The next time you are sitting at your favourite after work spot – sipping on something as the day ends while stress and worry take a backseat for the evening – let your gaze wonder to the other customers and observe how they sip their wines. As I am a frequent visitor to a number of bars/restaurants/pubs/wine-bars/shebeens/picnics/holes-in-the-walls/sidewalks/gutters/parks/etc I have observed how people drink my favourite tipple. And when stress and worry get out from the backseat entirely, kicked out by the third bottle, I find myself thinking about stereotypical wine drinkers based on how the wine gets from glass to belly. I present you with a few of my favourites and most observed.
Wine competitions. Born from the union of Satan and Lady Luck, I loathe them. And there a lot of them too. Just in SA there’s the Old Mutual Wine Awards, Michelangelo, Veritas, Top 100 wines, Young Wine Show, Classic Wine Awards, Diner’s Club Winemaker of the year, the various Top 10s, Nedbank Green Wine Awards, Terroir Awards, and more. There are also, of course, the plethora of international competitions. What are these providing other than extra weight to the competition owners’ wallets? Sod all if you ask me.
It is summer, and here in the Cape the long evenings nudge one in the direction of that most South African past time: the braai. Growing up, however, it was always beer around the braai and wine (white, nondescript, loaded with ice) in the kitchen. There was, of course, the exception in my French uncle for whom a glass of red wine is never far away. But beer was the norm. Beer dominates the braai. Is it some form of magnetic alliteration? Is beer that much better designed for smoke and charred meat? Do we still hold some outmoded idea that wine is for girls and beer is for boys? Or, possibly, is there some emasculation going on when a can is taken from the chief steak flipper and an elegant riedel glass subbed in?
This week I’ll be pairing some wines to three albums that have been occupying my earballs lately. It’s a tad facile. But then it has been shown that music can affect the way we taste wine. Drink, listen, be told a story.
Durban, the sweaty sticky place of my birth. Salty, thick air, slops, shorts, bananas and spice. If Capetonians are laid-back, it is because they’re stoned. In Durban people are simply mellow. It’s built in, climatic. It takes longer to walk through the weighty, humid air. As I was buffeted by this wall of jungle breath, and a filmy layer of sweat – that would remain with me for the next 10 days – formed, I wondered what wines would suit such a climate. And, more importantly, where could I get them?
I didn’t know what to expect, to be honest. I spend quite a bit of time at the Planet Bar (Thursday nights a must), which is sophisticated and cool, with a relaxed vibe. It certainly is more ‘mod’ when compared to, say, the world-famous Mount Nelson tea room – just next door. So when it came to [...]
In previous columns here I have gone on ad-nauseum about us needing to be more interested in wine. But I thought, maybe I can attack this from the reverse today. If I can get someone to consider the aesthetic of a wine, then maybe it will result in more of an interest. It’s a long shot. You may be thinking that I am being a pretentious wooly-hat-wearing hipster knob-end talking about the aesthetic of wine. I may have to give you the benefit of the doubt; although the wooly hat is very comfortable. Sod it, I’ll give it a go.
What’s the deal with South African Chenin? It has been a variety that I have espoused with vim and vigour since I became a wine consumer of serious proportions. I thought it offered excellent value for money, and offered a range of styles – “I’ll find one for you” I have cried to unbelievers. But had I been fooled by overt sweetness? Was my praise of this variety ill-founded? Had I been hood-winked by easy drinking cheap wines? Did my wallet guide my palate?
Christmas: a time of drunkenness, praise, and popped shirt buttons. There’s revelry and excess, angels and shepherds, and of course, the fat man in the fur-trimmed getup with a hankering for cookies, milk, and having children on his lap. A weird and wonderful time it is. It is also the time of year that wine columnists all over the world trot out their terribly banal “Top 10 Wines for Christmas” piece. I hate those.
What is needed is for wine to start appearing in South African popular culture. (Do we have one of those?) Remember that rather kak film, Sideways? That changed how Merlot and Pinot Noir were sold in the States. Just because that snivelly little prick Miles told everyone to “Fuck Merlot”, they did, running to quaff cheap Californian Pinot Noir by the bucket load.
I leave in a couple weeks for London, where I will be interviewing Daniel Craig on behalf of Ster-Kinekor for his new movie – a remake of The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. These ‘junkets’ as they’re called, feature journalists from around the world who come in, one after the other, to interview the actors for [...]
I think we pay too little for our wine. These thoughts have clouded my brain like a Joburg smog – discussions about money always leave a dirty taste – since I heard a few different pronouncements about wine and money. The first was at the Swartland Revolution – the constitutionally testing wine event I attended this weekend, whose schedule ran daily from august conversations about fine wine to hangovers that would bring a tear to your eye and a lump to your throat.
I remember growing up with this notion that things were always better “over the seas”. Finding myself amongst winos later in life, there is still a remnant of that idea. There’s almost a measure of disbelief when a South African wine is preferred to a French wine of similar style. It feels as though there is a lack of confidence in our own wines, one that’s only bolstered briefly when a foreign critic gives us a high score. The point – which is quickly becoming a bush around which I am beating – is that South African Sauvignon Blanc is world class.
I love tawny port. The flavours of sweet raisin, black tea and earth make we want to shout and dance around singing, “I’m Tawny, Tawny Tawny Tawny tonight.” I finished half a bottle last night in preparation for this column. It made me happy. But not as happy as I was the last time I drank it – and that’s the rub.
