Thursday 13 January 2022

Too much wine down the spittoon

Traipsing a new wine trail

Having missed out on understanding the essence of the Garden Route wine trail in not visiting a wine estate, or a distillery as there were many in that area, we decided we’ll do at least tour of wine estates close to Cape Town with the view to doing something different.

We booked a tour on Monday night and had a phone call informing us that our tour guide would be round to pick us up from our apartment at 9:00 AM, we were up and ready well before that time, thinking we were going to join a tour group on a bus, but it soon dawned on us as we drove out of Cape Town that we were on a privately chauffeured tour.

We arrived at Meerlust at 9:30 AM, Felix, our tour guide thinking we were up for wine tasting at that time. I could not countenance the idea of swilling alcohol that early, I come from a good home, we cannot be tasting wine at that time. Even as we saw people walking towards to the tasting rooms, we did a U-turn and continued our journey to other wine estates.

Music for posh wines

De MorgenZon (Established 1699) in Stellenbosch was acquired by the Applebaum’s in 2003 and they have a penchant for playing classical music to the ears if they exist of the grapes to make fine wines, at which point I was rolling my eyes. Apparently, according to Kudzai, the sommelier who conducted the wine tasting at our table, the vibrations from the music help the vines.

When I visited the restrooms, there were music scores on the walls leaving one captivated by both the familiarity and the strangeness of the music. Some new knowledge we gained was that for certain wines, the grapes were pressed with the stems to give that lemon zest taste.

My question was whether this excursion into the musicology of viticulture had made allowances for changes in vintage if the genre were hip-hop, blues, or jazz, for which no research could be provided. However, the vines were on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on our visit, the day before, they were given a serving of Antonio Vivaldi, to which I quipped as the weather was changing, if it was The Four Seasons.

A platter to clatter

Next, we arrived at Neil Ellis, a rather modern looking setup where we were told by the Tessa, the sommelier that they mostly buy in their grapes, though they have recently come into possession of a number of vineyards. Then again, this would suggest the wines made here are down to winemaking skills than the end-to-end from planting to bottling or core viticulture.

We availed ourselves of the platters of cheese, Parma ham and somewhat bland melon, but of the wines we tried, we came, we saw, we drank, we left. Nothing more to be said than the evident prospect of no return. Thank you.

At Haute Cabrière (Established 1694) in Franschhoek, by Pierre Jourdan for whom their Methode Cap Classique wines are named. Bongile, the sommelier, whose name attracted a twisting fate of mispronunciation, was helpfully at hand to explain as we took in the amazing mountain views from the tasting room. The bubbles go to my head.

Down a snake-winding staircase to the view of a cellar of barrels in a temperature-controlled room. To the right, the gents with urinal bowls full of ice cubes that creaked to the heat of your urination. Dare I say that might have been the highlight of my visit to this wine estate. We cannot for the snobbery of wine accept as good what our taste does not perceive, regardless of the medals earned from wherever.

Just at the very last

We invited Felix to have a late lunch with us in Franschhoek before visiting the last wine estate on our itinerary, Rickety Bridge (Established 1797) which for all its old money looks as part of an old estate La Provence now had such avant-garde names for their wines as Printer’s Devil from a few decades ago. In my own opinion, the range of wines were without character, though almost with distinction in aroma and definitely not in taste.

On being asked about my assessment after tasting 4 wines, I suggested they were a bit arboreal, a word our sommelier whose name I cannot recollect might not have understood, having not been provided with a spittoon, we had poured it all down the roots of a tree by our table.

The fifth wine had desperate attempts at effecting character but coming short in defining itself, that it verged on the quite truly forgettable. She returned with a Pinotage that did go down well, the first glass of about 25 wines that I had tasted in the day that I drank all up. Much as I sympathise with the winemakers along with the art, craft, and expertise involved in making their wines, to the individual, it is down to taste, palate, and comfort, one man’s poison is another man’s elixir. C’est la vie.

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