Cool Strokes for Hot Folks

Being of pale European origin my fragile physic goes into lockdown mode when the air’s temperature exceeds 30°C, as is currently the case in South Africa’s Western Cape. It is a dead, still heat reaching the most unexpected body parts and leading to slick perspiration seeping from mysterious orifices.

In months like these I truly wish my constitution was similar to that of the happy local vineyard harvesters, cheerfully picking grapes under the noon-day sun instead of my grappling with the ineffective air-conditioning in the 2nd hand Toyota HiLux. Unperturbed by the heat, these life-loving men and ladies smile as they lug grape-laden bins to the waiting trailers, stopping only to laugh at my hot and bothered countenance behind the vehicle’s wheel. “Jou ma se bakkie drip kookolie.”


But tangible discomfort is not all one has to face during this savagely hot summer. What to drink when evenings, too, are as relentlessly muggy and warm as the thighs of a belly dancer in menopause?

Despite some strange incidents with sangria during my term working in Seville, Spain, I still rate this wine-fruit concoction as my all-time alcoholic thirst quencher. A bottle of dry red wine poured over some chopped apple, pear, orange and limes and topped with a litre of soda water and cups of ice-cubes is more refreshing than a wine back-label devoid of adjectives.

Spaniards tend to add a tot of three of brandy to the mix. But not me as the spirit increases the mixture’s potential for getting the drinker about as pissed as a sangria-drinking tourist, which is not a pretty sight. I vaguely recall once asking a nun if I could dance the flamenco with her, and all I clearly recall is the sounds the rosary beads made as the landed on my jaw.

Wine cocktails are quite cool at the moment due to the resurging cocktail culture. And here the beauty that is wine needs to be realised. A cocktail comprising a half-glass of dry white wine topped with soda and a slice of lemon has far more structure and flavour than those half-brained Blow Jobs, Maxi Pads and Flaming Scrotums mixed by tattooed hipsters in downtown Cape Town mode pads.

Sangria. Olé!
Sangria. Olé!

Beer is all good and well, but the discomfort caused by the bloated feeling hampers the ability to engage in activities requiring acceptable social etiquette – except if you are British, German or Australian.

Far more civilised is a Black Velvet, a splendid mixture of Guinness and Cap Classique sparkling wine. Blended half-and-half from aforementioned ice-cold ingredients, the smoothness of the Guinness and the perky acidity of the Cap Classique combine to create a concoction that will quench the thirst of a camel that has carted Lawrence of Arabia on his pub crawl through the gay hangouts of Cairo.

But at the end of the day, a glass of ice-cold dry white wine does the trick for me. I don’t believe this nonsense about lower temperature suppressing the flavour of a wine, so good Chardonnay or Riesling, chilled to just above freezing, quenches the parts other drinks have yet to discover.

– Emile Joubert


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