A moment of wine truth

It’s 11:18pm on Sunday, November 18th, 2018.

I’ve just finished another solid 3 hour study session with some moments of procrastination to distract me from the overwhelmingness of Bordeaux and it’s complex history and confusing soils.  I’m sitting here asking myself how I got here, why I choose to be here and where I see myself going.  It’s hard to explain, but I’m overcome with the insatiable desire to tell you a bit more of my personal, intimate journey into wine.

Those that follow me on social media, especially those that have followed me for the past year have probably picked up hints that lead into my complicated personal life.  I hope they’ve also picked up on my undeniable passion and drive for wine…all facets of the subject.  It’s a love I’ve never experienced before.  I can’t explain what drives me to keep going, but against all odds, I force myself to carry on.  It’s a subject that consistently makes me feel inadequate, and I mean this in a good way.  I always feel like the least knowledgable in the room, and that drives me to catch up; but the thing is, I never do.  There’s always more to learn, and it’s kind of a good feeling….trying to obtain the unattainable?

My current living situation is not entirely ideal.  Myself and my two small girls, Isla and Piper (ages 3 and 5) currently live with my parents.  At the end of June this year I moved back to Kelowna, BC, (my hometown) on the spur of a moment decision.  While the decision to pack up and leave was quick, the build up was slow.  It had turned into a life I no longer wanted to lead.  I had spent a decade of my life living and for the most part loving, life in Johannesburg, South Africa – but deep in my heart I knew time had expired.  I owe a lot of my best memories to that place and I believe that had I not moved there, I wouldn’t have fallen for wine.  I had (have) an unbelievably solid network of friends and a waterfall of wine inspiration there.  It’s where I fell in love with wild life, adventure, living on a whim and of course, wine…Chenin Blanc to be exact.  I will always feel part African, and Africa will always be in my heart.

My living situation there however had become something that caused me more anxiety then I could probably comprehend in the moment.  I had to grapple the realisation that I was in a marriage that was no longer working.  I didn’t feel secure in my surroundings and my heart was calling for change.  Somewhere in the chaos I continued to find solace and peace in the subject of wine.  Studying it, drinking it and using it as an escape from a very deep unhappiness.  I’m not proud to admit that there was a point where I was deep in a bottle of wine a night, sometimes I’d open a second.  I went briefly into a scary place with a substance I treated with such high regard.  The drink had not only become a subject of study, but also a personal drug to numb and help me avoid my deeper unhappiness.

My first few months back in Canada were full of ups and downs.  Highs and lows.  More wine, more confusion and time of intense recovery.  Seemingly endless nights face down, sobbing into a pillow.  Fears over finances, my children’s well being and how the hell I was going to raise them alone.  I decided then to take time away from the diploma and pushed forward to start creating an independent identity and a new life.  I promised myself I wouldn’t settle for less than what made me happy.  But I was starting from scratch, I had to create an image that wasn’t associated with another person/half, money, power or status.  I had returned to my hometown and into a wine industry that didn’t know or give a shit about who I was.  I had to also wrestle and defuse any and all toxic relationships in my life – and keep my head clear.  Turns out I’m a magnet for narcissists.

I decided to eat the biggest slice of humble pie I could find and get to work.  Start tasting the local wines, meeting people in the industry and surrounding myself with people that I found inspiring and motivating.  Some of my best moments have been the small ones…like chatting to customers about amazing wines and breaking down cardboard boxes at Cask and Barrel 3 days a week with a huge smile on my face.  Why?  Because I’m surrounded by, in my opinion the best selection of wine in Kelowna and some of the most motivated “I’m in it for the love of fermentation” people I’ve met.  I got to pick grapes for the first time at Kitsch, and have chats with one of the most inspiring women in the business, Ria Kitsch.  I’ve been able to drop off and pick up my kids from school everyday, fold their laundry, hug and catch up with my family members and write.  Writing makes me happy…actually scrap that…sharing makes me happy.  I took a deep breathe and launched my new business Cellar Selection and Design last month, which has been met with so much support and encouragement.

Moments still come back and force me to stop dead in my tracks, I have to remind myself to breathe.  The below zero weather tonight (sitting outside) had me longing for my old patio in Johannesburg; the sounds of the birds, the taste of old vine Swartland Chenin, the warmth of the African sun.  I breathe the cold air in and out and stare down the street that I grew up in, I close my eyes and I feel the sun.  As I’m breaking down boxes I stop and imagine myself on a game driver, watching a lion kill.  The cold taste of a Savannah on my lips, the dry, dusty African air.  I think of Joburg taxis and traffic, heat, singing street dwellers, colour, protests, corruption, rainbows and thunderstorms.  I think of so much colour.

Now as I rebuild and re-establish and find a new kind of beauty in my surroundings.  As I navigate my way through my wine studies, growing a business and raising two children on my own, I tell myself life will never be the same, but it’s going to be better than ever.  Everyday I make a point to stick to a specific routine.  I wake up, even after few hours of sleep and I remind myself to wash my face, drink my coffee and I sit at my mirror.  I forgive myself, I praise myself and I tell myself what I want.  And what do I want?  I want to learn as much about wine in this life as possible.  I want to surround myself with kind, inspiring people.  I want to raise my girls to become humble, driven, kind human beings and I want to keep going.  I don’t want to spend another day not doing what I love.

Thank you for all of the love and support up to this point.  It has and always will mean the world to me.

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

 

 

 

Weed or Wine?

THE LEGALIZATION OF CANNABIS AND ITS EFFECTS ON THE BC WINE INDUSTRY.

 

On Wednesday, October 17, 2018 recreational use of cannabis in Canada was officially legalized, making it the second country in the world to do so.

Canada has a progressive history; from being the fourth country globally to legislate same sex marriage, to the opening of the first North American supervised injection clinic in Vancouver in 2003.

Now that weed is legal and readily available alongside alcohol, will BC consumers feel the need to sacrifice one for the other?

Cannabis and alcohol have a lot in common; primarily because they are both considered (now officially) legal recreational drugs.  While many are celebrating the progressive jump forward, some are also questioning the potential impacts the dynamic duo may have on the thriving BC wine industry. 

Every province in Canada has established their own unique laws surrounding cannabis.  The BC government is dealing with cannabis much like liquor.  In fact, it’s the BC Liquor Distribution Board that is the governmental body responsible for its distribution.  Licensed producers will pay a tax to the government, and new cannabis taxes will be added onto existing taxes, making the price of cannabis soar exponentially.

Like craft beer and garagiste wine labels, micro licenses are expected to come out – creating a ‘craft cannabis’ market.  Shortage for the product will be filled by imports – much like wine or any other high demand commodity.

These close similarities beg the question: will the legalization of cannabis end up hurting or empowering the BC wine market?

In Oregon, cannabis has been recreationally legal since 2015.  Since that point, the state has experienced a sharp decrease in beer and wine sales that directly correlates with the legalization timeline.

Internal business to business issues between the two industries have started appearing alongside gradual legalization.  Recently, Wine Spectator opened a legal case against Weed Spectator for trademark infringement.  Tasting wheels and 100-point systems have been created for cannabis, much like those for wine; offending many in the wine industry. 

But, what’s the deal?  Can’t we all just get along?  It’s not uncommon for ideas to be copied and interpreted to fit different business models.  That’s the nature of the game. 

Some in the wine industry are embracing the times and adding pot to their portfolio of wine offerings.  Big drinks corporations are getting on board the cannabis trade to seek opportunities surrounding the similarities and comparable consumers in the two markets.  Constellation Brands bought a 9.9% stake in Canopy Growth Corp, a Canadian marijuana company with plans to make cannabis infused drinks.  A patent has been filed by a Canadian company to produce beer brewed from cannabis, replacing traditional grains with cannabis.

Many see the legalization of cannabis as a threat to the drinks industry as statistics show drinkers are already steadily moving away from ABV products and towards more natural products infused with THC (a chemical component of marijuana).

Cannabis appeals to health-conscious individuals, and many believe it to be a safer choice than alcohol.  High income earners, baby boomers and women fall into this category – a major slice of the consumer pie.

In addition to consumer taste, cannabis as a raw product just performs better.  Cannabis plant production is faster and cheaper than grape vines and requires less water.

So, alongside the nationwide legalization of cannabis will we begin to see the Okanagan cannabis market pull ideas from the thriving local wine industry? 

Okanagan cannabis tourism?  Cannabis tasting rooms?

It’s already happening and finding great success in California. 

Only time will truly tell whether or not cannabis becomes a companion or competitor to wine locally.  But like any change and monumental step forward in modern times, we must adapt – and so must correlating businesses. 

Adapt or retract…

Fit in or… you know…

Cannabis is here to stay, with proven benefits including natural pain tolerance and mental health balance.  So, ask yourself, what’s worse?  Alcohol or smoking a joint? 

Does it come down to knowing your limits?  Going with what’s more affordable?  Becoming more conscious about your health?  Keeping the drugs separate (no mixing)?  Or does one truly outweigh the other?

I’d love to hear your opinion! 

Cheers for now and happy smoking,

Katie

A Pinot Month To Remember

It was my first September back in the Okanagan after 10 years abroad.  As I watched the season change from Summer to Fall; nostalgia and warmth filled me.  I was home.  It brings me such joy to watch green leaves turn to multi-colored hues of orange, red and yellow…they crisp and fall, floating gently to the ground.  The air turns chilly and I reach to my top shelf for wools, knits and warm hats.

I can’t think of a better grape variety than Pinot Noir to match with this glorious weather. On top of the delicious Okanagan Pinot’s sampled I also got to participate in my first harvest, stop by a couple of great local wineries and host some fun Pinot inspired Instagram lives!

Hey, Okanagan Valley…I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  It’s good to be back!

So, without further ado, let me break it down: tasting notes are, ‘Katie style’ – as and how I wrote it on my computer, typed on my phone, or simply what I remember from my head.

Tasting Notes:

TH Wines Pinot Noir 2016

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493 cases

13% alcohol

$34.99

Nose: Ground pepper, Mushy strawberries, Red Cherries, Red Hot Cinnamon Candies

Palate: High Acid, Medium (-) Tannin, Strawberry, Rhubarb,

Notes of Sour Cherries, Plums, Roma Tomatoes & Beet Root

Lovely and light. Fruity. Slight ‘funky’ note to it that keeps things interesting.

 

Tantalus Pinot Noir 2016

$27.83

16 months in French Barriques

14.2% alcohol

Nose: Plum, Strawberry, Nutmeg, Rhubarb, Stewed beet, Black pepper

Palate: Beetroot, Plum, Black Cherry.  Medium (+) Acid, Medium Tannins.

Even with all the hype that consistently surrounds Tantalus wines, this Pinot rose about the shining reputation.  Beautiful, juicy…with just the right amount of cozy, Fall spice.

Meyer Family Vineyards Pinot Noir 2016

SOLD OUT

273 Cases

11 months in French Oak Barrels

13.5% alcohol

Delightful, deep and fruit driven.  Gentle spice but the punch of deeper, darker fruit steals the show.  A nice little barnyard aroma lingers – in a positive, intriguing way.

(From Meyer family website www.mfvwines.com)

The fruit for this wine is sourced from the Reimer Estate Vineyard, which is planted in 100% Pinot Noir located in South East Kelowna, British Columbia. The vineyard has a moderately steep northwesterly aspect with the soil comprised of alluvial and windblown deposits making up a silt loam overlaying a gravel loam. The vineyard is planted with a mix of French Pommard and Dijon clones(115, 667, 777). The fruit was gently de-stemmed via gravity into small open top fermenters and allowed to cold soak. After cold soaking, an indigenous fermentation began, with temperature peaking at 30 degrees Celsius, gentle hand plunging of the must was done throughout. After a post-maceration period the wine was transferred to 100% French oak barrels (27% new) where it remained for 11 months. A natural malo-lactic fermentation occurred in late spring.

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Black Cloud Altostratus 2014

$31.50

13.8% alcohol

Classy, elegant and full of life.  This was my favourite Pinot of the bunch.  Showing some nice development with the extra age this Pinot is a series of contradictions: light, but bold…wild, yet structured…juicy, but dry.

Highly recommended.

