Worlds apart, the wine businesses of Portugal and South Africa share one overriding similarity. And that is the search for global recognition as a big league player.
The National Department of Sport and Recreation is seeking an explanation from the South African wine industry after industry representatives comprehensively lost a rugby scrumming contest against a team of national Portuguese wine makers in the Douro Valley. According to Ballus Haarhof, spokesperson for Sport and Recreation Minister Fikile Mbalula, losing to Portugal in rugby scrumming is not only a national disgrace, but the Department is also concerned that the South Africans tried to keep their loss a secret from the sporting world.
Nestled in the heart of the Douro Valley, the village of Pinhão was being drenched by sheets of icy rain riding into northern Portugal on a brutal cold wind from west Spain. It was all grey and misty and chill, but not even the sight of a ugly horde of red-shirted EFF water-bottle throwers or the sound of a whining Donald Trump speech would have rendered the Douro anything but magnificently beautiful. It truly is God’s wine country, the vines clinging to the 40 degree slopes, all granite and schist reaching to the heavens and stopping at about 1000m above the river.
I was looking at a stuffed wild cat when the morning’s first sip of vermouth was taken. Like the cat, the vermouth was Adi Badenhorst’s, he of the big hair and short, stocky Swartland swagger. The sun was bright, and a few white spring flowers had appeared in the view from Adi’s Kalmoesfontein spread of farmland, which was broad and wide and green. No “swart” (black) in this land, unless you include beaming faces of the smiling workers ambling past.
Tradition commands one to stand when drinking a wine older than your person, a custom the calling for which becomes less and less as Father Time crawls along. But yesterday, in Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal I was on my feet whilst attending a tasting at the great Port house of Graham’s.
One of the signs that the world is becoming a place for pussies is the downward spiral in global Port consumption. The alcoholic power of this magnificent wine style, as well as its delectable and uncompromising sweetness, has fallen out of favour in a wine world obsessed with purporting to drink stuff of restrained elegance and linearity. A hefty 18% per volume sugar-induced kick appears too much to handle for sensitive modern souls, and the inky blackness might just stain those freshly capped teeth.