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winery on Grape Thinking

Posts Tagged ‘winery’

Biodynamic Agriculture

Friday, November 28th, 2008

This is what GT is all … this is where we came from. Seeing as more than … more like restoration and healing centers. Seriously tho, check out what Brad and Angelina just bought over at Chateau Val Joanis. It’s a , but it also has a vegetable and herb garden, fruit and olive orchards, and some of the best sustainable practices in the . Biodynamic agriculture is really starting to catch on. I may be crazy, but I’m starting to see wineries as our future farms, and yet so much more.


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Posted in Art, Lifestyle, Sustainable | 1 Comment »

Passion on the Vine – a review

Tuesday, August 12th, 2008

When one looks at a vineyard – you’re not looking at it in the same way as you would look at an orange orchard. Instead one sees a multitude of experiences past and of moments yet to come – moments of intimacy, memorable occasions, conversations and treasured friendships. Since time immemorial, vineyards have not only been the touchstone of certain regions, but have often been the lifeblood of local communities and the cornerstone of entire generations of families. Every vineyard contains a family, a , a and a . This was at least, the sentiment I had before embarking on a mission to City, where I would promote and sell ’s connected to my family in some ways, and more importantly – from my country. During that time – having spent much time in for the mission, I left with those stories and sentiments of and family fresh in my blood. But with every -call and wine I began to feel further and further from the vineyard. Soon it was laid in cost, case-discounts and what kind of Point of Sale material was on offer. I travelled the country in a rental car with a case of wine, a corskrew and a -point presentation along the way having people from Westchester Wine Warehouse cruelly spit wine on my shoe after having left me waiting for an hour, sitting in cold-rooms of cellars in Maryland, helping do stock-takes in Ohio, presenting to Wholefoods buyers in North Carolina and pushing on-premise retail in : and with every step I became a bit more confused and lost the focus of what I was doing. Having believed that wine was so important to my country and stepping into the States to tell the story of South African wine, it was very dispiriting to suddenly be faced with the fact that no one really cared so long as they could make a profit.


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Posted in Lifestyle | No Comments »

The magic is in the juice

Wednesday, June 11th, 2008

When I started working in the in the summer of 2007 I knew a few things wine. First it was exponentially better to drink than the Natural Light my contemporaries were imbibing at the time. It provides a great way to meet women and convince them you’re more sophisticated than you actually are. And finally there was something I desired to learn wine culturally, historically and socially; anyone can order a martini and look good doing so but in the of wine you are constantly finding out new and interesting things. Yet for all the knowledge I thought I had gathered nothing was more humbling than going to work in a wine store, where the people above you spent most of their lives buying, selling and learning wine. From my time with them I’ve learned a lot spotting good wines.

First of all, labels mean absolutely nothing, so when you go to buy wine don’t even look at the front ignore it, there is more useful information on the back like a good importer. In this era of opulence and visually stimulated purchasing, Louis Vutton and Cadillac, take a more refined and dare I say classier approach. I am reminded of the Tommy Boy with the late great Chris Farley. Tommy is selling Callahan Break Pads; one of his retailers says there isn’t a guarantee on Callahan’s box. Tommy says you can put a guarantee on shit and its still shit, same thing with wine – creative picture means the spent all the money on a and not the . Like a guarantee vs. the actual product. There can and often will be a cute picture on the bottle but the , more times than not, is still absolute Swill (a colloquialism used to describe wine not worth ). (more…)

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Posted in Industry, Thoughts, Wine | 10 Comments »

Pinotage Part 1 – The Pinotage Buzz

Saturday, August 11th, 2007

Ruarri asked me to write some pieces for this site, and I’m going to look at this variety by focusing on the that is most closely linked with Pinotage – Kanonkop Estate.

Part 1 – The Pinotage Buzz
Peter F May

Kanonkop Estate’s 2004 Pinotage is causing an online buzz. Gary Vaynerchuk of Library TV opened a bottle in his vidcast (Episode 218) on South African wines. He was so impressed that he featured four bottles of it in the following episode to experience the differences that opening times and decanting made.

vayna2.jpgHe first tasted the bottle he’d opened 24 hours earlier which he used in the previous vidcast. Then he compared two Kanonkop 2004’s that he had opened 5 hours previously; one had been decanted while the other had been left in the bottle. The fourth was opened on camera and tasted immediately.

vayner3.jpgGary said “I like this wine, beautiful red cabbage profile, oil & vinegar & olives. Bananas are jumping, (I Iove bananas), structured like Bordeaux, terroir driven, this is essential class Pinotage. Comes from granite soil, you’re getting some of this. It’s really polished, but young, need another three years. Now getting dark liquorice flavour, gets olive & smoky on finish. I highly recommend it, I’m giving it 91 points. If you like extremely well polished and intriguing wines, seek this bottle out.”