Burrowing Owl Pinot Noir 2016

13 months in Barrel

14% alcohol

For me the Burrowing Owl Pinot was a typical, reliable and enjoyable expression of a BC Pinot.  I didn’t write notes that night, so forgive me for the short form.  May be a bit overpriced for it’s average, but still pleasant statement.

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Storm Vineyards Insta Live

Josh aka @thewinequarterback and I went live (and rogue), comparing 3 South African Pinot’s by Storm Vineyards, a winery located in the Hemel-En-Aarde.  Three single vineyard Pinot’s made in the same style.  The only difference?  Altitude and soil type.

It was inspiring and interesting to truly taste “terroir” in a glass.  Amazing how 3 wines could differ so much solely based on two natural elements.

We held it against the Roche 2016 Pinot Noir and it kicked it out of the park.  While the Roche was a lovely expression of BC Pinot (with some side notes of intriguing ‘funk’), the Storm Pinot’s had a longer finish and demonstrated greater complexity.

Storm remains my fave garagiste South African Pinot producer to date.  Preach Hannes, preach!

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(Notes below taken directly from stormwines.co.za)

Storm Vrede Pinot Noir 2016

The Vrede Pinot Noir hails from a steep, northeast-facing slope in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley with low-vigour, stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil.

This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine displays richness and generosity with opulent, floral perfume and a structured palate from the clay soil.

Production: 650 cases

Bottling date: February 2017

Release date: March 2018

Storm Ignis Pinot Noir 2016

The Ignis Pinot Noir hails from a northern slope in the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley. The vineyard is cluttered with round pebbles on the soil surface with underlying decomposed granite. Latin for ‘fire’, ignis refers to the fact that granite is an igneous rock formation – from fire to stone.

This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine shows great balance and length. The wine displays raspberry and wild strawberry notes with underlying subtle wood spice. A silky tannin structure complements the primary fruit perfume.

Production: 275 cases

Bottling date: February 2017

Release date:  March 2018

Storm Ridge Pinot Noir 2016

The Ridge Pinot Noir hails from a cool, eastern slope in the Hemel-en-Aarde Ridge with low-vigour, stony, clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soil.

This basket-pressed, native yeast-fermented wine shows richness and generosity with black cherry and spicy undertones. Silky tannins complement the voluptuous fruit perfume.

Production: 250 cases

Bottling date: January 2016

Release date: March 2017

 

Harvest 2018 with Kitsch Wines

I felt fortunate to join my friends at Kitsch wines in East Kelowna to participate in Harvest 2018.  Along with Pinot, I helped pick: Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris; escaping with only one finger snip!  I also met some cute vineyard friends along the way; including a tiny ladybug burrowed in a tight cluster of Pinot, the odd spider and an aggressive hornet’s nest.  The biodiversity is certainly alive and thriving at Kitsch.  A few of us got knee up in grape juice one day and helped stomp the Pinot for Rosé (yeah Pinot…it doesn’t just create red wines).  We stomped Yeezy style, check it out below:

Grant Biggs, winemaker at Kitsch showed me around the fermenting tanks.  I got my face a little too close to the CO2 – I won’t do that again.

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Be sure to snap up some Kitsch Wines goodness (Rosé is sold out and the Pinot Noir is not far behind).

Quails Gate 3 Pinot Insta Live

To end off a wonderful month, I decided to host another live after a delightful and inspiring visit with Lindsay Kelm, Marketing Manager at Quails Gate.  She heard about my self-proclaimed Pinot month and graciously gave me 3 of their Pinot’s to taste and talk about.

We spent a couple of hours together at the vineyard and had a look at their impressive production process.  I met Ross the winemaker and he introduced me to his two new eggs (amphora), Julio and Enrique EGGlesias!

Quails Gate sees thousands of visitors all year round and produces around 85,000 cases of wine a year!  They plan to expand and open a second winery in 2021 in East Kelowna. Exciting times indeed for Quails Gate and their many loyal followers.

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Grant aka @barrelist and I sat down for the live and were joined digitally by Lindsay Kelm while we tasted and spoke about all things Pinot.

Notes and memories from the 3 Pinot’s:

Quails Gate Pinot Noir 2016

$26.99

Fantastic value for money Pinot.  Straight up, no nonsense wine with yummy bursts of fresh red cherries, bramble and some dark fruit like blackberries and plum.  Some nice notes of cigar box and cedar.

Quails Gate Richards Block 2016

$54.99

This Anniversary reserve can age up to 15 years.  A great addition to any collectors cellar.  This is a limited release wine and there are limited quantities available. A beautiful expression of the Quails Gate family vineyard sites; royal and savoury.  For me, this was the boldest Pinot of the three.

Quails Gate Stewart Family Reserve 2016

$49.99

My personal favourite.  Elegant, smooth and silky.  Delicate tannins topped with red, ripe, juicy fruit and a gentle sprinkle of Christmas spice.

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All of the Okanagan Pinot’s (apart from Black Cloud’s Altostratus) I tasted in September were pretty young (majority 2016).  Wines in the Okanagan seem to sell out quickly after release (especially small batch producers).  It would have been great to experience these wines with a bit of age behind their belt, as they move away from fruit forward dominent and develop some nice tertiary characteristics.  Unfortunately, demand, the need to turn over cash, and a general short supply to satisfy thirsty BC wine drinkers just doesn’t seem to allow it.

Pinot Noir does very well in the Okanagan and is quickly gaining more and more attention both locally and internationally.  The terroir here allows Okanagan Pinot’s to boast unique expressions true to the vineyards they come from.  I believe that in the very near future of BC wine, Pinot Noir, along with Riesling, will become one of the grape varieties that defines the Okanagan Valley wine scene on a global scale.

I can’t wait to see how local Pinot Noir’s will continue to evolve and develop in quality and expression in the vintages to come.

Cheers for now,

Katie

“Forget Their Stories, Let’s Write Our Own”

Defining the Okanagan Wine Scene

***This story was written exclusively for Okanaganwine.club – be sure to check out their unique offerings for Wine Club members***

Harvest is in the air and Okanagan vineyards are quickly transforming. 

Lush green leaves change into a multi-colored dance of crisp, bright colors.  The hustle and bustle of tourists are replaced with busy vineyard staff.  Tractors putter by, carting freshly picked grapes.  Faces hide underneath wide brimmed sun hats; looking down, focused, and snipping away with their sheers.  Pick, press, crush, ferment, rack, age, finish.  Tanks, tubes, barrels, foudres, amphora. 

Let the games begin.

Autumn can be a nostalgic time, and the start of the season has me taking a step back to explore the short but fascinating history of the Okanagan.  A wine region so young, fresh and dynamic, it’s got the rest of the world starting to take notice. 

The Okanagan is a 200km long, 20km wide valley set between the Columbia and Cascade mountain ranges.  The name was given by the Interior Salish people, meaning ‘place of water’, and the title couldn’t be more fitting.  Lakes pocket and fill the valley; not only contributing to the Okanagan’s overall beauty, but the successful cultivation of grapes. 

The wine scene is young, but so is its population and geography.  Glacial water retreated from the valley around 11,000 years ago leaving behind the semi-desert setting we inhabit today.  First contact between the present-day Okanagan Indian Band ancestors and the European Fur traders took place in the early 1800’s.  Missionaries settled and established themselves in the Okanagan in 1840 and planted the region’s first known grape vines.  These grapes were grown to produce wine strictly for sacrament.  It wasn’t until 1975, when the first commercial vinifera was planted at the present-day location of Nk’mip winery.

This technically makes the Okanagan wine industry less than 50 years old.

And we’ve certainly been busy.

In that short time, the number of wineries in the Okanagan have jumped from seven to over 340. 

So, why’s everyone so quick to jump on board?

Long hours of daylight (3.5 hours more than California) create long growing days over a short growing season.  This combination creates grapes with high acidity, distinct flavors, and a light, fresh nature.  Surrounding bodies of water moderate temperature in the valley, while the two mountain ranges on either side create a rain shadow with light breezes flowing through.  There are various micro-climates and soils in the 200km stretch of the Okanagan, allowing single vineyards to express distinct character with their wines.  Global warming is also showing some benefit for the Okanagan wine region.  As the planet’s mean temperature increases, wine producers from around the world are setting their sights North for more plausible places to plant vines and produce wine.

Today, what we’re experiencing is a young, collaborative (and sometimes) wild industry; with an appealing sense of freedom attached.  Newcomers to the Okanagan are left feeling like they’ve struck gold, realizing they’ve just discovered one of the world’s best kept wine secrets.  And this secret is not by choice; production volumes are so small that wineries often sell out before their bottles make it beyond the provincial border.  Generally, those who want exposure to Okanagan wine need to make a holiday out of it and come experience the magic for themselves (or just sign up with the Okanagan Wine Club!).      

So, as harvest commences on vineyards up and down the Okanagan Valley, and winemakers prepare to participate in the region’s next vintage; don’t forget to remind yourself that you, the consumer are an integral part to the success of Okanagan wine.  Consumers, and those working in wine are all modern-day pioneers, taking part and growing a budding boutique wine industry that’s going to need a lot of support and passion.

On that note, let’s raise our glasses filled with something local, and count ourselves lucky to be witnessing and taking part in the blooming success of the unique Okanagan wine scene.

Cheers for now,


Katie

Wine Tasting versus Overindulgence

When is the line blurred between professionalism and overconsumption?

In 2015, the world grape surface area sat at roughly seven and a half million hectares with a wine production of around 236.5 MHL per year.

That’s a lot of wine.

The average wine consumption for a Canadian adult is about fifteen litres a year, while wine professionals probably triple or quadruple this number.

If you’re a wine geek like me, you look at time and realize there is not nearly enough of it to experience the wine you want and need to.  Wine lovers are consistently tasting to better their palate, gain knowledge and become more educated on the world’s wine producers.

However, where is the line drawn between tasting wine as a professional while demonstrating control versus borderline alcoholism that can negatively impact your health?

Man depressed with wine bottle sitting on bench outdoor

“The American Heart Association recommends alcohol in moderation — less than or equal to one to two drinks per day for men and one drink per day for women.”

Earlier this month I asked fellow wine lovers via Instagram their opinion on this subject.  Here are some of the opinions I received on tolerance and consumption:

“I find our generation of wine professionals face tremendous social pressure to be drinking.  To stay current, especially if you manage wine-based social media, you always need content.” @selenagaudet

“I don’t swallow everything I taste, it often depends on the circumstance or the occasion.  Ultimately, as a professional working in the wine industry, you have to respect the fact that wine is a drug which when consistently consumer in excess has health consequences.” @lenckdrank

“As a professional, I spit almost everything I taste.  I only swallow when drinking socially.” @sultrysomm

“Most weeks I reserve a few days without wine and on the days I have wine typically it is 2 glasses” @megandmerlot

At the end of the day wine (alcohol) is a drug, and individuals with a history of addiction or an affinity towards it may easily find themselves in the danger zone.  Individuals looking to establish or grow a career in the wine industry may also find themselves at high risk.  Networking by attending tastings and functions is a necessity.  There are constant conversations at these events surrounding world wine producers and regions.  How can one participate in this dialogue and voice an opinion if they haven’t tried the wines themselves?   How does one dive in without consistently consuming and putting their health at risk?

Budget is another issue.  The pressure to finish a bottle once it’s opened because of its price tag is always there. Luckily devices such as the Corovin have helped take away this pressure and make a bottle last.  Also, the creation of tasting groups have allowed wine lovers to get together and taste a wide portfolio without overindulging in intake or price.

Rebecca Hopkins wrote an article on the subject and made a very valid point:

“How do we teach up-and-coming professionals to know that […] you can have a successful career in wine and spirits without excess, when some of those in the industry who are considered “successful” also demonstrate existing or developing issues, or unhealthy habits that may cause problems in the future? This is a problem for everybody, not just women in the business.”

@Megandmerlot recommends giving your body a break at least 3 days a week.  “I try to stick to the recommendations but I definitely go over pretty often.  Most weeks I reserve a few days without wine and on the days I have wine typically it is 2 glasses.  (On tasting days I really don’t drink much/often spit).  I will admit that I have a few splurge days a month where I have a bit more – I love it though!”

