It must have been just after the first Cape Town hipster had tragically died from beard-oil poisoning while drinking an almond latté when I first heard of the Dog’s Bollocks. I initially assumed this to be the name of one of these ridiculous shooter drinks or a vogueish new tattoo pattern. Instead, the Dogs Bollocks turns out to be a place in the Gardens flipping burgers which the in-crowd deemed to be the best thing to hit town since Dis-Chem started selling a ladies’ underarm grooming kit.
I had scarcely mentioned my attendance at the KWV’s recent swanky 100th birthday party in its Cathedral Cellar when I was reminded from some circles of all the bad things the KWV had apparently committed in the South African wine industry. As usual, these comments were devoid of any fact or substance, purely wishing to remind me that the KWV was “a monopoly”, had a “tarnished legacy” and was “broederbond”, the latter being an organisation of which most who throw its name around know about as much as Patricia de Lille is familiar with the domestic water systems of ancient Rome.
Regular attendees of wine events will have experienced an inspired wine maker or marketer stating that “wine is made in the vineyard”. Which is, with respect, becoming a bit of a cliché.
The role of the human hand in making wine can never be underestimated. As Duimpie Bayly, a true South African wine legend and former head of production for Stellenbosch Farmers Winery says: “Wine might be made in the vineyard, but I’ve never seen a horse winning the Durban July without a jockey.
The guessing game is over. After months of attempting to predict what impact the Western Cape’s ravaging drought was to have on the wine harvest, producers’ body Vinpro laid out the cards at an informative and comprehensive media briefing yesterday (8 May). South Africa’s wine cellars landed 1 220 920 tonnes of grapes – 15% less than 2017 – a figure that was initially expected to be even smaller. The grapes should convert to 948.3 million litres of juice and wine, calculated at an average recovery of 777 litres per ton of grapes.
Since stepping out from under the Distell-Lusan Wines canopy a few months back to become an independent operation once more, it has been pretty much business as usual at Neethlingshof Estate. This venerable Stellenbosch farm – icon, for me – is set on one of the region’s best sites. The old Cape Dutch architecture lying at the end of the pine-tree corridor continues to portray a genuine, homely feel. The gardens are pretty with restrained, un-showy landscaping and wonderful views. And the wine is still being made by De Wet Viljoen, his 15th Neethlingshof harvest having ended a few weeks ago.
As they say in the classics: What’s not to like?
Having covered the spectrum of fruit, spices, herbs, charcuterie and rock-types – to name a few – wine writers and other describers of the beloved elixir are now increasingly verging off into emotional and psychological terminology. Thus, terms such as “nervous”, “tense” and “vivacious” are increasingly being bandied about in the hope that the consumer subjected to these descriptors will be able to get a clearer idea as to the drinking pleasure the wine being discussed shall provide.
But I’d really like to see an unwooded Chardonnay being presented as “nicely nervous” or a “terrifically tense” Riesling getting consumers excited enough to check-in for some retail therapy.
The colonisation of the South African wine landscape by foreign powers continues, with French group AdVini doing most of the running of late. L’Avenir was first to fall in the hands of France’s fourth largest wine business, based in the village of St Félix de Lodez in the Languedoc, followed by Le Bonheur and a majority holding in Ken Forrester in 2016.
The deal cementing AdVini’s acquisition of Stellenbosch Vineyards has just dried, and I’d say the future for this bunch looks so bright they’d better get another set of Vuarnets.
It is that time of the year when the wine industry’s report card for 2017 hits the mail-box. And if corporal punishment was still legal it would be just the time to dust-off the cane, roll-up the sleeve and prepare to dish-out a bit of pain. For what’s going on with the poor showing of South African wine exports?
I looked at the Swiss-German as if he had just curdled the cheese fondue. Before me, a glass of red wine stood next to a bottle he had made from vineyards grown on a piece of earth as suited to Cabernet Sauvignon as the Israeli desert is to un-detonated missiles.
With every second Cape Town restaurants now priding itself on having the services of a sommelier, it has become evident that some laying claim to this title were created more equal than others – with respect to George Orwell, who also knew a thing or two about restaurants as well as dictatorial pigs. I am no demanding ponce when it comes to wine service, but if one wishes to be identified as a sommelier, having the following skills-set is advisable: