People provenance leads me to wine. For as that old sage Duimpie Bayly, former production head of Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, likes to state: “I suppose they can say that wine is made in the vineyard. But I’ve never seen a horse win the Grand National without a jockey.”
For me, the minds, hands and hearts of people play as important a role in a wine’s attractiveness as terroir, cellar skills and perfectly grown grapes.
A new French-South Africa wine venture focussing exclusively on the making of classic rosé wines on the slopes of Stellenbosch’s renowned Helderberg wine region was launched this week with the first vintage of Pink Valley Rosé 2019. The Pink Valley property incorporates nine hectares of vines, the Pink Valley Restaurant and a winery, the only in South Africa built and used exclusively for the making of rosé wines.
Pink Valley is owned by Oddo Vins & Domaines, a French wine company belonging to father and daughter Pascal and Lorraine Oddo, with wine ventures in Provence and Sancerre (France), Rioja in Spain and in Sicily. In investing in Pink Valley, the Oddos partnered with their compatriot and wine investor Bertrand Otto, whose knowledge of the global wine industry and special love of the Cape winelands encouraged them to invest in South Africa.
I must have been about 11 or 12 when I knew that me and wine were going to have a tight relationship. The book I was reading was a James Bond, Gold Finger to be precise. And there Bond was, in white jacket and bow-tie, eating seafood with his famous nemesis, the evil Blofeld. And together with the sweet flesh of huge crabs, sauced with melted butter, Bond and Blofeld were drinking long, cold draughts of rosé Champagne – from iced pewter tankards.
It all sounded so deliciously decadent that I spent the rest of the book looking for bits about cold wine and food rather than my usual search for passages depicting illicit scenes of Special Agent James Bond in horizontal entanglement with a lithe beauty by name of Pussy Galore, Clitmarie Wishwell or Vulvatia Bonkstill.
The natural relationship between clay and wine extends beyond the water-retention abilities and agreeable pH levels that make clay soils conducive to viticulture. For close on 2 700 years clay has been used to make vessels for the fermentation and holding of wine. Since those first dubious drops of grape juice were poured into clay pots by the winemakers of ancient Greece, Georgia and Rome, the containers have hardly changed in shape and size. Amphorae, as they are known, are today not only eye-catching aesthetic complements to wineries the world over, but represent a modern vinous movement aimed at capturing the natural purity of fermenting and fermented wine.
One of the heavier burdens those in the wine industry have to bear, is the misperception that said individual has an encyclopaedic knowledge of all aspects vinous. It is simply assumed that those writing about or working in wine have a vastly superior frame of reference on the subject than the mere mortal who simply enjoys sipping the odd glass, instagramming irreverent wine labels or taking a selfie with some startled wine-maker found perusing the dog-food aisle at Spar.
There’s a hell of a lot going on in a good glass of Cabernet Franc. Shy this variety ain’t, tending to emit perfumed wafts nose-wards before gushing into the palate where a crunchy red-fruited flavour medley oozes zippy juiciness, finishing with sunny herbs and an exotic spice.
Laurie Cooper has been crowned Moët & Chandon Best Young Sommelier 2019. At age 28, she is the winemaker and sommelier at Abingdon Wine Estate in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands, the first family-owned estate to produce wines from the province. Together with her father, she runs all the viticulture and viniculture on the 4 hectare estate.
It was time to go in, right to the heart of the Stellenbosch Mafia. Guy who wrote the book about them, Pieter du Toit, well he reckons the local mobsters hang out at a joint named De Volkskombuis, pretty hard to pronounce for two New York wiseguys like me and Frankie the Juice. But nothing a little google-translate ain’t sorting out. Volks the kombuis and go volks yourselves, too.
One of the oldest white wine grapes in South Africa and still today the most widely planted, Chenin Blanc is being promoted as a national treasure. Over the past decade or so there has been a huge resurgence in the punting of Chenin as one of the local wine industry’s factors unique selling points, and quite rightly so.
If Chardonnay is not regarded to be an aromatic grape, what the hell is going on in this glass of Glenelly? Perhaps it was the dull, grey weather following a late-winter cold front or the impending gloom concerning another piece of news originating in the areas of State Capture or Bosasa that caused the senses to be so surreptitiously sparked by this wine. But there, sitting in Glenelly’s Vine Bistro with a piece of gelatinous pork-cheek, fat and sauce oozing in all directions, it was a Chardonnay made to rethink the border-transcending possibilities of the grape.