“The line is very thin, I’ve seen people in the industry and regular people overdo alcohol, to a certain extent use the fact that they work with it everyday as an excuse to justify being over-consumers.” @throughmywineglass

“I find our generation of wine professionals face tremendous social pressure to be drinking.  To stay current, especially if you manage wine-based social media, you always need content.  We always want to be drinking the newest things, the most interesting varietals, unique styles and new vintages…it’s easy to get wine FOMO.  The guidelines are a helpful baseline, but it’s so important to consider what that means in the context of your life because it won’t look the same as anyone else’s idea of moderation.  I drink wine most days, but I rarely find myself drinking in excess. I make a point to take time to read about the varietal, vintage, winemaker, region or whatever it may be and truly taking the time to taste it, the way I used to when I was starting out in the business.  It really helps me to find my wine homeostasis again.”  @selenagaudet

“A good test for me is to walk away from it for awhile and see how much I think about wanting it.  If I ever find I want it to relax from stress, I will not pour a glass.”  @jodkrmdr

“I find for me when I stop noticing the joy in every sip it’s time to put the glass down.” @kims_onehopewine

“It’s the voice within.” @socialsips

The trend that came up in my Instagram comments weren’t specific amounts that take you to the other side.  The majority of the comments were based on knowing yourself, your level of control, your limit and the ability to ask yourself honest questions.

If you are feeling like you may be overconsuming it could be helpful to consider the “four C’s” below.

woman having depression bipolar disorder trouble

(https://www.treatmentalternatives.com/blog/signs-addiction-4-cs-addiction/)

1. Craving

A powerful desire to use or participate in your addiction. Craving can manifest itself physically through a feeling of restlessness, lack of sleep and lack of appetite. Physical signs of addiction manifest in cravings. Physical dependence may cause feelings of pain.

Craving make it difficult to think of anything other than the substance or activity.

2. Control (Loss of)

If you want to quit but can’t, you have lost control. You can no longer maintain your cravings and your use increases drastically. You can no longer control your action and you begin to use dishonesty to mask the truth of your actions.

Your day to day life has no more order or function.

3. Compulsion (To Use)

You need to have drugs or alcohol or engage in the activity constantly or else you cannot function. The urge is irresistible, and you do it despite not wanting to. There is less joy in the substance or activity. You now engage in this behavior simply because you must.

4. Consequences (Despite of)

Even though you know this substance or activity harmful, you continue to use or engage. Consequences range from mild to severe. Most mild consequences will build over time and become severe consequences. The emotional sings of addiction manifest here too. Even though you know how this substance or activity will make you feel, you continue to participate.

Example of the consequences od addiction are:

  • Injuries while using.
  • Relationship problems.
  • Spending money on substance or activity instead of spending money on food or rent.
  • Legal problems.
  • Problems at work place.
  • Loss of hope, feelings of emptiness.

“When the thing (in this case: wine) becomes detrimental to your quality of life and those around you, then it’s time to make an adjustment.” @bradinator_winemaker

“Life needs balance.” @bc_wine_review

The most important thing is that we carry on the conversation surrounding tough subjects such as this.  By coming forward to share our thoughts, stories and experiences, this industry can change and evolve in a healthy, positive way.  Working in the wine industry and spreading the good word of fine wine to the rest of the world is a big job.  We need to let the world of wine shine, and by doing so, we need to be healthy, positive and encouraging individuals…our best selves.  Painting the right picture, not just for others in the industry, but for the rest of the world interested in a subject like wine, is imperative.

Know your limits and never be afraid to ask for help.

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

 

Why the Okanagan has me re-thinking Pink.

Rosé dominates the Okanagan market over the Summer.

Two weeks back on BC soil and it didn’t take me long to notice I was surrounded by pink wine.

I was apprehensive at first, but quickly converted after tasting a beautiful, delicate Rosé from Le Vieux Pin in the South Okanagan.  A wine so pretty and floral it got me re-thinking my previous (perhaps ignorant) subconscious standoff approach towards Rosé wines in general.

I still dream about that wine, by the way.

www.levieuxpin.ca

(See my video review below)

 

So why did I feel that way?  I suppose I was so obsessed with the South African wine industry that I wasn’t experimenting with a lot of pinks (the Chenin factor).  The whole Rosé phenomenon felt more to me like a movement taking place, “up there” in the Northern Hemisphere.

Around 5 years ago, the Rosé revival was accelerated with social media marketing tactics and hashtags such as “Yes way Rosé” and “Rosé all day”; encouraging a new generation of wine lovers to drink more pink.  However, here in the Okanagan, it’s not just the newbie wine aficionado catching onto the trend, but some serious wine geeks are getting involved too, producing some exciting stuff.  While this phenomenon does well marketing itself side by side with a crystal blue pool, a blow-up flamingo and a glass of pretty pink Rosé; looking closer, it really is becoming so much more.

Events and tasting competitions solely dedicated to pink are growing and expanding.  Single categories for Rosé are a part of almost every judging panel and award show.

According to Elizabeth Gabay MW – there are actually 90 ways to make a Rosé.  Keep that in mind the next time your friend tells you flat out, ‘I don’t like Rosé’. The range has become so broad, that there should be a style for every palate.  And the next time you think every Rosé should taste like Provence, think again.

I decided to dedicate my first two weeks and my palate to Okanagan Rosé, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Flavours and aromas ranged from sweet and sour to floral and feminine.  It seems I’ve jumped on board this pink lifestyle the Okanagan is serving up; and with that, releasing all inhibitions into the wind.

New place, new rules, new people, new experiences.

Bring it on.

So, without much further ado, here’s my list of reasonably priced, entirely smashable Okanagan Rosé’s drunk up to date, along with my tasting notes:

 

Bartier Brothers

2017

Okanagan

Price: $17.99

www.bartierbros.com

 

11% Cabernet Franc (Black Sage Terrace, Oliver)

18% Muscat Ottonel (Summerland)

31% Gewürztraminer (Summerland)

40% Chardonnayb (Black Sage Terrace, Oliver)

12.3% alcohol

Color: Pale Salmon

Nose: Royal gala apples, Pear, Rose petal, Watermelon

Palate:  Like taking a bite of a fresh, acidic royal gala apple.  Sour Plum and Watermelon.

Conclusions:  Pretty, light and gentle.  A great value for money Summertime Rosé.

 

Culmina R&D

2017

Golden Mile Bench

Price: $19.99

www.culmina.ca

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Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Malbec.  All grapes sourced from Arise Bench, Oliver.

Color: Pale Salmon

Nose:  Black pepper, Strawberries and Plum

Palate: Nose follows through, extremely balanced.

Conclusions:  Dry, light but welcomes the palate with a slight, dramatic punch.  The use of full bodied red varietals gives this Rosé a dramatic character.  Drink this alongside a BBQ’d, saucy steak.

 

 

The Hatch

Gobsmacked (Flipping The Bird)

2017

Price: $21.99

www.thehatchwines.com

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Colour: Deep Pink

Alcohol:  13.2%

Nose:  Straight up Red Cherries.  Slight Dustiness.

Palate:  Pungeant Cherry Liquer, Sour Patch Kids and Swedish Berry Candies.

Conclusions:  As the label states – the first sip leaves you…gobsmacked.   It forces you to pucker your cheeks, widen your eyes and smack your lips.  Then, just like those aggressive sour patch kid candies you can’t help but shove in your face…you re-fill your glass, dying for another sip.  Yowza.  Unforgettable!

 

Joie Farm

Re-Think Pink!

2017

Okanagan

Price: $20.78

www.joiefarm.com

 

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80% Pinot Noir 20% Gamay

From grapes grown on St. Hubertus Vineyard (planted 1978)

Color: Deep Pink

Alcohol: 12.8%

Nose: Dust and Watermelon, Strawberry Rhubarb Pie.

Palate: Watermelon all over the mouth.  Campari, Juicy Fruit Gum and Fresh Strawberries

The alcohol feels somewhat weighted.

One of the first wines to be produced at Joie, inspiring “feelings of summer”.

Produced in desert terroir, inspired by the Loire.

Conclusions:  Drink now.  A heavier, candied Rosé, loaded with life and fruitful expression.

 

Quails Gate

2017

Okanagan Valley

Price:  $16.99

www.quailsgate.com

image1 3

Gamay Noir (50%)

Pinot Noir (40%)

Pinot Gris (10%)

Color: Medium Salmon

Alcohol: 13.5%

Nose:  Peaches, Sweet and Sour Sauce, Cantaloupe

Palate:  Watermelon, Peaches, Toast

Conclusions:  Versatile…a stand out wine.  Not quite a pool side Rosé, this juice offers more complexity and depth than your standard ‘smashable’ Rosé.  Keeping it classy yet, ‘rebelistic’…kinda like a 60’s Pink Lady.

 

 

The big move.

I’ve been getting asked a lot lately about what’s going on with my apprehensive story posts, my sometimes-quiet days on social media and the associated mysterious banter about my relocation back to British Columbia, Canada.

It’s hard to believe that it was just over a year ago when I started my online wine journey by opening my blog and Instagram account.  It was my way of expressing my new-found passion for wine on a medium I felt wasn’t being utilized enough in the wine world.  I wanted to share stories and pictures in an approachable way that would also spread the word about classy, elite South African wines that were and are not talked about enough on a global scale.

It’s a tough one, because as the opportunities and relationships came…life happened.

Without getting too personal, I want to say that for me, the beauty and scary part about life itself is that just when you believe it’s going one way and you’re in control, everything can change…sometimes for the better, sometimes for the worse.

It was my 10-year anniversary of living in South Africa this past May – which brought with it a lot of self-reflection.  After a life-changing trip to a beautiful reserve called Londolozi, and what I believe to be a very spiritual experience with a herd of elephants, I made the split decision to change my July vacation home to Canada to a permanent stay.

This was only 8 weeks ago.

Now, as I sit at my parents house in Kelowna, attempting to unwind from weeks of chaos, I’m looking towards a very unknown but exciting future and I find myself more excited than ever to share it with all of you, too.  I’ve formed some amazing relationships through my writing and Instagram and I cherish them very much.

Instagram for me has become a funny thing lately, it’s not what it was even a year ago.  Most people seem to only care about self-exposure, followers, algorithims and engagement…so much so that authenticity is becoming lost.  The ugly side to the Instagram ‘influencer’ world is that no one knows if who they’re following has genuinely gained followers and trust, or if bots have done all the work.  This is a hard subject for me to discuss and to each their own, but I feel it’s important I mention I have not and will not pay a service to do my likes and following. That’s done with my own fingers, on my own time.  What you see is what you get, and I hope as the world of social media develops, Instagram users don’t lose sight of the importance of raw human engagement.  Many people might respond to my statement saying that no engagement on social media can be deemed as real human engagement, but I would completely disagree, and the proof is in the pudding.  Instagram, if done slowly and correctly can be an amazing tool for people wanting to communicate and share their passions with others, and the relationships that form as a result across continents is something spectacular.

So I’m going to keep at it, even when there are days I want to throw away my phone!

Over the coming months I will be navigating my way through the BC wine world and trying to find a space that fits for me.  I hope that you’ll join in for the ride.

Content will stay the same as before, but this time we’ll be discussing a whole new world of producers, new grape varietals and talking to new faces.

If you live in the area and have some pointers or are interested in getting involved with me I’d love to hear from you.  I’m looking for help with reviews and direction.  So, don’t be shy, reach out and let’s chat.

There may not be as many wild animals in my posts – but I promise nothing short of honest, non-bias reviews and just a lot of fun.

Thank you to each and every single one of you that took the time to read this post and to those that have been reaching out and encouraging me these last couple of months – it means the world to me.

So, cheers to another fresh adventure.  Follow along and sip with me and let’s keep talking honestly about wine and learning together.

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

 

THE NÉGOCIANT MODEL

*This article was written exclusively for Port2port.wine – to learn more or shop this story be sure to check out their website.*

A négociant is a common French wine term often misunderstood by the rest of the world.

The Négociant Model

When perusing French wine, it’s helpful to understand the definition of a négociant in order to associate quality and value with your potential purchase.

NEGOTIATING

Négociants, (like the word), negotiate with outside sources, such as small farmers for grapes.  They are essentially merchants that purchase grapes, juice or bulk wine from farmers.  The grapes are then produced into wine, bottled and marketed under the label of the négociant. Originating in France, négociants can now be found in both old and new world wine regions.

BUT WHY?

