Insights gained drinking Cape Tawny on the Garden Route
By Christian Eedes, 3 July 2019
I matriculated in 1988 when military conscription for white males was still compulsory, deployment for many at that time involving being sent to the townships to put down unrest by fellow citizens seeking political transformation. Tertiary study allowed military service to be deferred but application had to be made every year until it was finally done away with in 1993.
With South Africa’s GDP declining by 3.2% in the first quarter of this year, the largest drop in 10 years, and national politics in general disarray, not to mention the Proteas dismal performance in the Cricket World Cup, it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come as a country but man, it’s tough out there…
A recent vacation in Keurboomstrand on the Garden Route brought home the reality of local wine retail – shopping for personal consumption entailed a trip to nearby Plettenberg Bay, supposedly one of the most affluent holiday towns in the country, but Pick n Pay Liquor was an empty shell of a store, shelves devoid of product, my only purchase the second-last bottle of KWV Cape Tawny Dessert Wine, selling for R100 a bottle and fitted with a security tag to deter shop-lifting…
On to the TOPS at SPAR in Main Street which was better stocked but my suspicion here was that turn-over wasn’t fast because I was able to buy the 2015 vintage of both KWV The Mentors and Thelema Chardonnay as well as the 2013 vintage of Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon. Spend most of your time shuttling between Cape Town, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek combined with the odd trip or two to Sandton, Gauteng plus an occasional visit to an international wine region provides a distorted view of what’s happening on the ground.
Given the state of the country, it has to be asked if a website premised solely on celebrating South African fine wine has any reason for being – it’s pretty depressing when as august a publication as the Daily Maverick feels compelled to publish articles such as “Five Ways not to be a Wine Wanker”, basically a thinly-veiled argument for wine populism – drink what you like and ignore the wine snobs.
Fine wine matters because it’s civilized and we need a bit of that in South Africa. It also matters because it’s an immense amount of fun – almost all winemakers are enthusiastic and engaging when talking about what they do and let’s not forget that wine is ultimately an intoxicant which takes us out of ourselves. A lot of lunches at Chez Eedes start off with discussions about fruit intensity and tannin management and end up with some rather uninhibited dancing to The Killers or The White Stripes…
Ultimately, however, fine wine is not simply a commodity – of course, the business of wine is important but so are the aesthetics – being concerned about taste and its correlative features such as origin and authenticity provides a counterpoint to the pursuit of filthy lucre which dominates so much of our lives. To take this further, quality distinctions can be made, even if scoring of wines has something of the absurd about it. Writing about wine is difficult – finding the language to describe taste is inherently fraught – but I count myself lucky to be part of a community that appreciates wine for its intrinsic value. It goes towards a life less ordinary.
Addendum: Visits were made to local wineries Bramon and Newstead, both offering very good hospitality and pleasant enough wines.