L’Heure bleue – the hour of blue. That’s the french description of the period when the sun has set, so named for the wonderful quality of the light. Now imagine celebrating this special time of day on a Friday evening between 17h00 and 20h00 at De Grendel estate, as the sun sets over the Atlantic [...]
As the temperature warms, the days grow longer, the skirts get shorter, skinny jeans are replaced with skinny denim shorts, and all and sundry converge on Camps Bay, Llandudno and the Cliftons after work to tan, swim, and pat themselves on the back for living in such an awesome city. We know summer is here.
It was quite fortuitous how I became hooked on wine. I wish I could say it was something dramatic: being bullied into a corner by two boisterous sommeliers and forced to taste Corton, but it was all quite simple, and it came down to difference. A friend called to say that her stationary-selling buddy could not make it back from Genadendal – or wherever he was flogging staplers – in time for a wine course. Being a spontaneous chap and always happy for a chance to imbibe in good company, I agreed to this little excursion without question.
Boschendal has cleaned up rather nicely at this year’s Wine Makers’ Choice competition. Hot on the heels of winning the Best Vintage Cap Classique, the Grande Cuvée Brut 2007 scooped a coveted Diamond Award at the 2011 WMC. Cheers to that. The Grande Cuvée Brut 2007 is one of only three Cap Classique Sparkling [...]
Yesterday the wines that scored 5 stars in Platter – South Africa’s foremost wine reference guide – were released. At this year’s launch, 18 tasters worked their way through the 7 000 submitted wines. Every now and then they came across one that astounded and delighted, a wine that made them smile and smirk, and hopefully, finish the bottle. Here’s my take on the affair.
There are some fantastic wine lists out there, please don’t get me wrong, but there is a disease of boring, careless, drek as well. Wine lists composed with the imagination of a brain bathed in tepid-water, whose purpose is more to nab bucks out your wallet than make your meal memorable. Considering restaurant wine lists in South Africa reminded me immediately of a recent South Park episode where Cartman’s mom doesn’t get him an iPad. His response:
“The wines of Constantia became famous in Europe at the same time (mid 1700 s) as the red wines of Chateau Lafite. Makes you think.” Su Birch, the head of Wines of South Africa, tweeted this week. Lafite is a famous French first growth – the 2009’s are selling for around 14 000 bucks a bottle. Yes Su, it does make me think. It makes me think, “Where the fuck did we go wrong?”
Recently I was knocking back Meerlust’s new releases at a lunch. Drinking these rather scrumptious wines, we began to discuss some incredibly important issues. The things one discusses at a wine lunch – among other winos – are, of course of world importance. They solve world hunger, the middle-east issues, America’s debt, Malema, Greece, and hint toward what 42 actually means. To be honest, if it wasn’t for conversations such as these, the world would be in a worse place than it is. So on this blustery day in Stellenbosch, the question that arose was, “Can wine be art?” As I said, vital stuff.
I have been a bit airy-faery of late, mouthing off about elegance, the nature of language, bonhomie, and the like. Which, I must say, I prefer talking about at dinner where there is plenty room to bang my fists on the table. And as the banging of digital fists becomes slightly tiresome, I thought I would veer off in a more practical direction. So here are a few tips to making your wine drinking life more pleasurable.
Drugs are great. Don’t listen to those naysayers who offer hugs instead. Silly. Whoever heard of a hug that produced art, ideas, conversation and discovery? Some may have led to sex, sure, but then I reckon ecstasy wins on that count. Of course, drugs kill people and ruin lives. So do guns, politicians, earthquakes, religion, airline food, ignorance, baseball-bats, well timed punches, badly timed racing drivers, and a host of animals. But none of these things gives us the sheer pleasure while hastening our demise that drugs do. Wine is my drug of choice.
Every now and again I’ll post a column on a certain word that wine people – myself included – use to describe wines that can be slightly troubling. I am going to try and make it a little bit clearer as to how the word is being used in reference to wine. Because as much fun as it is pairing wine with death, one must try to be of some use. Slight disclaimer: This is a column that imagines its readers enjoy thinking about wine a little. If you are happy with the “Ja, not battery acid I’ll drink it. Fuck that it’ll kill you” approach to drinking wine, this may annoy you.
There is so much drama in the SA wine industry at the moment, what with caffeine conundrums, and now a damning (albeit one-sided) report from Human Rights Watch that Western Cape fruit farmers are treating their workers like it’s the 1860s. I thought I would steer completely clear of such depressing matters and uplift the wine drinking nation with some sound advice as to what wine to open when faced with certain situations in your life.
I’d really hoped that coffee-tasting wines had been put to bed in this column. I had had my rant and the comments were made; I had purged myself from the nastiness, hoping never again to have to speak of these wines here. But it reared its vile little head recently when I read that caffeine had been found in one of the coffee styled Pinotages. I diluted my Chianti Classico with bitter tears, as I knew once again I would write something.
I had a dinner party last night at my penthouse at the Cape Royale Hotel, and I must just say that the star of the show (besides the Jack Daniel’s, Corona beer, Boschendal bubbly and La Fee absinthe) was “The World In Vogue” coffee table book I bought for La Muse a while ago. It’s [...]
Spoil the lady in your life.. by treating her to a breakfast at Boschendal overlooking the valley of Franschhoek. August is the month to spoil all Mothers, Daughters, Sisters, Grandmothers, Friends, Wives, and Girlfriends! Spoil the woman in your life this August, with a bottle of Boschendal Bubbly and upload a picture onto facebook. The [...]