The concept surrounding French wine négociants was born in Burgundy.  The role of the négociant arose from two essential needs in the wine industry:

1)    Grape quality control

2)    To bridge a gap between grape producers/vineyard owners and buyers.

EARLY NÉGOCIANTS

The earliest négociant dates back to the establishment of La Maison Beyerman in 1620.  By the early 1700’s, several new companies began to operate around France; many of which still operate to this day.  Négociants such as Schröder and Schÿler and Thomas Barton have over 350 years of experience in the business.  Powerhouse names, Louis Jadot and Jean-Claude Boisset are dominating today’s domestic and international markets.  Over the years, these négociant brands have worked hard to create and obtain a positive reputation for quality, distinct taste and expression of place (terroir). Other Old World négociants also include Joseph Drouhin and Louis Latour (a négociant-éléveur).

NÉGOCIANTS VS. GROWERS

For decades, négociants were considered the lesser group compared to their counterparts, the growers.  Grower champagne, has always been praised for single vineyard bubble production.  However, the image surrounding négociants as the underclassman of the growers has changed with modern times.  Négociants are able to offer characteristic taste of a specific region and its grapes, without the expenses surrounding more sought-after estate wines.  They also have an advantage over other groups because they have a significant amount of room to be fussy over grape quality and selection.  Négociants sit with some of the best quality juice at the best price.  They are able to offer consumers top terroir driven wines at an affordable cost.

Louis Jadot is a prime example of a négociant sourcing the best grapes with some of the best resulting wines on market.  Click here to view the Louis Jadot lineup available on Port2Port.

NEW WORLD NÉGOCIANTS

International ‘négociants’ are now found in every wine producing region around the world.  Here in South Africa, producers such as Dalla CiaThe High RoadGM & Ahrens as well as Richard Hilton Vineyards are new world négociants producing amazing, affordable, unique and terroir driven wines.

There are so many benefits to buying négociant wine: quality, affordability and expression are just a few of the reasons to delve in.  Browse Port2Port’s vast selection of local and international négociant wines and get stuck in!

 

Cheers for now,

 

Katie

The Elephant in the Room.

Leleshwa Wines

Grown and produced in the Great Rift Valley of Kenya

Sauvignon Blanc Review

Wine has become a universal language that transcends borders, forges friendships and builds communities.  It is shared human affection for the good grape that brings us together regardless of race, language, religion or gender.  Wine lovers are passionate beings that inhabit every corner of the globe. There isn’t a country or region in the wine growing hemisphere that hasn’t attempted to cultivate grapevines with the intention of producing wine.  With the harsh reality of global warming more present than ever, the potential for viticulture in previously impossible areas is becoming a possibility.  New opportunities for unique vineyard sites are opening up every single year.

It truly amazes me that through modern technology and a mutual passion for wine, I can make a friend in Kenya.   Melissa Mwende, a Kenyan wine lover (and one of the sweetest girls you’ll ever encounter) went out of her way to send me a bottle of Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc.  I couldn’t wait to taste the ‘terroir’!

Located deep in the heart of the Great Rift Valley sits the Morendat Farm, Naivasha, home of The Kenya Nut Company.  The business was founded and established on the property 20 years ago by Pius Ngugi.  Experts said it would be impossible to grow grapes in that part of the world, but Ngugi decided to give it a try anyways.  What began as a hobby turned into a Kenyan wine success story.  Two decades later, 80,000 to 150,000 bottles are being produced annually from a 35-hectare vineyard.  From what it seems, Leleshwa is a company growing and thriving.  The wines already dominate supermarket shelves and restaurant lists all over the country.  However, sourcing it in South Africa was quite the task (thanks again, Melissa).

I was excited to learn more about the finer details surrounding viticulture and wine production in such a unique, untypical area.  Anxious to start writing, I reached out to the winery but received no initial response.  After a follow up email, the company Marketing Manager replied and graciously agreed to answer some of my questions.  I responded the following day with a large list of questions and with great anticipation, waited for a response.  A month and two additional follow ups later, I had received no reply.  I was disappointed with the lack of communication from Leleshwa.  I moved forward and tried to source information but didn’t find much more than what was on the website and stated above.  To be honest, I was losing motivation.  I don’t like writing pieces on wine brands without fact checking and I like to provide unique information to the reader.  However, in this case, how many times was I supposed to follow up before giving in and writing what I could?  Or should I even write anything at all?

To make matters worse, when I opened the wine my nose was greeted with unbearable aromas of cabbage, which led me to believe the bottle had potentially experienced some heat damage.  There were some familiar Sauvignon Blanc aromas, but they were tough to find underneath the powerful scent of soggy vegetables.

In my email to Leleshwa I stated that I had potentially received a damaged wine.  I asked if it was at all possible to source another in Johannesburg.  Still no response.

“It has to be corked!” I told myself, after all, this is the Sauvignon Blanc that snagged the 2015 Gold and 2017 double Gold medals at the annual Michelangelo awards here in Johannesburg.  It is their flagship variety coined “the jewel of the winery.”

Bad luck I suppose.

I still encourage you to try the Leleshwa Sauvignon Blanc for yourself.  The story behind the wine is intriguing and it’s a wonderful experience to try wines from new, unique regions.  Maybe your tasting notes will differ from mine.  So if you happen to taste it, I’d love to hear from you.

Unfortunately, my positive experience with Leleshwa stopped at the story.  Everything afterwards remains tainted, like the wine.

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I’m of the opinion that if a wine brand is producing over 100,000 bottles per year, there should be a stronger focus on the marketing and communications department.  Given the new ways in which the world communicates and shares information, it’s imperative that companies are on top of their social media and marketing game.  Wine labels will not thrive without it.  We live in a time where wine drinkers want to feel a connection with the labels they buy.  They love stories.  They want to experience and live these stories.  They want to feel a special connection with a brand as a whole.

So does my experience with Leleshwa just come down to a series of unfortunate circumstances?  I really hope so.

As an individual consistently trying to up my wine writing skills I tossed and turned about sharing this experience with you.  Some wine writers will tell you that you won’t be taken seriously until you can publicly be critical and unapologetic.  Others will tell you not to waste your energy on uncooperative wine brands and to focus on positive aspects under the subject of wine.

What do you think?  Is my story worthwhile sharing?  Did you learn something?  Or was it just another tale of a corked wine and a winery that should probably check their emails more often?

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mapi Valley Wines – Embracing Ubuntu

Ubuntu is an African concept and humanist philosophy that defines an individual’s relationship with others.

Bishop Desmond Tutu described it as follows:

“Ubuntu speaks about the fact that you can’t exist as a human being in isolation.  It speaks about our interconnectedness.”

“It’s about humanistic ideals, and service and wellbeing of the community above self.” (wosa.co.za)

The emergence of brands and initiatives in the South African wine industry embracing the philosophy of Ubuntu are taking a step in the right direction towards transformation.

Black and colored South Africans make up around 90% of the population but remain grossly underrepresented in a wine industry worth 36 billion Rand (GDP).  The South African wine industry is still teething the consequences associated with apartheid when non-white individuals were prohibited from enjoying, learning and taking part in the local wine culture.

Today, more than 160,000 people from previously disadvantaged groups are employed in the wine industry.  However, there are only 37 black-owned wine brands out of hundreds in the country and even less 100% black-owned wineries (sawis.co.za).

There is still a heavy workload ahead to change these statistics.  Cherry coating a starkly unbalanced wine industry will only delay this process.

Partnerships and collaborations are vital for positive transformation and development in the SA wine industry.

Enter, Mapi Valley –

groupshop.jpg

Mapi comes from the word Mapinduli – meaning springboard (a platform for enablement).  Valley refers to the valleys where grapes grow.

Mapi Valley call themselves a “for progress” brand – aiming to become the most progressive wine and spirits brand in South Africa.  Their aim is to empower a new generation of South African sommeliers and chefs by collaborating with wine producers to label a portion of their wines under the Mapi Valley range.

They believe in progressive wine branding.

Mapi Valley focuses on rising stars in the wine and gastronomy world to collaborate with.  Each range is dedicated to an individual – sharing their story and passion.

The brand hopes to inspire a fresh, vibrant and diverse generation of South African sommeliers and chefs that better reflect the rainbow nation.

Part of the profit of sales is invested into opportunities in education and experience for young aspiring sommeliers.

Tania Timkova from Mapi says the brand wishes “to build the community of wine-professionals, aspiring Sommeliers, educators to altogether drive progress and support new generations in wine and gastronomy.”

The current Somm on the bottle is Marlvin Gwese, head Somm at the Cape Grace Hotel in Cape Town.  Marlvin teamed up with Solms Delta and Miles Mossop to create this gem.  I popped my bottle on Friday.

marlvingwese.jpg

I tried the red blend which is made up of 80% Grenache, 17% Syrah and 3% Cinsault.  Dusty strawberries and freshly stomped cranberries surround the nose with the presence of Christmas spice.  The palate is juicy and fruity (red fruits); delicate and light with a nudge of cocoa.  The wine is lovely.  The velvety texture works well with its overall  delicacy.

Up next in the Mapi Valley range of wines will be a collaboration with Melusi Magodhi from Ellerman House in Cape Town.  He is busy choosing the producers and varieties that will become the second range under the Mapi Valley label.

The wine is currently available through the Mapi Valley website:

https://www.mapivalley.com/our-wines/

and will soon be available online both locally and to European and US customers.

mapivalley.jpg

I look forward to sampling the next range of wines and watching Mapi’s valiant effort towards creating to a more balanced and reflective South African wine industry.

Cheers to progress!

Katie

For more information on the Mapi Valley range please email:  joinus@mapivalley.com

Investment Wines

This article was written exclusively for port2port.wine – to shop this story and view my recommended selections click here

When a fine wine is laid on its side to rest, days of old are sealed. Vineyard and cellar secrets settle to the bottom of the bottle, patiently waiting to reveal themselves at the ‘pop’ of the cork.

As time passes, a wine’s life carries on; this is a life formed by tannins, acids, alcohol and sugar. How these components interact and talk to one another greatly determines the life span and ‘peak’ of a wine.

Scientists tell us that humans have a physical ‘peak’ in life – a point in time when our bodies are at their healthiest and our minds are at their sharpest.

The same can be said for wine.

The way I see it, there are two types of wine:

LIVE FAST, DIE YOUNG

Most wines are like James Dean, peaking early in life and best enjoyed young. The majority of world wines produced today (about 95%) are created specifically for consumers to drink and enjoy now.

BETTER WITH AGE

Then there’s the other 5%, who are more like Meryl Streep; ageing with grace. Beautiful throughout their whole life but maturing and becoming more complex as the years pass. Unfortunately, many of these bottles are taken from us too soon – with the untimely removal of a cork; and some of these wines, are taken too late. They tragically peak and die in the bottle, never able to express their beauty.

So how does an aspiring collector know what to put away, what to enjoy now and where to even start?

Consider storing varieties with a good ability to age:

Whites: White Rioja, Chenin Blanc, Trebbiano, ChardonnaySemillon and Riesling

Reds: Nebbiolo, Aglianico, Cabernet SauvignonTempranillo and Pinot Noir

Sweet: Hungarian Tokaji/Tokay, Riesling, Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc (Sauternes)

Fortified: Vintage Port, Madeira, Sherry and Muscat based fortified wines

PRODUCER IS KEY

Producers with established history and a good track record of vintages, should show better value and capacity to age.

PRODUCTION IS KEY

Wine production and technique also plays a role. How were the grapes handled? What products/agents were used in the production of the wine? What happened to that wine as it was produced? These factors all affect a wine’s ability to age. The more meticulously made the wine, the better the ageing potential.

THE VINTAGE (YEAR)

Pay close attention to good vintage years in different regions of the world, as well as good vintage years for specific producers. A good vintage year means that life was good for the vines and grapes in the vineyard, and production went off without a hitch. Components mentioned above (acid, alcohol, sugar and tannin) will work at their full potential if they had the best start in life.

TANNINS, ACID, SUGAR, ALCOHOL

Acid: As wines age, acidity levels flatten. Therefore, the higher the acid, the better.

Tannin: Tannins provide a wine with structure. A good balance of tannin will break down and smooth the wine with time.

Alcohol: Too much alcohol can be volatile in non-fortified wines and this is a big reason for a wine turning to vinegar. An alcohol level of 13.5% tends to be more balanced overall and should assist with ageing.

