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.
The animal is there, the question being what are you going to do about it? At a monumental Pinotage tasting held in the Braemar domain of Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, a gathering of wine-makers, insightful marketers and lonely scribes assessed a line-up of wines drawn from a broad spectrum. Some familiar Pinotages were allowed in among a collection dominated by offerings from cooler and far-flung regions, signed-off by wine-makers who might be termed as being non-traditionally associated with South Africa’s home-grown red grape.
I really thought hell would freeze over before a bunch of rural Breedekloof winemakers would be eating raw fish at an Italian joint in Cape Town while talking about their Chenin Blanc wines. And while hell is still blazing, apparently, it was cold enough to freeze the scrotum on a brass monkey when the Breedekloof Makers – aforementioned group of Chenin Crusaders – hit town to offer their current wares. Raw slices of red roman – Italian style at Riva Restaurant – optional.
It is a feature of the wine world that some human DNA has become embedded in certain grape varieties. In South Africa, for example, it’s impossible to think of Chardonnay without seeing the formidable presence of Danie de Wet from De Wetshof before you. And who can pronounce “Pinotage” without mentioning Beyers Truter in the same breath?
This is the second year I ran into Amanda Barnes, British wine writer and judge based in Mendoza, Argentina, at the Michelangelo Wine & Spirits Awards. Between flights of vino I got her talking on what she’d been tasting.
Michelangelo Judge Amanda Barnes on Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz
Judging for this year’s Michelangelo International Wine & Spirit Awards kicked off in Stellenbosch with 30 judges from 16 countries making their way through the record number of 2 244 wines and spirits entered for this year. Visiting South Africa for her second stint as a Michelangelo judge, Argentina-based British wine writer and judge Amanda Barnes is one of the assessors of the two largest wine categories, namely Sauvignon Blanc and Shiraz.
History is the thing, and amateur historian Lafras Huguenet translates the rare slave diary of Duferius of Angola from Portuguese.
Monday, 6 August 1792
Our keeper, Sluithol, cruised in at day-break to unlock us for what promises to be a helluva working week filled with tremendous excitement and thrilling activities. Nekka of Bengal and his team were out to prune the last of the Muscat vines, as Baas Hendrik said the Bible told him it was going to be an early spring. Rosario of Malacca had some labelling of the previous vintage to do. And Perfort of Ghana had to move his ass as our entries for this year’s Pompengracht Wine Competition have to be in by Wednesday.
The tuxedos are being aired and pearls polished, for this is now the official awards season in the South African wine industry. With the invitations flocking into my in-box with greater frequency than unsolicited photographs of Melania Trump and requests for trinchado recipes, I am reflecting on the status of wine shows. Again.
Two are standing out – one old and one new.