Jeanri-Tine van Zyl: On wines with soul

At a recent tasting of Stellenzicht’s range of wines we asked: can you taste the soul of a wine?

Guy Webber of Stellenzicht.

Guy Webber of Stellenzicht.

Gregarious winemaker Guy Webber was standing at the head of the table talking about the fruit of his labour, and we were swirling his Plum Pudding Hill Syrah 2009 in our glasses. Yes, we nodded, you can taste the soul of a wine.

There doesn’t seem to be a lot of talk about soul anymore. I don’t mean the Facebook ‘what-colour-is-your-soul-click-here-to-find-out’ type of talk. Not the quasi-vulnerability implied in vague posts on a virtual wall alluding to heartache.

Real soul is that piece of uncorrupted emotional and intellectual energy we all carry. It is also the piece that’s so easily negated with shallow interactions, instant fixes, bursts of pseudo-care (“share this post to stop animal abuse”) and general nonchalant interactions with daily blessings – we are in danger of becoming every bit as virtual and void of true authenticity as the walls we post our selfies on.

When I talk to wine farms about the soul of their brand, I mention the word authenticity a lot. I don’t do this as part of some marketing spiel; I do this because I truly believe that maintaining your sense of authenticity it is what is needed in the bigger world, but certainly also in the world of wine.

Invariably, when drinking wine, I enjoy wines with soul the most. When I can tell the winemaker was authentic in his or her approach – if he or she took a bit of a risk, tried something different, stuck to his or her guns and didn’t yield to commercial pressure – my enjoyment of the wine jumps a level. It’s the winemaker putting a bit of his or her soul into the wine, and you can taste it.

So here ‘s to the Guys of the wine world – “nature’s servants”, the winemakers who are nurturing a vat of something truly special in a corporate cellar, the protectors of old vines, the challengers of our taste buds, the ones who pour their emotional and intellectual energy into our glasses – thank you for baring your soul.

Jeanri-Tine van Zyl worked for Wine magazine as a journalist when it was still in print and is now a communications consultant with her own company called Feed That Bird, freelance writer and an occasional wine judge.

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