Melvyn Minnaar: Jack and the Ghosts in the Machine

By , 2 June 2022

Ghost in the Machine – The Police album cover.

One of the greatest bands of all time, The Police, released Ghost in the Machine in 1981. The groundbreaking trio, Andy Summers, Sting and Stewart Copeland, was in the fourth year of their remarkable partnership pushing a post-punk reggae into the glorious dance-ability of cheerful beat and, well, oddly mesmerising lyrics. (Copeland’s drum attack was the perfect counterpoint to Sting’s sweet, hummable tunes. Gosh, how nostalgic I get about my clubbing days.)

The Police’s fourth album took its title from either the writer Arthur Koestler, who had published a gloomy psycho-philosophical reflection on man’s self-destruction under that title, or directly from the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle who coined the phrase in a complicated rebut of the famous French thinker René Descartes who said “I think, therefore I am”.

What or whoever the inspiration for The Police’s thrilling bundle of music, the phrase has a magical jump. It kind of sounds immediately mysterious, correct, true and then mysterious again.

I have a suspicion this was what the word and wine wizard Bruce Jack M.Litt thought when he came up with name for an eye-catching series of wines.

Of course he may well to have been inspired by that lovely album which contains delightful hit songs such as “Spirits in the Material World“. You get my drift. In his ‘motivation’ for the range, Jack writes this “…we craft these wines to dance that beautiful dance whose beat is the seasons and whose music is luck.”

The idea and or image of dancing (blithe) spirits take the presence and enjoyment of these wines, well, into a different realm.

Mr Jack’s mindfulness has often infused his wines – especially those that push personality – and the Ghost range celebrates that tad of eccentricity with thoughtful drinking pleasure.

He is not scared of the one-offs. And the five stand-alone wines presently under the label seems a lovely contradiction to the concept of big-brand-building extravaganza. (He did, of course, work in that environment in a previous life – before the one on The Drift family estate in the pretty Overberg.) There may or may not be more of the Ghosts. But the ghost-busters will be on the lookout.

Bruce Jack turned the metaphor of the phrase coined by Ryle into a celebration of imagination and invention: Winemaking may be mechanical, both figuratively and literally, but the artist will be creative, be thinking for him/herself. Would Artificial Intelligence lead to wines that are masterminded for the specific drinker? Not unthinkable. But not in Jack’s poetic mind.

He spins the idea also in the direction of happenstance – another concept of the unknown ghost that could come out of the works – by a most eye-catching series of labels for the bottles of chardonnay, shiraz, cabernet franc/malbec, malbec/viognier and a skin-contact chenin blanc.

In a unique labelling process, comprising runs of paper, each bottle has three separate labels that are applied randomly. No two come out alike. It screws up any Artificial Intelligent ‘reading’.

With wraparound, overlapping colourful imagery that hints at art and history and everything in-between, the paper is cut to resemble actual collage art – with a neck-tag, in case you wondered. You don’t pour the glass of wine and leave the bottle out of sight. It’s kind of an art gallery presence. And fun.

None of the wines are short of personality. Even elements of enchanting oddness add to their luscious appeal. Isn’t all good art a little eccentric?

Bruce Jack Skin Contact Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2019.

The mesmerising chenin blanc comes from a 40-year-old plus vineyard and together with the natural ferment it wears its peculiarity with grace. The colour shimmers in the glass at an unusual tone and I wondered whether this is the sort of wine that will bring the sometimes controversial skin-contact wine into the main stream of wine-lover enjoyment.

Then I reached into my Police collection, turned on the 1981 album, and contemplated what I learnt about René Descartes before those clubbing days: I do think therefore I am. But ‘drink’ will also do – in this case.

  • Melvyn Minnaar has written about art and wine for various local and international publications over the years. The creativity that underpins these subjects is an enduring personal passion. He has served on a few “cultural committees”.

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