I had just began smelling the contents of the glasses before me, when the CEO himself took-over. The venue was Delaire Graff, that most magnificent wine estate at the top of Banghoek with views from where, on any kind of day, you can see forever. And Johann Laubser, responsible for running all aspects of this destination’s impressive array of culinary, vinous, hospitality, art and lifestyle offerings, just had to make time to discuss the factor responsible for Delaire Graff’s very existence: wine.
There are wine brands that I grow into trusting. Others delicately instil trust through providing impressionable bits of joy and genius. Then, one or three grab me by the throat and force me to trust them through their sheer power of conviction and unbridled brilliance.
The sun is high, high above the mountain that can no longer cast any shade. That mountain is a good mountain, it is Simonsberg mountain outside Stellenbosch and I am drinking South Africa’s best wine varietal. Cabernet Sauvignon. For me, that is, as like mistakes and secrets, all opinions and tastes and loves are personal.
Hindsight brings wisdom, so it is only now that I am truly beginning to get what Mike Ratcliffe and his team were on about with Vilafonté. It was in 2005, at a gathering of the Wine Swines – the most famous wine-tasting circle in South Africa – that Mike used the word “luxury brand” to introduce a thing called Vilafonté which he was driving together with Californians Phil Freese and Zelma Long. It was the maiden 2003 vintage of the Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated Vilafonté “C” and the more Merlot-ish “M”.
For the past few days I have been fielding calls from concerned friends living in far-flung foreign lands. South Africa is, once again, engulfed in flames and smoke, and I am getting more invitations to hot-foot it to other countries than a Russian stripper gets marriage proposals from customers on their 2nd bottle of Grey Goose and 4th lap-dance.
Sanity has set in, and it would appear that those voices claiming the South African wine industry only really began to make its mark in the 1990’s are either deciding to shut-up themselves or are being silenced. Sure, when economic sanctions prevailed in the 1980’s it was harder for a South African wine farmer to get a wine listing at Waitrose than a ticket to the Nottinghill Dreadlock Weaving Convention. But just because we were stuffed in the market place, does not mean no good wine was being made here.
Patat barked. And as Dachshunds do, his three fellow canines joined in to create a merry cacophony of yaps, these being of the “welcome to Meerlust” kind. The six other dogs who make up the bevy of hounds, larger and some less purer of breed than the Dachsies, were taking it easy, lounging on the sofas, armchairs and blankets spread through the various atmospheric rooms – moodily lit – that make up the splendid Meerlust manor house.
I am having a slight disagreement with Danie de Wet about limestone, that integral soil component needed for the growing of great Chardonnay grapes. And the debate’s gist involves creepy-crawlies and seashells.
Robertson, home to Danie and De Wetshof, also has the highest limestone content of any South African wine-producing region. Like Burgundy and Champagne has shown, Chardonnay comes to the fore in chalky lands. It has to do with pH and balance in the wines; structure and verve and longevity.
There is nothing like thirty-six minutes of deft levitating while listening to the droning hum of a Buddhist priest to work-up an appetite. The other members of my Black River Soul Revival Club may be happy to munch on raw nuts, low-fat yoghurt and organic sprouts after a spiritual work-out. But the real holders of an inner-void need heartier fare.
Spotting the second Snowy Egret ever to have winged into South Africa was supposed to be the highlight of my day. Thys Louw from Diemersdal Estate changed that. I had a rare bird in the hand, indeed, but it was worth two cases of good wine in the boot. Continue reading