Forgive us, but we figured it was ok to highlight wine instead of food this week. The existence of wine in the Cape Colony is no coincidence. Sailors long at sea often demanded wine in order to herd off scurvy and other fun diseases. Almost immediately upon founding the colony expeditions were went to the ‘frontier’ to find suitable land for agriculture, wine chief amongst the concerns of colonists, even though grapes had already been planted closer to town. The industry here got an added boost at the start of the 19th century when Britain and France were at war. Today pinotage is the king South Africa varietal, a hybrid of pinot noir and cinsault grapes, making it a light and fruity red wine.
The nicest part of the tastings in Stellenbosch was their format. Although we are from professionals, we’ve been to quite a few wine tours now. Generally the format for these things is to show up, stand at the bar while the bartender pours your new taste and tells you about the varital, remain standing while drinking, and quickly downing or dumping the remainder so that the bartender can begin the next taste. Not so in Stellenbosch.
At the first vineyard, we were handed a menu, told to choose our first selection, handed glasses and invited to sit on the patio. When we were ready for our next we got up and made our selection. If we wanted to try each Chardonnay, a second glass was given to us so that we could compare them side by side. Given that the tastes were quite substantial, and we each were allotted 5, we were there for quite awhile which kept us from visiting too many other vineyards. The second winery just sat us down, brought us each three glasses, filled them up, and gave us each a piece of chocolate to go with each wine. Can’t beat that.
Perhaps the reason for the difference is the age of the the South African vineyards (the first were planted around 1650) when compared with everything we’ve ever had in the Americas but I’ve gotta say…. Mendoza, Argentina needs to take note.