Lately I’ve been drifting toward the cheaper end of the wine spectrum as the belt has unwillingly been drawn in these tough economic times. So this column’s for stretched budgets, treats, great bottles, and benchmarks. International wines that I have tasted in the last year or so that stuck in my head, that I woke up the next morning still thinking about.
Making predictions is a fools game, but I feel as though I can see a corner in the distance. It’s a corner that local wine producers are turning, or at least preparing to turn. The big, overworked and oaked wines are on their way out. We present a few wines that demonstrate this turning point, and most importantly, you can afford them.
I recently attended a vertical tasting of Bouchard Finlayson Pinot Noirs, with a couple international examples thrown in. It got me thinking about Pinot Noir, and then about language, and then whether it is just better to get drunk. I decided it actually is better to think, so here are my thoughts.
Do you ever get frustrated tasting the same wines over and over again? Even if the labels are different, what’s inside never really changes all that much. I can understand this frustration, it happens to me every now and again. Wine is about difference, it’s about different areas, different varieties, different winemakers; at its core wine is about exploration. Wait, that’s not true, at its core wine is fermented grape juice, but you know what I mean. So to aid you in refreshing your palate, this will be the first of two posts listing young winemaker/winemaking teams making exciting personality filled wines from around the country.
Wine is drunk a lot. But what else can we do with the contents of Bachus’s juice bottle? Does wine have to be confined to the glass and stew? Does wine have a life outside sipping and slurping? Surely this most miraculous of beverages has other uses. It does friends, it does. And these uses have got me out of a few scrapes in my lifetime let me tell you about a few.
For the last column or two I have been rather negative, telling you not to drink this, and what not to do. It weighs on a man’s soul to be so negative so often. Today I am going to tell you about a few things that are awesome in the world of wine, things that I am happy to recommend – ideas and wines that will hopefully make your week.
It’s getting to that time when people are saying, “enough with the coffee pinotage already.” I don’t mean they are tired of drinking the stuff, rather that they are fed-up with my rants and raves on the subject. “We get it,” I hear them crying, “you don’t like the stuff. Move on.” I have tried, dear readers, I have tried so hard to seal my lips on the subject. I have tried to make the blasphemy a blasphemy itself. I have kept mum. I have kept it inside. That is, until I came across this: Coffee Pinotage, with bubbles.
Wine tastings. To state the bleeding amputated and mangled obvious, wine tastings are generally the best places to learn about wine if you don’t have an overflowing bank account, or an incredibly well stocked cellar. I can’t recommend going to tastings strongly enough if you are keen to broaden your vinous horizons. That being said, I thought I would give you a little guide of what not to do when you are there. For the most part, the parameters extend to everyday life, and can be summed up neatly as “don’t be a douche”.
The rough and ready salt-of-the earth winemakers of South Africa have been known to, at times, give me kak for being a soft handed, soutie poofta who spends all his time drinking, and none of it working. And despite the fact that they are not entirely incorrect with this assessment, I readily took Adi Badenhorst (possibly the saltiest and earthiest of the lot) up on an offer to stay on his farm for a few days during the harvest, and help out.
As South Africans, the availability of great wine that we are exposed to tends to make us snobs in the vineyard area. Luckily for us, we have brands such as Boshendal to sip on, and while we sip we can be glad to know that the perfection is being celebrated for all its worth. Boschendal’s Grande Cuvee Brut 2007 took home the Classic Wine Trophy Award this week..a well deserved one too.
Do you wonder if you won one of the 10 X R500 Sunglass Hut Vouchers? Or one of the 5 X cases of Boschendal bubbly? Or one of the 5 X cases of De Grendel rosé? Or, better yet, maybe it was YOU who won the iPad 2, from Digicape? Winners were picked by a […]
When I first moved to Cape Town and thought about Constantia, my mind was filled with images of botoxed ladies who lunch, old money and a nest of well to-dos in a leafy green valley. I was aware of the historic importance of the valley, but details were scant. Today botoxed ladies who lunch still wonder about in my imagined view of the valley, but they are all sipping on excellent Sauvignon Blancs. Don’t miss the competition at the end of this column!
A reader sent in this clipping a week ago, and with a glint in his eye questioned whether wine “experts” are as useful as snake-oil salesmen. The man has a point. When people start advising on matters that largely concern taste, you need to be extra careful for bullshitters. Not as careful as for a bullshitting anesthesiologist I’ll admit – a blagging doctor can kill you. But be careful, because there will be more half-arsed winos than there will be doctors.
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.