Taking Stock in the Quiet Days of Winter

When one works at a restaurant that caters mainly to the masses of foreigners that arrive looking for lions and tigers (generally disappointed with the latter), climbing the mountain, visiting the little Island off our coast or trying to find out if African men really do have bigger cocks, June is a quiet month.

In June we mainly wait for July. In July the Northern Hemisphere’s summer holidays are in full swing and tourists start to arrive again. Winter is a good time to take stock (literally and figuratively), I have been doing both with our wine and wine list. I have chosen the figurative to write about as a post about counting bottles would be as worthwhile as discussing logic with Mr. Shivambu.

By the end of August I hope to have completed our new wine list and in these quieter days have been thinking about how to approach it. The thinking has not got me as far as I had hoped so, I thought a post about it might help me get my thoughts in order.

The Clientele

Since the majority of our customers are foreign we don’t benefit from ‘trendy’ wines. For example the Haute Cabrière Chardonnay Pinot Noir which one local customer informed me “the chicks dig lank” sells very well at local restaurants because of the brand’s status within SA, but here we move it steadily but quite slowly compared to our other wines.

I can’t entertain the idea of catering to the ‘palates’ of every nationality on earth – it seems there is an American palate, an Australian one, of course a European, and the big question is, what of the Chinese’s? – even if I could identify them in the first place. It also does not seem like a good idea to pack the list full of internationally known South African wine brands. If they can pick it up at Waitrose what am I doing to broaden their knowledge of our wines? They have to buy it from Waitrose in the first place would be the obvious response, but I will leave that up to the marketers.

So our wine list becomes about South African wine as a whole rather than certain wines we think will sell well, or big name SA wines. It forces me to choose wines based on quality and value and, just as importantly, showcase not only the different varietals we produce but how they embody the lands that bore them. In essence the wines must be high quality at differing price points and distinctly South African.

The Size

It would be easy, in trying to execute the idea I have outlined, to end up with a wine list as thick as a brick, I do not have this luxury. Our list will be around seven or eight pages long and will consist of about 50 odd wines. This makes the task a little harder if I want to offer a sense of place in the list. To do this I will make sure that out of all the wines on the list all the different growing areas are represented.

A Plan

I will continue to post on how this all comes together, but so far I have one or two ideas. Our biggest selling red is always a Pinotage. The tourists are in a Cape Town restaurant with the drums beating and the Kudu on their plates and they want a Pinotage to go with it. So there will be more Pinotage than other red varieties, but showing the different styles possible with this divisive grape. I am also considering a section with Cape Blends. There is no definitive definition as to what a Cape Blend should be, but my view is that there has to be Pinotage in it. I’ll also be punting Chenin Blanc heavily. We plant more Chenin than any country in the world and it is an amazingly versatile grape. I want to showcase all that can be done with Chenin and we’ll have dry, off dry, oaked, unoaked, sweet and a brandy all made from Chenin. The trick with showing a bit of bias toward certain varietals is maintaining balance. I’ll have to work that bit out as I go.

More Later

That is about as far as I have got for now. As I taste my way through the different wines I’ll try blog about them and map my progress. The next few months will at least be filled with copious amounts of wine. This is good. If I can find the great ones, even better. 

Oh and . . .

if anyone reads this (the ultimate blogging question) I would appreciate any advice you have, and will be happy to invite you to take part in my tastings when they begin.


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