I grew up in a strict Christian home and I was raised to eschew strong drink. I was well on my way to teetotalism until my very first sip of alcohol. I was a goodie-two-shoes back then (I remain one for the most part), and I waited until my Leaver’s Dance (Prom/Matric Dance) in 2008, shortly after my eighteenth birthday to try some. My date was a family friend who had replaced my preferred date (I was dumped last minute by the (then) love on my life),and he was totally big brother-ing me. I got tipsy off a glass of what we were calling ‘peach champagne’ but was probably an MCC , and I cannot for the life of me, remember what it was called.
I didn’t drink wine again until 2010, in my first year in Cape Town, where all wine bottles go to die. And I will never forget it. My cousin worked at a schmancy hotel and she would bring equally schmancy wine home for us to indulge in before hitting the town. My first ever glass of wine was filled with Alto Rouge.
The Alto Rouge is one of South Africa’s most renowned wines, and rightly so. It is a blend (meaning that different types of grapes were used to make it) of Shiraz, Cabernet Frank, Merlot and Cabernet. And it hasn’t won awards for nothing. It’s an easy, drinkable wine, tastes like berries and chocolate, with a hint of vanilla and spice. Each time I drink it, I fall a little bit more in love – mostly because of the sentimental bond I have with it. You can get it at any retailer worth its salt for between R80 and R110.
I guess what I’m trying to say is this: if you want to discover wine and which wine you like, START SOMEWHERE. Pick a random bottle off a shelf and taste it. Decide if you like it enough to try it again. Then next time, pick something else. Think of wine like food; you’ll never know if you like it unless you try it. If you’re too much of a commitment-phobe to start with a whole bottle, you’re in luck.
If you, like me, live in the Western Cape, you have a plethora of wine tasting options available (see end of post for some of these options). Wine estates are notoriously welcoming and one can pop in without a reservation (not wise during peak season) for a tasting. Some farms will offer a tasting for as little as R50 depending on how resourceful you are. Tasting can be a simple guided tasting with an expert, or a paired tasting involving goodies like biltong or cheese, or full on meals. The details are easily ascertained online or by simply picking up the phone.
If you don’t feel like schlepping all the way out to Stellenbosch and beyond, the Constantia Wine Route and the Durbanville Wine Valley offer proximity and a great selection of wines, in close proximity for wine farm hopping. You can easily fit in three tastings into a day with lunch or dinner at any of the excellent restaurants often attached to the estates.
And if you’re even lazier than that, restaurants with a good wine cellar will sometimes offer tasting in-house! (Wijnhius). Other restaurants have an incredibly wide wine-by-the-glass selection. (Belthazzar in Cape Town has the largest wine by the glass menu in the world!!!) Be adventurous!!
Wine isn’t just about the pretentiousness it is often packaged in. It’s about creating memories and learning. And then of course, it’s about the drinking.
The Empress xx
https://www.capetownmagazine.com/top-wine-tastings (or simply google a wine estate and pop in for a tasting!)