Residual Sugar: The longest living wines are sweet wines. The higher the residual sugar, the better the potential to age.

STORAGE

Once you’ve established which wines you are going to lay to rest, it’s just as important that they are stored correctly. A consistent temperature of about 13 degrees is ideal for wine storage. Your space needs to be dark and away from direct sunlight. Keep handling to a bare minimum. Store the bottle on its side to keep the cork in contact with the wine. If the cork dries out oxygen will find its way in. Oxygen is one of the biggest killers of an ageing wine.

IN CONCLUSION

Drinking an aged wine affords us the chance to time travel and re-experience the memories associated with years past. An aged wine can also grant the unique opportunity to consume something created at a time when we never even existed. Collecting and drinking wines with age is a rewarding and fulfilling experience.

With some careful technique, investigation and a bit of gambling, you can build and grow a cellar that not only increases in value but creates a sense of pride and history in your own home. At the end of the day, your collection should represent you. Even if certain bottles you choose don’t follow the rules above, they will still reward you nostalgically later in life.

Port2Port has a killer wine selection with plenty of quality, diverse wines to catapult your cellar or storage space into rock star status.

Budget dependent, check out some of my recommended wines to tuck away and supplement your collection.

Cheers for now,

Katie

The Captivating Tale Behind Today’s Constantia

This article was written exclusively for Port2port.wine – to find out more or shop this story, but sure to visit their site.

 

How do you see it?

Huguenots? Ox wagons? Wild animals? A Khakibos infused landscape?

What an interesting time to be alive! But was it a time to drink wine?

How did wine, such a precious instrument and statement of Cape life today, fit into the scenery so many years ago?

THE INCEPTION OF WINE IN THE CAPE

It all started with a man named Jan Van Riebeeck. He left with his wife and son for the Cape on the 24th of December, 1651; arriving at Table bay on the 6th of April, 1652. The Cape of Good Hope served as a stop along the Indian Spice Route for fresh fruits and vegetables; and Van Riebeeck was put in charge of managing this station. He was also instructed to plant grape vines and produce wine as it was believed to assist passing travelers with scurvy. This belief turned out to be an old wives’ tale; however, it ended up serving its purpose by declaring the official documented inception of wine in the Cape.

In 1655 the first vines in the Cape were planted and by 1659 the first successful South African wine was produced from French Muscadel.

Next came Simon Van Der Stel, the Cape Colony’s last commander and first Governor. In 1685 Van Der Stel was awarded land now known as greater Constantia. Constantia sits a stone’s throw from the Table Mountain range in a stunning floral valley close to coastal False Bay. Its location allows the perfect micro-climate to produce distinctive World Class Wines. Van Der Stel planted Chenin Blanc, Semillon, Palomino and Muscat in his vineyards. He was well known for being a perfectionist, and only demanded the best quality wines; even importing the help of some French winemakers. It wasn’t long before his wines had earned a glowing reputation in Europe.

In 1714, after Van Der Stel’s passing; the estate was split up and sold by way of auction. It was divided into three farms: Groot Constantia, Klein Constantia and Berg-vliet. Groot Constantia was bought in 1778 by Hendrik Cloete who had great intentions of reviving the estate. The Estate stayed in the family from 1778 to 1885, and it was the Cloete family who would bring the world’s attention to Constantia.

THE RISE OF SWEET CONSTANTIA WINE

As the 18th and 19th centuries rolled on, the Constantia valley became known worldwide for its legendary dessert wines.  These sweet wines were popular with aristocracy and royalty all over the world.  Historical figures such as Bismarck, Frederick the Great and King Louis Phillipe of France were just some of the famous figures to enjoy the sweet nectar.  The wine was also sampled on Downing Street, and the English Prime Minister made sure this wine was delivered to Buckingham Palace for the King on a regular basis.  Constantia dessert wines were also written about by Jane Austen and Charles Dickens, among others.  Napoleon even drank Constania Wijn on the Island of St. Helena during his lengthy exile.

The Decline of Sweet Constantia wine

Sweet Constantia, an extremely labour intensive wine, experienced a shortage of labour after the abolition of slavery in 1834. Twenty-five years later, in 1859, powdery mildew arrived in the region and had a direct effect on the vines producing the sweet wine.

In 1860 Britain terminated their preferential import duties on Cape Wines, which was followed by the conclusion of a 10-year free trade agreement between Britain and France.

The reputation of the sweet wine was further damaged by dealers who placed inferior “pirate” versions on the international market.

In 1864 a book was published by AV Kirwan called Host and Guest; a Book about Dinners, Dinner-Giving, Wines and Desserts. In the book Kirwan wrote: “The Constantia wine of the Cape, though much liked by Frenchmen of seventy and upwards and Frenchwomen above forty, never can be generally a favorite with Englishmen…”

Consequently, Hoop op Constantia went insolvent in 1857.

In 1872, Groot Constantia was next. Jacob Cloete (descendent of Hendrik Cloete) had filed for bankruptcy and was subsequently declared insolvent. The Cape Government bought the farm on auction in 1885 for a mere £5,275 and used the estate as an experimental wine farm. Unfortunately, phylloxera invaded in 1899 – killing all the newly planted vines. In 1925, disaster struck Constantia yet again and the farm’s vines were burnt down by a wildfire. The Government decided they desperately needed to re-asses the farm’s position.

In 1971 part of the existing wine cellar on the estate was turned into a museum. By 1984, both Groot and Hoop op Constantia were declared National Monuments, and by 1993 ownership of the entire estate was transferred to a Trust to maintain the heritage and culture associated with the property.

In 1980, Cape Town businessman Duggie Jooste bought Klein Constantia. He consulted with viticulturist Professor Chris Orffer of Stellenbosch University during the estate’s redevelopment. They studied early records of wine production in Constantia and decided to plant Muscat de Frontignan in 1982.

Klein Constantia was able to produce the now iconic Vin de Constance Natural Sweet dessert wine in 1986. Since its launch, the wine has consistently appeared on lists as one of the world’s top rated wines. The 2007 vintage was awarded 97 points by Neal Martin of Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, making it the highest rated sweet wine in South African history.

In 2003, Groot Constantia reintroduced Grand Constance, a highly rated natural sweet made from both white and red Muscat de Frontignan.

THIRSTY?

So, is the rich tale of sweet Constantia making you thirsty and curious?

Why not experience it for yourself and sip on South African history by investing in your own bottle of Vin de Constance. Unbelievably enjoyable now or safe to age for decades to come; this sweet dessert wine is one experience you will never forget.

Constantia Valley boasts quite a few wineries that produce a large range of sweet and non-sweet wines. Why not browse the following producers?

Constantia Uitsig

Klein Constantia & Vin De Constance

Eagle’s Nest

Steenberg

I believe wholeheartedly that by understanding the stories behind the producers and varietals we drink, our experience of drinking will be more personal and fulfilling.

Cheers for now (and happy tasting),

Katie

Poetry In A Bottle

The story of Joseph Dhafana –

Zimbabwean Refugee Turned Celebrity South African Winemaker

In October 2017, the first ever Team to represent Zimbabwe competed in France at the world blind tasting championships.  I found myself intrigued by the stories surrounding the team which consisted of four gentlemen, also known as the “Zim Somms”.   A couple of months ago I reached out to one of the Sommelier’s, Joseph Dhafana (aka the Wine Poet) via Instagram.  He responded immediately, graciously offering to send me some wine and indulge me in my questions and curiosity.

Turned out, we had everything, yet nothing, in common with one another.

The year was 2008 when both myself and Joseph would arrive at separate ends of South Africa to build new lives.

Myself, a privileged white Canadian girl coming from a cushy upbringing – moving to South Africa on a tidal wave of romance and love.

Joseph, a black Zimbabwean born and bred in rural Chirumhanzu, who made the decision to flee from the tyranny of Robert Mugabe.

He told me, he just had enough.  “There was nothing left to do but struggle.  There was no food on the shelves, no money in circulation and no jobs available.”  Joseph and his wife arrived first in Johannesburg with absolutely nothing.  They slept on the streets for two weeks and eventually found a temporary home with a cousin.

Joseph applied for his asylum permit at a refugee camp in Musina, a border town in South Africa directly adjacent to Zimbabwe; a hopeful golden ticket for a brighter future in a new country.

While Joseph was sleeping on the streets, I settled into my sometimes challenging, but comfortable life in South Africa.  Myself, in Johannesburg trying to decide what to cook for dinner, and Joseph who moved onwards to Cape Town not knowing where his next meal would come from.

A passion for wine still written in the stars and completely unbeknown to both of us.

After working a few years as a gardener for a fellow Zimbabwean, Joseph landed a job at a restaurant called the Black Sheep in the Swartland; starting again as a gardener and slowly working his way from dish washer, to barman, to waiter.

On the 7th of March, 2010, Joseph tried his first glass of wine; it was his 28th birthday.  It was a glass of Pieter Cruythoff Brut Bubbly.

As time ticked forward in the Swartland, Joseph’s love and knowledge for wine accelerated as he worked his way up the ranks in the Black Sheep.

Well known winemakers Eben Sadie and Chris Mullineux would pick Joseph up on separate days and take him to taste wines from their barrels.  Joseph still remembers vividly a day in 2013 when Chris Mullineux brought a glass of his white to Joseph and asked him about the acidity.  It was the Mullineux White Blend.  Joseph claims this to be his ‘ah ha’ moment in wine.  He thought to himself, “how can Chris Mullineux ask this small rural boy if the acidity is balanced?  Those guys never underrated or undermined anyone.”  It was then, that Joseph also realized his natural flair and skill for tasting.  He began to emerge from his self-identity of “small rural boy knowing nothing of wine” and embrace his natural talent for taste.  He opened his mind to the beautiful world of South African wine and little did he know that world would soon give right back to him.

All of Joseph’s gut, grit and determination would finally start to pay off.

 

image2Joseph took part in the 2013 harvest with Chris Mullineux and recounts it as one of the most valuable experiences of his life.  The Mullineaux Granite Chenin 2015 remains Joseph’s favorite wine.

In 2014 Joseph decided to produce his maiden vintage, a modest 400 bottle collection of 100% Syrah.  Which sold out its first year of release.

In 2015, Joseph entered the blind wine tasting competition at the Taj Hotel in Cape Town.    He came third, made it through to the finals and found himself representing South Africa in France that October.  He also produced his second vintage of Mosi Flavian Syrah, the wine I had the pleasure to taste and review (notes below).

In 2017, Joseph produced another vintage under the label Mosi (which is still sitting in barrels) – the same year he represented Team Zimbabwe in France.

Fast forward to 2018 and he is on his 4th vintage.

Grapes for the Mosi range are sourced from Antebellum wine farm and hand harvested by a team from Wellington.  When explaining his process, Joseph says that he first cools his grapes and follows with some good old-fashioned foot-stomping.  Grapes are not destemmed, and only natural yeasts are utilized in the fermentation.  Grapes are whole bunch fermented (carbonic maceration).  Joseph has an affinity towards Crozes Hermitage Syrah, so he bases his Mosi Syrah on this style.  He leaves his wines in barrel for an average of 14 months before bottling and the wines will generally sit in bottle for an average of 3-6 months before release.

mosi
A sketch of the Victoria Falls by artist Janine Muller is the image on his labels.  Victoria Falls, also known as the Mosi-Oa Tunya directly translates into “the smoke that thunders”.  It’s the world’s biggest waterfall that divides the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe.  It is a representation of the remaining beauty, rawness and attraction associated with Zimbabwe, which will always be Joseph’s true home.

I tried the Mosi Flavian Syrah for the first-time the other day.  I found it elegantly light and fresh.  Medium ruby in color with a slight watery garnet rim.  Aromas of forest floor overwhelm the senses with some wet wood, leaves and stone, pine needles and mushroom.  Fruit aromas of sour cherry, stewed prunes and spices such as cardamom and aniseed.  On the palate the body is delightfully light and fun.  More fruit presents itself and I got a distinct flavor of chocolate chili, well done toast and eucalyptus.  The alcohol is 13%, sweetness level is dry, tannins and acidity are medium plus.  The vines were grown on decomposed granite soil and this factor really presents itself in the wine.  Overall, I found it very enjoyable and playful.  Everyone should try it for themselves and share their notes to Joseph, he loves the feedback.

