Jeanri-Tine van Zyl: On drinking buddies

By , 23 March 2015



I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t drink. This is not a comfortable confession to make. Even an attempt at refining the admission – I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t drink wine – falls desperately short of portraying myself as someone who values people for more than just their ability to clink glasses with me.

However, when I say I can’t be friends with someone who doesn’t drink, I’m not saying I can’t be friends with anyone whose main goal isn’t to get sloshed. What I am saying is that you not drinking will put me in a socially awkward position which I prefer to avoid.

Exempli gratia: I was invited to the first birthday party of my friend’s daughter. The mothers at the event were reaching for their Bonaquas while I was swirling brandy in my tumbler. To them I was the “it’s not even noon” guest, when I was merely the guest who could appreciate a fine brandy – a KWV 15 Year Old, to be precise. I was the guest who was acting in accordance to her profession. You aren’t going to invite an interior decorator to your home and expect him not to fluff the pillows, are you?

When you are the only person at a table sipping at a glass of Chardonnay, you do tend to question your affinity for alcohol. Why can’t I go without? Why can’t I order sparkling water like my friend? Could it be that I’m a ‘dependent’?  It’s not a pleasant feeling, and it’s not unpleasant because if the answers to these questions seem to have any negative connotations, it’s quite the opposite. I hate to justify the fact that I really enjoy engaging intellectually with wine, that the intoxicating effect I seek is a wine’s sensory appeal and not a wine’s effect on my bloodstream (although who doesn’t love that pleasant glow?).

This past Saturday I was reminded exactly how satisfying it is when you are surrounded by people who drink.  I was at a dinner party where the host generously treated us to a collection of Sauvignon Blancs from Cape Agulhas producer Lomond for a vertical tasting.  The wines, Lomond Pincushion (2007, 2010 and 2012) as well as Lomond Sugarbush (2007, 2010 and 2012) were lined-up and tasted by a group of women with a reciprocal appreciation for wine:

Winemaking friend: “Definitely hints of sweaty feet. I love it.”
Another friend: “It’s still remarkably fresh on the palate.”
Host: “I love that minerality.”
Me: “Oooh, and that saline finish.”
Another friend: “Is this the Sugarbush ’07?”
Winemaking friend: “I would guess it is much younger.”
Host’s mother: “Hierdie is ‘n lekker wyn, hoor.”

And so it went, a full-on intellectual and non-judgemental engagement with wine. It’s the best feeling in the world; not necessarily the decadent pleasure of tasting (and then drinking) six interesting wines, but for the sense of belonging that it brings.

Me: “Now who would like a taste of De Trafford Chenin Blanc 1999?” (A collective “Me” from the group).

I can’t be friends with anyone who doesn’t drink. Does that make me a ‘dependent’? I certainly hope so.

  • Jeanri-Tine van Zyl worked for Wine magazine as a journalist when it was still in print and is now a communications consultant, freelance writer and an occasional wine judge.


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    Kwispedoor | 23 March 2015

    Had a Pincushion 2007 on Saturday (a blind tasting of cool vs. warm area wines). Bloody nice – and yes: it seemed younger than its eight years. It seemed younger even than an also stunning Flagstone Treaty Tree 2009 that was also on the tasting. Confirming again that five to ten years of maturation is generally what’s required for the good Elim SB’s, IMHO.

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