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
Despite the centuries of blue-blooded Cape wineland culture resonating from its splendid buildings and vineyards, there is something wild and sparse about Meerlust that intrigues me. As if the entrance gate next to the dam is a frontier post, beckoning those who have crossed wild, unwelcoming terrain from Cape Town and is now about to take the first steps into the amicable palm of Stellenbosch’s wine region.
The busty blonde school-teacher points to the red carnation on the jacket-lapel next to a voluminous breast and asks Johnny at the back of the science class, “Tell me what this flower lives from,?” Johnny chirps, “Milk, Miss!” The class is hosing with laughter.
Wine connoisseur and marketer Bernard Kotze from Du Toitskloof Wines recently undertook a trip to America which resulted in an impassioned piece of correspondence. This I share with permission.
Dear Brother Emile
I hope that when these few lines reach you they may find you in the best of health. (Plagiarized from “Sonny’s Lettah” by Linton Kwesi Johnson.)
After eagerly abiding by your request to bring you a good bottle of Napa Cabernet Sauvignon from my three week visit to America, I feel compelled to share my quest – of-course I’m also aware of my presumptive expectation of you giving a shit. Anyway, what follows is my hero’s journey in search of your Cabernet Sauvignon, wine of origin Napa Valley USA.