Drunk, General, Opinion, Rants, and Stories

The Great South African Tasting Note

Alas, the last few weeks have been too quiet on this blog. Quiet and eerie, @’s (the digital tumbleweed) have been blowing through the pages with nary a new word in sight.

Let me explain.

It started when a hubbub ensued over another wine competition. One of Wine Magazine’s challenges had been completed and everyone was tittering about Obikwa winning Best Value Shiraz. A decision that drew as much interest from me as a toddler draws meaning from Finnegan’s Wake. I tried to put my mind off it and turn to the slowly growing pile of sample bottles in my kitchen.

how-to-stop-depression But even this grew tiring. Mediocrity abounds in the South African winelands – not to say there isn’t greatness, just that it lives in a forest of boring bottles. My heart goes out to Platter reviewers.

Vexed, and lacking all desire to blog about wine – despite the pleas from those whose lunches I have attended and have remained silent on – I paced around my apartment wishing for solace in Champagne that I neither had nor could afford.

You see, it is not only the wine that had me down but also the industry’s desire for new voices. Only having started this blog in earnest at the beginning of the year it troubled me to see my inbox starting to become littered by press releases and invitations from PR companies. Don’t they know I’m a novice? Surely they might be in risk of casting their pearls before swine? Have they not asked themselves that I might quaff their sample bottles and write a raging, alcohol-fuelled rant against their precious brands?

It seems not. Rather the industry so lacking in voices – especially those under 30 – wants to foster them and is willing do so by all means of handouts and lunches. Which is great – cooking for one’s a bitch.

It reached a point though – one that threw me deeper into my confused and frustrated melancholy from which no words emerged – when someone at a dinner table referred to me as a journalist. I shushed him quickly looking around to see if anyone had heard; I do have my reputation to look after. If I’m known as a journalist then taking free stuff throws up ethical dilemmas I’d rather pass over in favour of another glass.

Is everyone with a blog now a journalist? I dropped my journalism degree to finish an Honours Degree in English Lit instead, something far better suited to my temperament, I thought. Yet still people want to label me as one. Shocking. Quite shocking.

The next morning, more downcast than ever, I was invited to another tasting. This one, however, promised to lift my spirits. It was a tasting of Eben Sadie and Dirk Niepoort’s wines. Wines I knew to be of interest and delight.

The Wine Cellar was packed. Mr. Sadie has much pulling power, much to the chagrin of other wine makers and writers alike. The wines presented sparked my delight in wine once more. Among them was the Redoma Reserva Branco 2007; its rich nose had a touch of brandy about it. A palate dense and lithe all at once; like a rotund ballerina in silk and pearls swooping across the dance floor. I wondered at its weight and texture, voluptuous but skinny, the weight and acidity played out in a lengthy score of minerality.

lady in stream Also Sadie’s Palladius 2008: another wine of texture and substance. It cajoled me, flirted with me. I thought of pineapples and stone fruit, I thought of possible milkshakes, I considered wine again. A sensual wine, of that there is no doubt; it is slightly viscous but is lifted by refreshing acidity and a taught undertone of minerals. A sexy stream rushing over a pebble bed. In a flight of fancy and anthropomorphising I took the Palladius back to the Mount Nelson, ripped off her clothes and shared a smoke and a bottle of Krug after a lengthy and satisfying ravishing.

The good people at Wine Cellar (the place for wine tastings in the city if you ask me, but remember I’m no journalist) poured for us a glass of Niepoort and Sadie’s collaborative bottle: Cape Charme 2008. This is rich, finely tuned and very expressive wine that I would rather debate with than ravish. Light in colour but not intensity: remember my good friends, you cannot taste colour. It had a floral nose with some meat hiding in the rose bush. There was some sweet raspberry fruit with a beefy shirazzy element on the palate. Textured, long, and very satisfying.

The Columella also delighted. The Redoma Tinto 2007 had the most gravelly, chalky finish that I’ve tasted which, amongst the sour cherry and tobacco, got me all hot under the collar.

Let us not forget the odd ball of odd balls in South African wine. Mr. Sadie’s Mrs. Kirstens 2008. The oxidative Chenin that sells for eight times the price of the vineyard’s age, which’s apparently older than my octogenarian granny. Would I trade it for all the Obikwa in Distell’s cavernous belly? You decide.

It is difficult wine to describe, but what I loved as much as the wine was Eben’s quip that “it smells of a time that is before yesterday.”

The Batuta 2007 filled me with desire for long, smoky dinners with lusty women. The 2007 Vintage Port from Niepoort stamped again my desire for vinous escapades with a thick crimson wax seal on the envelope of my existence.

I drove away dizzy with ideas and passion. Composing in my head the blog post for this wonderful evening. “It can’t be the same!” I shouted at man at the traffic lights. I laughed hysterically before driving on. I had it. It would be written in the second person present tense. I would draw readers in. I would be them. They would be me. They would taste the wines I had. I would write the Great South African Tasting Note.

Arriving home at the industrial apartment I pulled out the laptop and began. Like Jack Kerouac I typed furiously and with speed deep into the night. I called in sick at work and carried on. Not eating or sleeping I carried on drinking. I ran out of wine but the words I felt were still there. I left the apartment in search of more; Coriolanus sounded in my head “Have we no wine here!”

From here on it becomes blurred. I couldn’t find wine at that hour and headed for the docks . I remember playing cards with a Taiwanese sailor, and arguing with his captain about the reality of Dan Brown’s novels. Then, if what is tattooed on my inner thigh is to be believed, I had a torrid affair with a beautiful navigator whose name my English keyboard cannot pronounce.

I awoke in an opium den just outside Kabul. Apparently I started aOpiumSFDen commotion, shouting about a velvet fist I had lost, and that I was sure I had left it in an iron glove. I was subdued by small draughts of arrack and sent on my way.

It took me a little while getting home, so you can understand the lack of posts recently.

I arrived back with a hangover that stretched three continents. I sat down at the laptop to see what I had written. Some of it was OK, some of it resembled: “kj sad slepeginsd dtyiere s fp0ps er s wine irnfc unbelieve ahsy aht diad pqw deport as frpe fjdfn a jfnqqwe Fruit!!!!”

So much for the new Jack Kerouac, more like Joyce on meth.

But what I did learn was that drinking wine is much more important that writing about it, more important than competitions. Also cemented upon my consciousness was that one should strive to find interesting wines that provide freshness and personality, wines that fill you with ‘Wahoo’ over pretty much anything else and damn the price. Finally, that you should celebrate opening wines rather than waiting for celebrations to open them.

It’s good to be back.

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