We are in the middle of a pandemic and for the overwhelming majority of us, this means that life has taken on an entirely new meaning from what it might have been a year ago. This time last year, I was beginning a new journey after having left formal employment. I recall kicking myself in the behind at my horrendous timing but, a year later, here I am. I am alive, healthy and happy, regardless of the world ending every day around me. The one thing I could never have predicted for this life of mine, was a move to Johannesburg. A move I am still calling “temporary” although I have been here for almost seven months and my Takealot delivery address has changed.
Being spoilt for choice as a Capetonian, the one thing I remained apprehensive about was how to source great wine without having to break bank in the big city. Having lived in Cape Town for over eleven years, one gets comfortable with zipping down to the winelands to restock, or visiting boutique wine stores that are littered across the city. Even your local grocery store has decent wine for gifting, partying or solo imbibing purposes. Joburg definitely did not strike me as a place where one could build the same easy relationship with wine purchasing. So I spent the bulk of my newbie months importing from the Western Cape – well, for what little time we were able to, what with all the lockdowns.
So, you can imagine my glee when, a few weeks ago, I discovered a lovely, well stocked boutique wine retailer and tasting room not ten minutes from my home. I thank the often shifty Instagram algorithm for letting that flyer appear as I was scrolling (instead of working of course). It was an invitation to a night of blind tasting at Eighteen13 – my new favourite place in Fourways. Located at the trendy Cedar Square, a shopping centre which features specialty stores and restaurants among other entertainment, it is a prime location for winelovers of all races, LSM and palate. After an interactive and informative night, I managed to corner the owner, fellow Capetonian, Cezanne Kouta for a chat about this gem.
Cezanne grew up on the doorstep of the Stellenbosch winelands in the Western Cape – 5 minutes away from Meerlust Wine estate. His first real wine experience, like so many of us, was while pursuing a degree in management accounting at Stellenbosch University. For broke varsity students, wine tasting remains one of the most affordable weekend activities, and you’ll have to spend many a weekend trolling the different wine routes before you can even put a dent in the expansive list of available wine establishments. He would take the ladies out to wine farms and win them over with the ambience, excellent wine and affordability (which he stealthily kept a secret from the non-natives). All in all, a formidable wooing kit. His dates quickly led to him visiting the farms intentionally, without lady companions, building his wine repertoire and passion for the grapes.
How did he find himself int he wine business if he didn’t study viticulture? I too, was curious. He started off in South Africa then furthered his studies in the United States of America. Upon returning home, he worked in the corporate world for a while before throwing in the towel and deciding to pursue his true love -not before kissing a few business frogs. His entrepreneurship journey took him back to the USA and east Asia before he settled in the hip and young Fourways area of the City of Gold. His business acumen and love for wine is manifested as Eighteen13 – arguably the best place in Fourways and the surrounds to procure unique and delicious wine, without the intimidation one often encounters at wine retailers.
Cezanne noted just how much of our excellent wine gets exported and in comparison, just how few South Africans are exposed to the true expanse and quality of wine that is produced in the country. This exclusion is part of what pushed him to create a space where smaller, boutique producers, who don’t always have the opportunity to become household names locally, for a myriad of reasons, could shine. He prides himself on stocking only South African wine – because well, that’s what he knows. Why would you step out of your comfort zone when your comfort zone is filled with so many magnificent bottles?
For many South Africans, wine is an intimidating thing. From its historical producers, the often complex and unfamiliar language used and the sometimes impatient attitudes of industry players towards the lay person, it’s not always easy to venture into the wine space. It can be daunting to invest time and effort in learning, especially if you couldn’t describe a loganberry even if there were a gun to your head. Cezanne wants to demystify wine and encourages its consumption the same way one would enjoy a beer – you like it? Then drink more of it. Surely, with people like Cezanne championing the cause, it could one day be so simple.
I think the most endearing thing about Cezanne is the lack of pretentiousness when you interact with him. He cracks jokes, pokes fun at you and challenges you to try new things – without making you feel clueless. Walking into Eighteen13 is like walking into your mate’s house on a chilled Saturday afternoon. There is always laughter, someone having a coffee (yes, there is coffee and it’s pretty good) and the best selection of hiphop, lo-fi, old-school RnB, and even French cafe music floating through the speakers. Eighteen13 is truly a door to the winelands in the middle of Joburg’s concrete jungle, that brings together an eclectic crowd that seeks only to learn and enjoy some good wine.
And if Cezanne can’t beat you on price, he will beat you on selection.
Eighteen13 is a knowledge centre. Cezanne takes a one on one approach to dealing with clients and learning their tastes – which is how he has built his wide client base. Visit the Eighteen13 website and socials for updates on the array of wine related activities held there during the week. From blind tastings to painting and quiz nights, your wine nights will never be boring!
So go through and get your wine on.
The Empress xx
#beccaswineswap will be collaborating with Cezanne and Eighteen13 for an event on 24 March 2021, please see my socials for more information.