Despite the pressure placed on my physical and mental stamina, a marathon wine-appreciation session this week-end past has me beating the South African Chardonnay Drum with admirable vigour this Monday morning.
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.
The sixth De Wetshof Celebration of Chardonnay was held last week on De Wetshof Estate in Robertson. Now one of the world’s leading Chardonnay events, this year’s occasion was addressed by American novelist and wine writer Jay McInerney. Herewith his complete speech on Chardonnay, terroir, Marilyn Monroe and Cape wine quality.
Chardonnay is the great chameleon of viticulture, or to put it in a slightly less flattering light, more than a bit of a trollop. It’s the world’s most famous and beloved white wine grape. It’s a superstar, beloved of drinkers and growers, famous all over the world. But it’s also an enigma wrapped in a mystery.
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.
I had always struggled to nail my precise feeling towards Pinot Noir when Danie de Wet did it for me. “You find three kinds of wine: red wine… white wine,” the Sage from De Wetshof said, “and then you have Pinot Noir.” This was over a decade ago when De Wet had been busy at playing pioneer again – not Chardonnay, but by making the first Pinot Noir in the Robertson Valley.
The deceptively simple and seemingly innocuous description stuck, and the more Pinots I drink the more on-the-button Danie’s words appear.
At wine marketing school they say a wine needs to tell a story. That’s about all you learn at wine marketing school, mind you. They don’t even tell you it needs to be a good and interesting and compelling story.
If Janet Leigh were a bottle of Pinot Noir in the Alfred Hitchcock classic Psycho and Norman Bates was a cumulative representation of terroir, Janet would have screamed her tits off in that shower scene. No grape, besides Chardonnay, reacts with such hysterical abandon to soil, climate and nature’s other vagaries as Pinot Noir.
The Bride had just sliced the head off her second masked Yakuza gangster when it hit me: what had really just happened over the past few days? Here I was, sprawled on the futon watching Kill Bill Volume 1, lulled by a warm comatose feeling of exhaustion and satisfied post-hectic workweek euphoria.
What a week, I thought looking at the screen as The Bride, aka Uma Thurman, drove a nail through the head of a Japanese schoolgirl.
So far, it has been a good year for Port drinking. And if things continue in this vein, my Douro resident permit should surely be in the mail. What’s more, since committing to dropping two bottles orfPort a week three months ago, my GP reckons I am in far better shape than ever. Blood pressure is temperate. The pulse is as calm and regular enough to manage a Formula One pit stop. And a painful stabbing check produced the verdict of my liver being is as unblemished and pure as a nun’s thigh.
It was a light, airy space, but we were feeling dark. We looked each other in the eye. Slipped our hands to our trousers, fondling. I took mine out first. Then he was holding his in his hand. And his was bigger.
“Nice Laguiole,” Anthony said, stroking his much more deadly looking pocket-knife. “Mine’s got 22 notches on it. One for every country visited.”
I slipped my modestly-sized Laguiole knife back into my pocket, cursing. If you are going to play knifey-knifey with Anthony Hamilton Russell, make sure you don’t bring a toothpick to an axe battle.