If you love wine, the last five months or so in KZN must have been super exciting. Or maybe led to many mornings of regret... Trade show after trade show, winetasting after tasting, the wine makers and their distributors use the months following the harvest and bottling to traverse the South African landscape and promote their latest releases.
During this time I attended trade shows, received wine makers at Alchemy to taste and discover, and hosted some memorable food and wine pairings. In short, wine heaven! In the process, I reconnected with old friends and made many new ones. Each experience unique, each offering a pearl of wisdom in some form. And this got me thinking about the people behind the (mostly) amazing wines.
Many years ago, at a well known Durban wine event then hosted at La Lucia Mall, my friend Michael made a comment that remained with me ever since. After chatting to what seemed like hundreds of wine makers (I can't remember all of them - their own fault for pouring so generously), we spent a bit of time with the amazing and super hospitable guys from Kloovenburg tasting estate olive oils. Refreshed, we moved over to sample wines from Miles Mossop. That was when Michael made a comment about "the wine people" - in essence, that they were all interesting, engaging, opinionated yet down to earth, and generally just bloody nice people.
Meeting many of these wine people over the past months brought back a host of fond memories, and created special new ones. It's probably not fair to single out any of my experiences, but there really are just too many. So I'll start with the one person nobody can criticise me for singling out - the father of Pinot Noir in South Africa, Peter Finlayson.
Amanda, my very supportive "dealer" and Peter's representative in the Durban area, messaged me to ask if I had time to meet and taste the new releases from Bouchard Finlayson. She mentioned that she would have Peter with her, and for a moment I thought "surely not THE Peter". At the appointed time, they arrived at Alchemy and I could see Amanda was stressed out. Can't blame her - Peter is a renowned wine maker and, certainly at first encounter, a serious man of very few words. So we had, shall we say, a careful start to the tasting. Frankly, I did not know what to say. What could I possibly comment that would neither offend the man nor embarrass me. But then the wine magic took over… one sip of the Blanc de Mer, an intriguing blend of Riesling, Viognier, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, left me wanting more, and that's when Peter shared his first pearl with me which underlines the subtlety and allure of his wines: "A wine has to call you back to the glass". And boy, that wine called me back to the damn bottle!
We sampled a few other wines, many of which we now stock (including the Chardonnay Sans Barrique and the wonderful Hannibal, a blend of Italian varietals).Somewhere during the tasting (I seriously do not recall what prompted this),Peter started singing Danny Boy, the well known Irish melody. I thought Amanda was going to fall off her chair and swallow her glass at the same time. What an experience, certainly one for the treasure chest.
So let me leave it there. I'll write about the other wine makers and recent experiences in my next post.
By the way, I rather enjoyed the glass of 2014 Keermont Syrah which helped me finish writing this! I'll be sure to mention Alex, the charming wine maker, next time.