Saturday 18 May, was an exceptionally enjoyable day. Winter in Cape Town is unpredictably gloomy but the Universe conspired to treat us to a stunner. Don’t get me wrong, we were still warmly dressed and there were a few clouds in the sky, but we were still able to drink chilled white wine and frolic in what little sunlight we were afforded. Oh, and we could see the mountain, so you know, by all rights it was a typical summer’s day. I kid. I’m rambling. Saturday was a brilliant day powered by a collaboration with Mountain Ridge Wines. And some really awesome books.
Mountain Ridge is a wine farm located in the Breedekloof wine district, approximately an hour’s drive out of Cape Town. I first encountered them after winning a competition at an event last year. I never win anything. To be honest, the original winner forfeited because she had to leave the country and I was second in line. Look, either way, the gods of fortune smiled my way and I got to spend an afternoon traipsing across a place that makes my favourite thing in the world. Yes, envy me. We had a cellar tour from the winemaker himself – I pity the man because of the insane number of questions he had to endure from the gaggle of thirsty women trying to skip to the open mouth -drink wine part. On a secondary reading, that sentence makes no sense…
Mountain Ridge has a number of ranges including the easy drinking De Liefde wines, the medium and premium Mountain Ridge and Romansrivier wines and the range we tasted on Saturday, Jail Break Wines. Our sommelier in training, Brian, told us that the Jailbreak range is so named because of the intentional departure from the traditional wines that Mountain Ridge has been producing for years. The departure also means younger, less complex vines are being used. The youth of the vines leads to the easy drinking nature of the range, even when it comes to customarily complex and heavy cultivars like the shiraz.
We did something a little different this time around as well – we paired the wine with another of my favourite things (the list is long) – BOOKS. Shout out to my sister in law for the inspiration (I give credit where credit is due).
We started off with the chenin blanc – my personal preference when it comes to white wine. I enjoyed the muted acidity which while not as prominent, still tells the chenin story. We paired the chenin with Michelle Obama’s Becoming (all hail). This book, much like the chenin, is fresh and easy to read. The femininity of her story and the clear individualism carried across the pages is a breath of fresh air and reminder that Michelle is not just Barack’s permanent plus one, but a zesty, capable powerhouse human in her own right.
We paired the viognier (vee-o-nay) which is not popularly sold as a single varietal in South Africa and is known for blending, with a book of poetry by Yrsa Daley-Ward. I chose this pairing because of how both the book and wine are unexpected. Viogniers are deceitful things – big bodied, floral and even sweet on nose and weirdly acidic and citrusy on the palate. I’m not a fan – but because this is not just about me, a surprising number of the guests were sold, hook , line and sinker. Yrsa is a poet crush of mine. She’s beautiful – tall and modelesque (she both models AND acts), mixed descent and with a British accent. As though that wasn’t enough, she surprises people who would box her and writes poetry that requires you to read it like you mean it. She prompts introspection and the remembrance of difficult but necessary memories. Like I said, she’s unexpected.
The pinotage – was going to be paired with Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime, but my copy is missing and there is money for the soul who knows where it is. Unless that person is responsible for pinching it. I went with feminist literary godess (can you tell I adore her yet?) Pumla Gqola’s Reflecting Rogue. She articulates her feminism through a particularly South African lens even as she tells her life story through this book. There is something relatable about her pen yet you cannot ignore the clearly African feminist voice with which she speaks. Much like the uniquely South African pinotage, it’s not easily confused with anything else. Someone said it reminds them of incwathi , isiNdebele for little wood chips that are used to start fires. English speaking wine lovers use “earthy” to describe pinotages but I think I prefer this very African simile. Because we want to learnt to consume the thing in our languages too.
Okay, I’m wrapping up. Shiraz is known as a big lady, a big bodied wine, heavy in tannins and distinguishable from all others by the signature white pepper on the palate. Shiraz (for me) is the platinum level of wine and I love to sit with a bottle and you know, have a conversation with it. The books we paired with the shiraz are complex, heavy books covering topics that too this day, are difficult to discuss.In House of Stone, Novuyo Rosa Tshuma (who was my senior in high school and is now a world renown writer) writes about the Gukurahundi, the genocide of Ndebele civilians at the hands of the national army and took place in the early 1980s in newly independent Zimbabwe. To this day, the topic is shrouded in denialism and secrecy, making it a difficult subject to navigate. Yaa Gyasi’s Home Going explores the complicity of certain black African groups in the slave trade and the legacy it left. One that is still very much felt today. None of these books are easy to read and require meditation and patience. Perfect for a shiraz, no?
I hope this post inspires some winter reading and for you to seek out Jail Break wines. A huge thank you to the squad that rolled up!!