So what next for Joseph Tongai Dhafana?  Well, if 2018 doesn’t look exciting enough, 2019 serves to be even bigger with the anticipated release of the “Zim Somm” documentary in New York City.  The movie will document the four Sommeliers from Team Zimbabwe and their unique individual journeys into the wine world.

This year, Joseph plans to expand his range with 400 bottles of Merlot, 400 bottles of Mosi Syrah and 400 bottles of Chenin (a collaboration with two friends).  He already has a hefty waitlist of dedicated customers where the wines will go first, then after it’s fair game for consumers.

As two foreigners celebrating their first decade on South African soil this year, it’s safe to say we’ve both settled in; establishing roots and permanent lifestyles.  Our individual journeys into wine were extremely different, but thanks to an ever-shrinking global wine community (and Instagram) Joseph and I could strike up a friendship through commonality and mutual passion.  Despite our starkly different backgrounds, we were able to connect and collaborate.  Amazing isn’t it?  The increasing ability for wine to connect people, regardless of their personal journey’s, challenges and backgrounds.  This is what South African wine is all about!  Community through commonality.  Wine should not know race, gender, or background.  Wine is quite simply…for wine lovers.

A story such as Joseph’s should absolutely be celebrated, but it should also be more common.  It’s been twenty-four years since the end of apartheid and the South African wine industry remains glaringly white and male-dominated, unreflective of South Africa’s true demographic.  Various organizations and groups have been set up to encourage change, and there indeed has been positive change.  However, today’s current demographic for winemakers, influential figures and estate owners in South Africa are still reminiscent of the wine industry that existed over a decade ago.

Joseph is an example for all of us in the industry.  He showed motivation when most would feel unmotivated and demonstrated strength and determination when others would have thrown in the towel.

Cheers to you, Joseph and I wish you only the most success in what is sure to be a very bright future in wine.  I will be following along, on the edge of my seat with great excitement.

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

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About 1500 bottles remain on the 2015 Mosi Flavian Syrah – so if you’re keen to snag a bottle for yourself you can order directly from Joseph (email tjdafana@gmail.com).  Cape Town residents can pick up a bottle at Wine at the Mill in Woodstock, Norman Good Fellows or Wine concepts in Newlands.  All other South Africans and customers around the globe can liaise with Joseph directly.

 

 

 

 

 

The Conscious Wine Consumer

This article was written exclusively for Port2Port Fine Wine Distributors.

To find out more or shop this story visit: port2port.wine

(Clickable links below)

“Tastes like cough syrup…” “Strong, sweet and medicinal…” These are the words scientists use to describe how the world’s first wines would have tasted.

The Conscious Wine Consumer

Proverbs 23:32 describes early wine to “bite like a snake and poison like a viper”.

Doesn’t sound too tempting does it? So why did they drink it? In ancient times, wine drinkers weren’t really interested in discussing the nuances of what they were drinking; wine rather played a function and a role in society. The effect of intoxication was considered a gift from the heavens and the careful, advanced chemistry now associated with winemaking was not defined until modern day.

Over time, as contemporary wines have emerged and the global world of wine has shrunk into a village; the art of winemaking continues to seek perfection. Standards amongst consumers have developed alongside palates. From Plato, to Cyrus Redding, to today’s Robert Parker, the age of the wine critic has made its appearance. Wine production has become an art consistently challenged by the critic and consumer.

Consumers and winemakers are becoming more conscious of what they are drinking and producing, and as a result, one could say winemaking is experiencing a trend of retreat and simplification. While it’s not the fast track back to cough syrup, there exists a yearning to go back to the roots and basic foundations of winemaking.

Nowadays, “minimal intervention” is a term popping up all over the wine scene. It’s meaning can be broad or it can be specific. Minimal intervention is the belief that as little as possible should be done to the wine throughout its production. When a producer uses the term, they are trying to convey that they did what they could to avoid “interfering” with the natural process of winemaking, leaving as much as possible to mother nature.  From the vineyard to the cellar, minimal intervention and its associated techniques can be broken down into parts.

Bush vines are a South African treasure and the most sought-after vine in the Cape right now. Bush vines are essentially untouched vines that have been left to their own devices.  They grow on dry, un-irrigated land and produce low-yields with small berries. These berries produce unique, intensely flavoured wines.

Want to taste some old vine wine? Try the Flotsam and Jetsam Cinsault by Chris and Suzaan Alheit of Alheit Vineyards. This wine is made from farmed bush vine parcels from Darling and Stellenbosch. Fresh, fruity and a great ‘any occasion’ wine – from your smartest of dinner parties to a solo night in.

The absence of pesticides or fungicides in the vineyard is also considered to be a sustainable, organic and minimal intervention technique.  While studies have shown that chemical residues in wine are too small to have any effect on drinkers, it is the vineyard workers that are being exposed to hefty health risks. Ginny Poval’s Arboretum and Big Flower range is produced from organic, high density vineyards. Purchase your bottle here.

Hand pruning, hand-picking and hand-sorting are techniques that treat the vines delicately versus a heavy machine doing the work and potentially causing damage to the grapes and vines.

Natural Fermentation aka wild ferment or spontaneous fermentation takes place without the assistance of commercial yeasts. Natural yeasts and microorganisms are brought in by the grapes from the vineyard and are encouraged to propagate by temperature control.

Do you want to try a wine that has been created via natural/spontaneous fermentation? I recommend Fable Mountain’s Raptor Post Red and Rosé – both made utilizing natural fermentation.

Fining is a process where winemakers add fining agents to their wine in order to remove small solids and improve the clarity of the finished wine. Unfined wines, simply put, are wines that have not gone through this process. They will generally appear hazier than traditional wines and may have some sediment at the bottom of the bottle, they may also be labelled as a ‘natural wine’. Unfiltered, is wine that has not been filtered.  After fermentation, wine is usually filtered through a specialty filter. This process removes solids or small particles from the wine.  These particles are a normal result of the fermentation process and are not harmful.  Filtering of wine leaves a wine that is more aesthetically pleasing and considered a cosmetic process. Many experts believe that wines that are unfined or unfiltered will have a sweeter and earthier flavour.  Why don’t you decide for yourself and try wines from David Trafford’s exciting project, Sjinn?  Sjinn Vineyards do not fine their wine and minimal filtering is used (bentonite). The whole range is spectacular, but my personal favourite is their Malgas White Blend (75% Chenin Blanc, 17% Viognier and 8% Roussanne).

The winemaking process is a journey with many roads. Ultimately, the style decided by the winemaker will depend on numerous factors such as: grape variety, climate and available resources. As wine consumers, it’s beneficial to understand certain wine terminology so more informed, conscious purchasing decisions can be made with confidence.

Cheers for now,

Katie

Rise of the Wine-Loving Millennial Journalist

In the beginning there was Cato, then there was Pliny – two of the earliest writers to leave behind traceable prose on the subject of wine.  Fast forward to 2018…time has ticked on, globalisation has set in, and the world of wine has shrunk into a global village.  Today, passionate world wine consumers read the same articles and taste the same wines.  A wine lover in Italy can sip on the same Cabernet Sauvignon as another in Iceland; and better yet, they can go online and have a conversation about it.

At the forefront of this era sit millennials (individuals between the ages of 18 and 34).  This age group represents the new face of ‘wine media’ and ‘wine journalism’.  Millennials seem to be one of the most judged generations of all time.  Often deemed as lazy, live in the moment, “I want it and I want it now”; millennials are, whether we like it or not, on the fast track to dominating and controlling the wine market with their opinions, lifestyle and ideas.  According to fortune.com, millennials are now responsible for over 41% of world wine consumption and have officially surpassed the baby boomers.

young stylish friends using digital devices while standing near brick wall

Millennials live life online.  They have grown up with technology and trust it more than any other generation up to date.  Millennials are an emotionally conscious and invested generation; they want to connect with a wine brand and demand authenticity.  Social issues such as sustainability and empowerment are important to the millennial consumer.  Purchasing choice is based more on the story that exists behind the label, rather than the flashy advert.

Wine journalism and media today means less paper, more online articles, less big money advertising and more monetary investment in ‘influencers’ and organic platforms.  These days, thanks to the internet, and more particularly, social media; the umbrella labelled as ‘wine media’ seems to welcome anyone who wants to be there to stand underneath it.  From the passive, casual wine consumer – to the dedicated oenophile, anyone can go online, start a blog, gain some followers and talk about wine.  Some of the blogs and sites coming out today are blowing well-known wine critic’s websites out of the water.  They are more relatable, navigate-able and just better looking.  The tables are quickly turning, and these consumers and connoisseurs, whether formally educated in the subject of wine or not, are moving to a place of control.

Robert Parker, a member of the baby-boomer wine-consumer generation is an American-born, self-taught wine write.  His palate is worth its weight in gold.  Considered the most influential wine critic on the globe, Parker created the 100-point scale (also known as Parker points).  He is said to taste and review up to 10,000 wines a year.    Some believe Parker has completely changed the history of wine and they are probably right; with a single sip, he can cause a producer’s vintage to either soar in sales or plummet to its untimely death.

Is this fair or just plain disturbing?  No matter how ‘accurate’, how can a single palate determine a wine producer’s fate?  After all, this is a wine producer who has poured their heart and soul into a vintage.

However, what once was, is no longer ringing true today.  The millennial generation is silently pushing Robert Parker and his reviews out of the limelight and new individuals are stepping in from the shadows.  Days of the ‘one palate determines all’ are numbered.  Educated millennial wine consumers still follow and listen to Robert Parker and his points, however, there is now an equal focus on following smaller, more relatable accounts and newsfeeds.  Young consumers prefer to read wine reviews from everyday people that they feel like they know and can relate to.  A great example is American, Marissa Ross (check out her instagram @marissaross and website www.marissaaross.com).

Thanks to this generation of ‘self-confident, outspoken individuals’, wine consumers of all ages are starting to trust their own palate, engage and support smaller producers and are more conscious about what’s in their glass.  The wine world is becoming more inclusive and less elite.  Millennial consumers are showing more confidence in their wine purchases, something we haven’t really seen before.  With or without the points, wine drinking millennials are going to tell you all about what they’re drinking, regardless of whether they hold an oenology degree or a WSET certification.

Group Of Friends Enjoying Outdoor Picnic In Garden

We live in a democratic age where it’s easier to voice our opinions.  The internet now serves host to thousands of tasting notes written on wines from all over the world by average wine consumers.

What are your thoughts?  Does the flood of online amateur tasters, influencers and writers impact the industry negatively or positively?  Does the weakening of wine elitism mean more diverse, relatable palates…or just a new affinity to mass amounts of bulk Sauvignon Blanc?

However you look at it, there’s no going back; the world of wine is changing.

Brands and baby-boomers beware…

You’ve either got to fit in, or…well you know.

Cheers for now,

Katie

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women & Wine – Conquering Stereotypes and Breaking Boundaries

This article was written exclusively for port2port.wine – if you are interested in purchasing wines or learning more about the producers mentioned – be sure to visit Port2Port to shop this story!

The number of women in the wine industry is steadily on the rise and given the lengthy lifeline of wine’s existence, it’s certainly been a long time coming. Times are exciting and encouraging for women involved in the industry – not just on a global scale, but here in South Africa too. There are so many poignant examples of kickass ladies getting their ‘wine on’ in South Africa; but before we recognize some of them, let’s first put into context a woman’s role in wine since the beginning of its known existence.

