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.
One of the many Cape estates experiencing an endless summer of wine tourism success is Simonsig, and this is no surprise. The Stellenbosch farm has always been a wine tourism pioneer. In the 1970’s legendary patron Frans Malan played a lead role in engineering wine tourism in South Africa and as far back as I can remember Simonsig has always been known as a winery with open doors and a hospitable, welcoming atmosphere.
Trying to stretch the limits of my original and unique Millennium® 1000 points scale for judging wine, I had a look at my expansive collection of Kanonkop wines. It was enough to give me a semi-woody: Pinotage 1973. Paul Sauer 1990, 1995, 1998. Cabernet 1982, 1988 and 1997. But I decided to haul out the Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2004, a vintage characterised by late berry-set, a pungent north-east breeze during March and a bit of hail in February. Average in the greater scheme of things.
A recent relentless travelling and business schedule in France had me pushed to the west, direction Bordeaux, throwing the flavours of Pauillac, Sauternes, duck hearts and Arcachon oysters at me with such feverish abandon that I did not even get around to drinking one red Burgundy during my stay. Okay, I did enquire at a wine market, once, but asking for Burgundy in the French west is pretty much like requesting a hymn-sheet at a Die Antwoord concert.
Despite the calls to duty asking us to embrace Chenin Blanc as the National South African White Grape and the reactionary colourful spats generated by the Sauvignon Blanc fraternity, there is only one real South African white wine worth taking to an international gun-fight, and he be Chardonnay.
Like the rich, the French are different. In what way? Well, going into detail cannot be done before proper broadband comes to South Africa as the reasoning is bound to be expansive.
Wine, for example, is one area in which the French are different from other nations.
Still the greatest wine country on earth. Has been and always will be. Blah.Blah. Agreed.
In the spirit of Bastille Day celebrations, thus, I’d like to take a look at five South African winemakers who to my mind have ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ knowingly or otherwise ?+¦-+???+¦-ú?-¦?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ been infected with French genes of vinous brilliance. Doubting Thomases can taste it in their wines.
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.
Stellenbosch is, and always will be, the greatest red wine producing region in South Africa. Why? Same reason that Hawaii has great pipeline, Germans make good cars and Chelsea will win the Champions League: because God intended it that way.
Chatting to a Pinot Noir maker a while back, the dude flicked the hair from his eyes and said that Jan Boland Coetzee was probably the best Pinot exponent in South Africa. “But unlucky for him, he’s farming in the wrong region.”
If God was a wine lover, the Grabouw-Elgin area would be his kind of place. In a country blessed with arguably the most splendid wine-land scenery anywhere on earth, this region of valleys, mountains, rocks, orchards and lakes must count among South Africa’s finest. It is also producing some pants-wetting gorgeous wines, with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling having thrust Elgin into the fore.
Oak Valley also produces a passable Bordeaux-blend, and Shannon has caused a few rattling Zimmerframes and pacer-recharging with its bulky Merlot. And then there are the brisk, refined bubblies produced by the late Ross Gower, wines whose legacy is fortunately still with us.