The word ‘estate’ has a legal meaning in South Africa; it tells us this wine was made from grapes grown only in vineyards owned by and surrounding the winery. That it was made, matured and bottled in the winery.

kanonkop.jpgKanonkop is a well respected winery on the road to Paarl, just north of Stellenbosch. From the road its vineyards stretching back to a clump of trees in which is the winery. Behind and to the sides of the winery are low hills covered in vines. At the entrance is a cannon. For the name Kanonkop means Cannon Hill and refers to guns placed on hills in olden times that were fired when ships were seen along the coast to alert farmers to load up their wagons with produce to take to the harbour. Sailing ships travelling down around the southern tip of Africa would stop at the harbour to take on fresh meat, fruit, vegetables and water. And wine. The reason the Cape was settled in the mid 1600s was to provision ships and wine was first made there in 1659 because it was known that wine prevented scurvy among sailors.

Kanonkop Estate was established in 1910 and now is considered one of the ‘first growths’ of . It makes only red wines, and just four of them. A flagship Cabernet dominated Bordeaux blend named ‘Paul Sauer’ after the second owner, a 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, a 100% Pinotage and a second named Kadette which is a varying blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Up till 1973 Kanonkop, as with most other vineyards, sold its grape to co-operatives. Since first making its own wines 35 years ago there have been only four winemakers, owner Jannie Krige, Jan “Boland” Coetzee (now owner of Vriesenhof Winery), Beyers Truter (now owner of Beyerskloof) and since 2002 Abrie Beeslaw.


Peter F May is the founder of The Pinotage Club – www.pinotage.org – an international cyber-based fan club for wines made from the Pinotage variety. Peter was awarded Honorary Membership of the producers Pinotage Association in 2004 and was a judge at the annual Pinotage Top 10 Competition in 2004 and 2005. Peter is a wine writer, educator and author. His book ‘Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape – odd wines from around the world‘ was published in summer 2006.

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Posted in Stories, Wine, Wine Review | 4 Comments »

Man and His Vines

Sunday, March 18th, 2007

Claude Levi-Strauss, whom has nothing to do with the jeans, concerned himself with the structural formation of myth in society. Recently, in thinking , and how some of its original uses were to have a drink that did not come from tainted lakes, I came to a rather important realization. Many of our forefathers relied on -consumption, and only later did people begin to drink it socially. Levi-Strauss would perhaps tell us that has thus developed a mythical status in , and by the principles of evolutionary psychology, the act of wine may no longer be for survival, but what remains is the primitive feeling of relief at having wine, which is as engrained in our being as is the feeling of happiness at Spring time.

One of the reasons that human beings find that wine and go so well together, is because human beings used to drink wine with their out of necessity. Secondly, wine and also go hand in hand, as people used to carry gourds of wine on journeys. Now let us get to the ‘New .’ Many of the colonies belonging to Spain, Holland, Belgium, Germany and Britain were strategic outposts or refuelling stations along the trade-routes. When one is on a ship for months, it is impossible to keep water fresh in barrels. Though the Caribbean pirates may have solved the problem with rum, the Spaniards and the Dutch drank wine and fortified wine (brandy and port) to keep their thirst quenched whilst at high-seas. So, if we think about our ancestors, a rather apt image would be galleons of tipsy sailors, blindly navigating uncharted territories in the name of discovery and conquest, whilst getting progressively more enthused and courageous as they drank from their gourds, hence the term ‘Dutch courage.’

Jan van Riebeeck (’s equivalent of Columbus, except from Holland) is known to have planted vines he had been keeping on the journey on the very day he first landed on South African shores. In fact, many of the Spanish and Dutch sailors, though they left their wives at home until the second voyage, were sure to pack seedlings of grape vines on the first. In those days men survived months without a woman, but could barely go a day without wine. One can see evidence of this in New World vineyards, in that many wine producing regions are close to sea-ports (, San Francisco, Cape Town), and only later in the region’s , do vineyards go more inland.

In my mind’s eye I sometimes envision myself and other wine-guys as a intrepid explorers, unsung hero of agriculture, straight from the colonies of the Old Empire, setting foot on American soil to flaunt fabulous produce and bring a taste of the world to your doorstep.

Going back to my days as a wine promoter, it was of course at the first appointment of the day when I was forced to taste my first glass of wine (retailers get suspicious when you appear to not be drinking your own product.) And true, even though one does their best to spit, it is impossible for the alcohol to not permeate into the body through the blood-rich tissue beneath the tongue. As the days progresses, the feeling of my sailing forefathers enters my body, and I feel like an intrepid explorer on the wild avenues of Manhattan, conquering with this mystical that comes with many tales of a foreign land.

Even though wine is no longer necessary to our survival, as Levi-Strauss would confirm, it has gone from having mythical status to entering the everyday vernacular, and from here on, wine is a part of our lives and engrained within our consciousness!

Perhaps I allow myself to get carried away on romantic flights of fancy that wax lyrical of what some people may see as no more than an alcoholic beverage. However, I wouldn’t be the only one to be seduced by the juice’s fancy, after all, over the ages red wine has proved to be a catalyst for poetry, imagination, , politics, civilization, culture and love.

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Posted in Lifestyle, Passion, Stories | No Comments »