The last time me and Jackie the Juice did a job together was back in the Old Country when the Don’s son-in-law Flavio needed some skull-work on account of Flavio playing hide-the-prosciutto with the neighbour’s wife. Now Jackie’s sitting aside me at a joint in Africa goes by the name of Stellenbosch, where the Consiglieri sent the twos of us to check out the rumours that a branch of the Mafia is operating in this little old town.
South Africa might have a wine industry going back all the way to 1659 when one Jan van Riebeeck oversaw the first Cape harvest, but in certain aspects the country’s vinous ventures make this neck of the world appear like a new kid on the block. Take, for example, the spirit of independent wine-making where wine farms make wine from their own grapes and bottle the result under an own label.
Regular attendees of wine events will have experienced an inspired wine maker or marketer stating that “wine is made in the vineyard”. Which is, with respect, becoming a bit of a cliché.
The role of the human hand in making wine can never be underestimated. As Duimpie Bayly, a true South African wine legend and former head of production for Stellenbosch Farmers Winery says: “Wine might be made in the vineyard, but I’ve never seen a horse winning the Durban July without a jockey.
I come from hardy rural Afrikaner Boere stock where most of the older folk who dared to do so say they only ever tasted an oyster twice: once on the way down, and once on the way up again. As an off-shoot rebel, I fell in love with these bivalves while I was still sucking a bottle from one hand and shucking a Belon oyster with the other.
I was nine years old and needed a drink. Who wouldn’t? And not any drink, but Champagne. Pink. Cold. And glugged from a large foaming silver tankard.
When finding it difficult to explain my preferences, I always refer to the great works of classical culture. Take my love of pink, rosé sparkling wines. In their epic song “Hotel California”, The Eagles did not sing “Mirrors on the ceiling/the lees-matured Champagne on ice”. Nor …”the vintage Blanc de Blancs on ice”. No, it was “pink” Champagne they roped in to colour one of the most magnificent seven minutes of rock music in history.
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.