Two weeks ago, thedrinksbusiness.com reported that evidence of the oldest wine in human history dates back to around 8000 years ago. This is as much as 500-1,000 years older than what was previously believed. Large clay jars were discovered with carbon dating that indicated an age from 5,980 BC. The jars were discovered in Georgia and when tested, showed signs of tartaric, malic, succinc and citric acids. Presence of these acids proves that the grapes had been fermented and were not just kept as grape juice.
As we are all aware, women have been around just as long as men; however, in the long history and evolution of wine, women have for the most part remained absent.
History tells us that over time and across the many cultures of the world, wine was essentially reserved for men, drunk by men and produced by men.
In ancient Egypt wine was considered “the gift of the gods” and was also used as a medicinal drug to assist with pain management and physical ailments. Jars of wine were placed alongside famous Egyptian men in their tombs, to make life after death ‘more comfortable’.
In Greece, wine drinking was a social event and Greeks are known to have established the first great male drinking clubs called symposia. This is where upper class, wealthy men would come together to philosophise and discuss current events. Greek women would participate in these events but only if they were filling roles as musicians, prostitutes or servers.
The Romans replaced the word symposia with male-only gatherings known as convivial, which was based around male camaraderie and the enjoyment of wine. In the Roman times, women were not even allowed to serve wine and would be sentenced to death or divorce if they were caught in the act of consumption.
Prejudice against women and wine carried on in Europe throughout the 17th and 18th century. Married women were not permitted to enter Cabarets or Taverns, so wine consumption and service was restricted to female prostitutes or servers working in these establishments.
After wine production and consumption took off in the New World, private male clubs and dinner parties would also restrict the participation of women.  “Until up to about 200 years ago, the nuances of wine enjoyment continued to be restricted to men only.
It wasn’t until the year 2000 that the oldest and most well-known of the Bordeaux confrères (brotherhoods), the Jurade of Saint Emillion, finally admitted its first two women, after eight hundred years of men only.” (https://content.iucpress.edu/chapters/10134.ch01.pdf)
Wine has played a vital role in the history of religion in Judaism, Catholicism and Christianity. While women were able to partake in religious ceremonies that involved wine, it wasn’t until more modern times that women were able to actually conduct services or ceremonies and handle the wine.

imagevueveSo when did we see individual women and their names appear in the history books of wine? The emergence of what is now deemed the group of ‘wine widows’ was a notable time period, and it is these particular women who were recorded and recognized for their powerful roles in the history of sparkling wine. Women like Madame Clicquot, Ana Cordoníu and Lilly Bollinger all took over their husband’s estates after their deaths. These estates not only continued to thrive but also advanced under the direction of these women. This time period even saw the invention of riddling come about (thanks to the Great Dame herself, Madame Clicquot)!

Fast forward to today, many would argue that there still exists a powerful and inhibiting exclusion of women in the wine world. Women are still dealing with obstacles that arise from engrained stereotypes and role conflicts. However, there has been a boom of women stepping into the wine industry and numbers are sure to increase. Women struggle, in any profession to balance their roles as wives and mothers alongside the motivation of a career.

girl plays superhero

The struggle to achieve this balance has been known to be a major obstacle in women’s development in society. However, against the odds there are some notable women in the South African wine industry that have and are blazing a trail for a future generation of women with a passion for wine.
Today, you can’t talk about South African women in wine without mentioning Ntsiki Biyela. She is a pioneer for South Africa’s wine industry and the countries’ first black female winemaker. Ntsiki has created her own brand of wines called Aslina and has been globally recognized for her achievements and determination. Ntsiki thrived even when the odds were stacked against her, studying Oenology and Viticulture on a scholarship at the University of Stellenbosch in 1999 – a short 5 years after the end of apartheid.
Womeninwine.co.za was formed in in 2006. It is a black owned wine producing company that is controlled and managed entirely by women. The organization was founded by 20 women who all work in the South African wine industry and share a common dream. “They strive to give women, especially farm workers and their families, a share in the industry. Women in wine only source wine from farms that comply with socio-economic legislation with specific reference to ethical and environment practices, employment conditions, skills development and training, as well as that address aspects of black economic empowerment.” (womeninwine.co.za)
Up next, the lovely Andrea Mullineaux. Andrea won the coveted title Winemaker of the Year in 2016 – a prestigious title awarded by Wine Enthusiast, a US publication that has a worldwide readership of 800,000. She is the co-owner (alongside her husband Chris) and winemaker at Mullineaux & Leeu Family Wines in Swartland. In 2013, she was the 5th woman to be inducted into the Cape Winemakers Guild since its inception in 1982. She is currently one of two women in the 46 member strong Guild. Membership into the Guild is extended to winemakers who have produced outstanding wines for a minimum of five years, and who are currently still involved in the trade. The membership is by invitation only.
It’s near impossible to go into a wine shop, or any shop these days without coming across a bottle of wine from Warwick Wine Estate. Have you ever wondered why so many of their wines are named after a Lady? The First lady, Blue Lady and White Lady are names of some of the wines from the Warwick range. They are named after the ‘Matriarch’ of the Ratcliffe family, Norma Ratcliffe. She is also known as ‘The First Lady’ as she was one of the first women to make wine in South Africa. Her and her husband Stan founded Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch in 1964. Norma, completely self-taught, became head winemaker at Warwick in the late 1970’s and was the first woman to become a member of the Cape Winemakers Guild and the only woman to serve as chairperson. She was also the first person to launch a Cabernet Franc in South Africa. Norma is considered a great pioneer of the South African wine industry and her impact on the industry has left it forever changed.
The Vilafonté range is one of my personal favourites on the market right now. There are only two wines produced and they are of two very distinct styles. One is soft and rounded while the other is fruit driven; both are absolutely delicious and I have yet to try a vintage from Vilafonté that I haven’t adored. At the helm of this brand is Zelma Long, a winemaking partner at the winery. She is one of America’s best known winemakers and is internationally recognized for her work. “She was one of the first women to study oenology and viticulture at U.C Davis. Zelma oversees the winemaking and style development of the Vilafonté wines and has been described as ‘fanatical’ in her pursuit of quality”. (www.vilafonte.com/people)

Some other notable, inspiring women in the wine industry include: Lady May from Glenelly, Wendy Applebaum from Demorgenzon and Ginny Poval of Botanica.
There are also some young, talented winemakers that have burst onto the South African wine scene this year creating their own boutique ranges. Steph Wiid from Thistle and Weed achieved her first 5 star rating from Platters this year alongside her partner Etienne Terblanche for their 2016 Chenin Blanc, Duwweltjie.

It’s so important that women in the South African wine industry are recognized as SA wines continue to shine on an international scale. South African wine is ‘so hot right now’, so let’s utilize this popularity to our advantage by continuing to break outdated stereotypes and boundaries. Wine is for wine lovers, it doesn’t know race, religion or gender. So today, I lift my glass to powerful women in wine all around the world – may we know them, may we be them, may we raise them.

Cheers for now,

Katie

Works Cited

Evidence of oldest wine in human history discovered


www.womeninwine.co.za
https://content.ucpress.edu/chapters/10134.ch01.pdf
www.vilafonte.com/people
www.warwickwine.com

 

Let’s talk bubbles!

Summer has officially arrived in South Africa!  Days ahead will be filled with sunshine, braai’s, beach trips and Christmas holiday celebrations.  In other words, the time has arrived to break out the bubbly!

image1

I must admit, I wanted to blog this month about something relevant to my Diploma studies.  With an exam fast approaching on sparkling wines of the world, I thought I could combine my research with a post.

Specifically, I want to talk today about the rising fame and popularity of sparkling wines in South Africa as well as some labels and people that are pushing the envelope and growing the industry.  Every year, producers are raising the bar in this country for sparkles and it’s a truly exciting time in SA.  I hope I can encourage all of you to delve (if you haven’t already) into the wonderful experience that is Method Cap Classique (MCC)!

What is MCC?

The word “Champagne” can only be used for sparkling wines made by the traditional method and produced in the Champagne region of France.  Champagne’s controlling body, the CIVC, objected to the use of the work “Champenoise” by other producers.  As a result, Cape producers had to come up with an alternative name and in South Africa, this prestigious wine category became known as Cap Classique.

The Cap Classique Producers Association  is an organization formed in 1992 that promotes South Africa’s premium MCC wines and the common interests of the producers.  According to the group the classic art of winemaking was introduced to the Cape by the French Huguenots, and the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine produced at the Cape was called Kaapse Vonkel or Cape Sparkle.

The first méthode champenoise (called Méthode Cap Classique in South Africa) sparkling wines were made in South Africa only 30 years ago.  MCCs are now on the rise and are produced in different regions ranging from cooler areas like Constantia and Elgin to the warmer parts of Franschhoek and Robertson.

Back up…what exactly is Méthode Champenoise or the Traditional Method?

Simply put, Traditional Method is wine that has completed its second fermentation in bottle.

This method was once known as the champagne method and is now known in a few forms such as traditional method, classical method, classical traditional method, méthod traditionnelle, and méthod classique.  It is a meticulous, time consuming way of making sparkling wine.

Wine folly has a fantastic, straightforward infographic explaining the process of traditional method:

traditional-method-champenoise-sparkling-wine-champagne

Countries that specifically utilize the Traditional Method are:

Spain (Cava)

France (outside Champagne)(Cremant)

Italy (Franciacorta)

South Africa (Méthode Cap Classique)

As far as I understand, other countries may choose to use the traditional method, but this is more of a winemakers choice and they are not be held to the same rules and standards as the above mentioned countries (who have regulating bodies in place).

A brief chat about other sparkling wine production methods

Other popular production methods include:

  • Tank Method
  • Transfer Method
  • Ancestral Method

I think I’ll let Wine Folly break this down for you guys with her awesome infographics:

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

The importance of looking at your label

So how do you know if you’re drinking a sparkling wine made in the traditional method?  A good giveaway will always be your label.  For example, if it says “Cava” you know you are drinking a traditional method sparkling wine from Spain.  If it says “Prosecco” you’re drinking Italian sparkling wine that was most likely made via Tank Method.  If it just says “sparkling wine”, it was probably injected with CO2 (like a soda machine).  Sometimes you’re lucky and they tell you everything on the label, however, sometimes it’s left a mystery.  In that case it’s up to the consumer to know more about the country’s background and regions.  So depending on what you feel like and prefer (fruit forward, autolytic character, etc) and how much you want to spend determines what kind of sparkling wine you end up with at the till.  In the world of sparking wine there is something for everyone and the flavors and quality can be so drastically different, it’s a fun journey to experiment with.

More on MCC

The Cap Classique Producers Association currently has over 70 members.  Working together, those involved strive to improve the quality standards of all the members’ wines made according to this classic bottle-fermentation method.  Part of achieving this goal is the establishment of technical criteria and organoleptic approval of base wines.  They also share a common objective of cultural and educational upliftment of their surrounding communities.

Some notable, established producers on the SA scene include: Graham Beck, Villiera and Simonsig.  But let’s talk more about heavy hitter Graham Beck.

Graham Beck

It is impossible to talk SA sparkles without discussing Graham Beck and their talented cellar master, Pieter Ferreira.  His endeavors in the industry have really helped put this country on the map for sparkling wine.  Just last week the Graham Beck Cuvée Clive 2011 was selected as Overall Sparkling Wine of the Year (97 points) by Tim Atkin, award-winning British journalist and Master of Wine, in his South Africa 2017 Special Report.  Tim Atkin recently turned the worlds attention to SA’s top wines and winemakers and he singled out Cap Classique as a noteworthy and exciting category.

images

 

On top of this exciting score, the Blanc de Blancs 2012, Brut NV, Brut Zero 2012, Brut Rosé NV and Brut Rosé 2012 also all scored above 90 points.

 

Le Lude

Over the past 5 years many wine producers have been jumping on the sparkling bandwagon and producing MCC’s of their own.  One of my favorite labels and MCC producers at the moment is Le Lude.  Established by the Barrow family, Le Lude is a wine farm based in the Franschoek valley.  About 4 years ago Le Lude began producing Cap Classique wines and they now have thousands upon thousands of bottles sitting on the lees in their impressive cellar.  I was fortunate enough to spend some time with wine maker Paul Gerber in July touring and tasting the location.  Alongside our tasting of the Le Lude Brut NV and Rose Brut NV we sipped and swapped notes with a bottle of Le Mesnil Champagne.  It was a lovely afternoon.

For me, probably one of the most exciting things about Le Lude is that they are the first cellar in South Africa to utilize the Agrafe method with some of their wines, meaning that the wines will ferment under cork instead of crown cap.  The resulting wines have shown more complexity, cream and layered characteristics.  The word Agrafe literally means “staple”, and it is this staple that secures the cork to the bottle during the process, as well as after the final process of disgorgement where it gives the wines of Le Lude a distinct feature.

The next few years show great promise for Le Lude as their offering and popularity will surely grow.  Paul’s passion for sparkles remains a bright light in the industry.  I’m sure he will only but continue to push the envelope and keep the creativity alive in South African bubbly.

