers get together to ascertain the merits and the components for making up a certain blend. I always find this an enriching experience, validating my conviction that wine does and always should stand apart from all other alcoholic elixirs.
Thys Louw has a simple answer as to why Sauvignon Blanc is South Africa’s – and one of the world’s – most popular single varietal wines. “The taste of the consumer. At the end of the day, after all that is being written, analysed and debated on the topic of wine, it all boils down to the taste of the consumer for whom wine is made,” says Thys who is cellar master and co-proprietor of Diemersdal Wine Estate in Durbanville, one of South Africa’s leading Sauvignon Blanc producers.
Once one stops asking questions in the world of wine, you might as well admit that your time in this most wonderful of cultural, scientific and agricultural arenas is over. It is the continued search for answers pertaining to a plethora of aspects about wine that makes this such a fascinating environment to work in. Oh, allow me to correct myself, one does not work in the wine world: you live there.
A march to the Bot River Wine Valley is set to disrupt roads leading into Hermanus this long week-end as hundreds of women plan to protest against the holding of the Barrels and Beards event. The annual event, presented last week in the Bot River, sees representatives of the local wine industry being encouraged to grow beards for the duration of the harvest, with the be-haired jowls being judged at a raucous evening of wine-tasting, dining and entertainment from the contestants.
Before you got there, the country wasn’t tough at all. The road began at Riversdale town in the Southern Cape from where you headed north. It was all pastoral, with the greenest of grass, still wet from the morning dew and the broad meadows specked by cows. Brown and tan, as well as black-stained Jerseys. There was a pass, then, the Garcia Pass named after a Jewish Portuguese land commissioner who had pioneered its building, grinding away at the first masses of rocks that are part of the famous mountain known as the Langeberg.
I come from hardy rural Afrikaner Boere stock where most of the older folk who dared to do so say they only ever tasted an oyster twice: once on the way down, and once on the way up again. As an off-shoot rebel, I fell in love with these bivalves while I was still sucking a bottle from one hand and shucking a Belon oyster with the other.