There is one thing a wine maker cannot learn or buy or initiate, and it is not something he or she is born with, either. This is a gift given after you have earned it, and it is a gift called respect.
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.
We were talking about a herd of lion devouring a still-living eland when Boela Gerber walked in with a bottle. I tried to follow the rest of wild-life photographer Hannes Lochner’s story, which was getting interesting: the black mane Kalahari lions were now plucking the eland’s wriggling fetus from her cavity. But the Cape Winemakers Guild wine Boela was carrying was more exciting, more visceral, more thrilling.
With nothing eventful in sight for the rest of the year, herewith some of my highlights.
On the local front I am going Grenache, and I am going Neil Ellis 2011. Made from old vines on the Piekenierskoof, this is the kind of wine that will urge an Iranian camel-jockey to start drinking. Garnet in colour, brooding tones of fennel and soil, the wine dances a fruit-laced medley comprising berries, quince and ripe fig. Everything is fresh as a showered pom-pom girl and the palate-weight is graceful, while the wine’s length lasts longer than a Julius Malema court appearance.
Old vineyards do not guarantee good wine, as I have always suspected despite the generalised assumption that a wrinkly ancient vineyard planted when Jan Smuts was still being breast-fed just has to produce fantastic grapes. At a recent memorable tasting of Grenache wines from a vineyard in the Piekenierskloof outside Citrusdal, Neil Ellis confirmed these suspicions. However, the Master said, when it comes to Grenache, the vineyard only tends to get a sense of direction after hitting 20 years.
Heading off to Arcachon outside Bordeaux later this month, part of my visit will entail presenting a tasting of South African wines to some local journalists, rugby players and vignerons. As the first American on French soil?+¦-+?+¡during D-Day said: ?+¦?+º?+¦There ain’t no free lunch.?+¦?+º?+æ
Strange as it may sound, there was a time in South Africa when chefs were, well, just chefs. Nameless, faceless men and women who gallantly slaved away in restaurant and hotel kitchens, feeding patrons to whom only the content of the plate mattered. The Ch?+¦???+¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¬teaubriand (for two, of course) and Crayfish Thermidor could have been cooked by Hannibal Lecter or Marilyn Monroe, nobody would give a chicken liver.
A dining venue was judged on the food and the ambience and the mood created by the fulfilled feeling of being fed by others.