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Most recently, I went to a tasting hosted by The Wine Cellar in Joburg.  We tasted wine from a group of energetic winemakers that go by the name MEOW (Movement of Extreme Overburg Winemakers).  Winemakers included: Chris Alheit, Marelise Niemann, John Seccombe and Peter-Allan Finlayson.  This lively bunch presented a lot of exciting wines, including one sparkling.  This was the Gabrielskoof MCC (Peter-Allan Finlayson) called “Madame Lucy”.  Madame Lucy is a Pinot Noir/Chardonnay sparkling wine made from Elgin grapes.  The wine spent 9 months on the lees.  I love how it is often described as “cheeky”.  Makes sense really…the dog…the fizz…it is after all named after the familys’ chocolate poodle, Lucy.

This is just another example of more and more wine producers experimenting and exploring MCC wine production.  It’s a really exciting time!

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My tasting notes on the Madame Lucy: 

Nose & Palate: White flowers, citrus (lemon/lime), sweet peaches & slight sweet biscuit (thinking zoo biscuit).

Acidity was high and mouth watering, the wine is dry and alcohol on the medium minus side.  This entertaining sparkle is light bodied with a medium finish.  It’s a fun wine!

Keen to try?  You can purchase a bottle of Madame Lucy HERE

I hope I’ve encouraged some of you to get your hands on a bottle (or two) of South Africa’s one and only Methode Cap Classique.  Send me an email or insta-message and let me know which one you tried and what you thought!  

Cheers for now!

Katie

 

 

 

Are we all just “Label Whores”?

 

How important is the branding on a wine bottle to you, the consumer?  When surfing your local liquor store or wine shop how much time do you spend examining labels before making your choice?

What causes you to pick up a bottle from the shelf?  Is it the name of the producer?  The grape?  Is it because you recognize the brand?  Or is it ultimately the look of the label and how it appeals to you?

The power of marketing and branding and it’s cognitive influence on consumers is stronger than most understand.

WHAT IS A BRAND?

A brand can be defined as a relationship between product and consumer.  This relationship is defined by experiences and memory.  Positive experiences invoke positive emotions, memories and feelings towards a brand.

People tend to be creatures of habit, many wine consumers will walk into a liquor store and go straight back to the first wine bottle or brand they recognize.  This is probably because they associate that particular wine or brand with good memories and positive recollections.  They may also choose their wine based on word of mouth or ads they’ve seen.  There’s also a chance they are picking up that particular bottle because the brand has been imprinted in their mind.  Or there could be a strong possibility the consumer is picking up that particular bottle from the shelf because the look of the label appeals to them.

Brands need to fully understand the emotional connotations consumers associate or may associate with their image.  What does a wine brand want its consumers to feel when they hear their name or see their label?  What audience are they targeting?

I think this is an imperative thought process for new labels to exercise before launching their wines into such a competitive market.  For these businesses, it is vital that a strategy is put into play before any decisions are made with regards to label design, bottle choice, and packaging.  What age group are they targeting?  International/local? How do they want their wines to be perceived?  How are they going to reach these consumers?  Answers to these questions make it easier to determine pricing, design and follow through with a marketing strategy.

As Robert Joseph puts it (thewinethinker.com), a brand is the most valuable piece of real estate in the world, a small part of someone’s brain.   If we look at how the wine sector has been “branding” its products and promotions we see that this is an area too often ignored.

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@african.wine.life (Instagram)

“THE ROSÉ REVOLUTION” & THE POWER OF SOCIAL MEDIA

Three weeks ago thedrinksbusiness.com reported that exports from Provence Rosé to the UK had increased by 29%.  The growth in popularity of Provence Rosé abroad has been rapid.  American consumers are now drinking a staggering 11.4 million litres of Provence pink a year.

So what happened?  Marketing my friend!  The power of it is undeniable, and the example of Rosé is case in point.

National Rosé Day (June 10th) was created as a dedicated marketing campaign.  UK sales of Rosé doubled last year due to the popularity of ‘frosé’ and ‘brosé’ a frozen Rosé cocktail phenomenon.  Wine lovers that are active on Instagram would have surely noticed by now the slew of Rosé loving Instagrammers that have jumped on the bandwagon with tags such as #roseallday which has quickly become a social media hashtag favourite.  The Instagram account @yeswayrose sells various merchandise based around peoples love for Rosé wine.  The Instagram account even released it’s own wine called “summer water” last year which was in collaboration with the California based wine club Winc.  A number of brand ambassadors (celebrities included) can be seen online sporting the merchandise.

Anything can become a thing with enough marketing power behind it.  The power of social media today and wine is stronger than most may be realizing.  In the wine industry these platforms can be used to anyones advantage and any label or wine brand can be pushed with the right amount of marketing dedication behind it.  We mustn’t underestimate the future of wine when paired with social media and wine consuming millennials.

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@african.wine.life (Instagram)

WINE LABELS

Labels, I believe are becoming one of the most important branding tools that a wine company can have on their side.  This is especially true for millennial wine consumers.  Its been proven that a label can even change the overall interpretation and taste of what’s actually in the glass just by its presentation (check out this article).  The mind is a powerful thing!  A label gives the first impression.  Every wine consumer becomes a design critic when it comes to browsing the rows upon rows of wine labels in a liquor store.  In France, rules and regulations around bottles and labelling are much stricter than New World regions such as the USA and Australia.  This gives New World wineries free reign when designing their labels.  Care, thought and caution must be taken.

Wine Spectator reported that in 2015, millennials drank 42 percent of all wine consumed in the USA, more than any other generation.  A 2015 Gallo Wine Trends Survey found that millennials are four times more likely than baby boomers to buy a wine based on the label.  They are looking for labels with originality and personality, while baby boomers pick labels based on region of origin and taste.  Millennials want labels that are “bold and distinctive,” while baby boomers want more traditional designs.

In addition to the importance of designing for your target consumer base we may just be at a tipping point when it comes to wine labels and the internet. Wine sales are growing online, meaning that in the near future you may be getting wine recommendations from algorithms rather than merchants.  We will starting viewing wine labels that are designed to look great on our computer or smart phone screens, not just on shelves.  This could change mainstream wine culture and purchasing trends dramatically.  More importantly, will these new trends move us further away from buying wines and consuming them based on taste?  Let me know your thoughts on the subject.  How important do you think labels and brands are now that we live in a world connected by social media?

There is a great Instagram page that features and talks about wine labels, check them out! @wine_label_inspiration 
Also check out @yeswayrose 

 

 

Chenin, Chenin, Chenin

Lately I’ve been pondering why it’s taken me so long to dive into the wonderfulness that is Chenin Blanc?  It was only last year when I began my WSET training that I reluctantly started experimenting with it.  Since then and over the past few months I have discovered there is an exciting underground world of wine makers using Chenin Blanc in South Africa.  I’ve also delved into tasting the amazing French varieties and styles available to me.

Safe to say, the grape and myself are currently having a tumultuous and passionate love affair.

Thanks to Chenin’s high acidity the grape can be used for many different types of wine such as sparkling, still, and dessert wines.  The wines can range from dry to sweet.  If made in the correct style, Chenin Blanc can reward those who are patient enough to wait for it to reach it’s peak.  Some Chenin’s can age for up to 50 years!

Chenin is still a delicate vine that needs lots of tender loving care.  If grown without the right amount of control and technique, it can produce wines with little complexity and life.

The grape originates from the cool-climate Loire Valley in France and has since found it’s way around the New World.  Appellations in the Loire Valley that grow and produce Chenin Blanc include Vouvray, Anjou Blanc Sec, Montlouis and Savennières (I know there are more, but that’s the extent of my knowledge at the moment!)  Loire Valley Chenin Blanc boasts high amounts of acidity and is best drunk with a decent amount of age behind it.  Since making it’s way around the world to places such as California, Australia and South Africa, the grape is producing a more modern “New World” style of wine.  The wines are coming out fruitier, and generally do not age past 5 years.  This is not a bad thing.  In a wine drinking world that demands fruity, youthful white wine as it comes out, this style can benefit the greater market favorably.

Chenin Blanc is the most widely planted varietal in South Africa and recently there has been a resurrection of young, energetic winemakers creating some exciting stuff with the grape.  My mind was blown recently when I attended the Ace/Animo wine tasting in Jo’burg.  Almost every winemaker was featuring a Chenin that was so unique and true to their wine making style I was in seventh heaven!

Some notable South African Chenin’s I’ve tried lately have been: Mother Rock – Force Majeure, The Smiley NV – Chenin Blanc, Ken Forrester – The FMC, AA Badenhorst – Chenin Blanc and Hogan – Chenin Blanc.  The majority of my favorites have been coming from the Swartland, an area about 50km North of Cape Town.  Viticulture in the Swartland uses minimal irrigation and is practiced under dryland conditions.  There is something happening that some refer to as the “Swartland revolution“.  Many of the vines are old vines that were abandoned during the post-apartheid area when many farmers moved to more developed areas and replanted varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.  The vines in the Swartland were left to fend for themselves and survive in natural, often inhospitable weather conditions.  As winemakers moved back to the area, they found themselves working with vines up to 100 years old (aka “old vines“).  Recently we have seen wineries, such as a few of the ones listed above establish themselves as “purist” winemakers utilizing minimal intervention.  I also just like to think of them as bad ass!

For those that are apprehensive about taking the plunge into the wonderful world that is Chenin Blanc, think again.  However you fancy your wine, you can find the right Chenin Blanc to suit your taste.

So what are you waiting for?

 

 

 

 

An Advineture Begins

It’s safe to say that my love for wine began in 2006.  It was my final year of University and I was tired of my usual student go-to beverage (i.e. crown & coke) and I figured wine would be a sophisticated upgrade.  That’s it, simple and straightforward.  I took the plunge and ended up falling head-over-heels for a Hardy’s Riesling-Gewürztraminer – an off-dry, fruity, juicy white (that’s right – I was sold for life with a bottle of bulk, cheap Aussie wine).  I didn’t have a cooking clue what was actually in the the glass, or why I liked it, I just knew that I loved the memories created around drinking it and that it tasted good!  Every bottle of that wine would bring conversation, laughter and atmosphere.  My best friend and I would each buy a bottle (breaking our student budgets) and spend every Friday night together, either out on the town – painting it red – or on the couch – watching bad TV.  It was my final year in Canada before life and young love would lead me all the way to South Africa, where I currently reside.

As my WSET 2 teacher Debi Van Flymen said, “taste is a memory” (thanks Debi!).  If I were to open that bottle and take a sip it would surely take me back to that year and that time of my life.  What else allows us to time travel like wine?

Wine is so much more than fermented grape juice in a bottle.  Wine is a culture, it is a living, breathing thing that evolves and changes over time.  Wine is exciting!  Just when I learn more, I find that there is more to learn and I realize just how little I actually know.  As I move forward, tasting the various grapes and styles from around the world my palate continues to evolve.  I used to think there was only sweet, then I thought there was only dry…now, I love it all!  I used to think the taste of oak was “yucky”, now I revel in figuring out what flavors from the oak I’m picking up.  How old is the barrel?  Is it French or is it American Oak?  What process did the wine go through before it went into the barrel?  How big was the barrel?  Was it even oaked at all?  I’m gaining an appreciation for every grape and every style.  There is a taste for every occasion, for every food, for every season.  There is no wrong way to drink it, smell it or enjoy it.  As a marketer by profession I can’t even tell you how much the marketing side of wine excites me…the labels, the bottles, the presentation, the advertising.  How winemakers market their brand.  It’s all fascinating.

Wine is life.

Friday night I finally got the anticipated results of my WSET Level 3 exam, I had been on the edge of my seat for 8 weeks…8 whole weeks!  When I saw the email in my inbox, I was terrified, words cannot describe.  I held my breath and opened the email…

…I had passed!

A distinction in tasting and a Merit in written theory!

Now I move my sights to the diploma (once I’ve scraped together some pennies…sense the sarcasm?)

I can’t wait to see where this passion takes me, and I can’t wait to share it with you, the fellow wine enthusiast, the winemaker, the viticulturist, the vigneron.  I’m so excited to be a part of the world wine family, even if I’m just the nerdy cousin!

Until next time,

Kx

This picture below was taken over a decade ago (when bangs were still a thing…) and when all we needed was a bottle of Hardy’s, an empty glass and each other (cue the violins).

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