Archive for April, 2008
(images: eyesonafrica.ne, shebeenpub.com, news.aunz.yimg.com, experienceholidays.co.uk)
Following is guest post from Henré Rossouw. Henré is the social media strategist and blog author of WineCountry.co.za, an umbrella wine, food and lifestyle portal dedicated to the Paarl Wine Region. Paarl’s rich history, quality wines and breathtaking scenery makes it one of the wine landmarks of South Africa.
The Masters of the Universe
From sunny South Africa, the country that brought you Pinotage, Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom, Oscar winning performances by the monstrous Charlize Theron and talented Gavin Hood, sporting icons such as Gary Player and Ernie Els and now, the US Masters Champion of 2008, Trevor Immelman, I would like to extend a warm welcome to all of Joe’s readers.
While Joe cares for the most precious little thing on earth, he has granted me the opportunity to grace you with some wine flavoured news from my country.
Of course, very few articles about South Africa these days make it past the first couple of paragraphs without mentioning the unfortunate stain that Apartheid left on our page and the impact it had on our people, our economy and also our wine industry…
Since that fateful day in 1994 when the barriers of Aparthied had been torn down, our country went from strength to strength. I also can’t help but contribute our country’s rise to stature to our Rugby World Cup winning team that beat the New Zealand All Blacks on the 14th of June, 1995 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.
Due to an unfortunate incident prior to the final, it was almost seen as a touch from God that Chester Williams (born in my hometown Paarl) became only the second “player of colour” to don the Springbok jersey. Chester today is still seen as an icon to just about every rugby fan in South Africa.
Since 1994, the wine industry in South Africa boomed once again. For a country with a 350 year old wine history, the end of apartheid signified the beginning of New World penetration. Despite global recession, our international exports in 2001 have increased a massive 17.1% from the previous year.
While South Africa’s industry is very small, ranking in at only 16th with about 1.5% of global plantings it is our production and quality that sees us at 7th position, accounting for 3% of the world’s wine.
“Since 1994, the wine industry in South Africa boomed once again. For a country with a 350 year old wine history, the end of apartheid signified the beginning of New World penetration.”
Of course, it is our signature red grape, Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (grown under the name of Hermitage in South Africa) that distinguishes us from other wine producing countries.
Pinotage, a portmanteau of Pinot Noir and Hermitage, was first created by a South African Viticulture professor, Abraham Izak Perold in 1925 and received its first recognition in 1959 when it became champion at the Cape Wine Show.
Fast forward a couple of years, the birth of the Internet as it is known today, and a new trend in Internet usage – loosely termed as social media – and it was a winery from my neighbouring town, Wellington, that revolutionised the South African wine industry.
By employing blogging (this thing you’re reading here) as sole marketing tactic, Stormhoek Wines received international acclaim for groundbreaking marketing innovation!
They offered a free bottle of Stormhoek wine for each person commenting on their blog and also published a renowned UK liquor store’s discount voucher on their blog.
The rest, as they say, is history. A little closer to my home, it is the Paarl Wine Region which we thought could do with some much needed exposure. Nestled between the historic wine landmarks of Stellenbosch and Franschhoek, it is widely known in local circles that Paarl, with its 105 wineries, produces some of the finest quality wines in South Africa.
The WineCountry website and blog pays tribute to this place I call home and we’re looking forward to playing host to more international visitors exploring the beauty of the Cape Winelands.
Till next time!
– The Plonk signing off.
Last week, I posted an article with my Top 10 Budget Wine picks. In the dreamy, sleep-deprived bliss of fatherhood, I totally missed the opportunity to invite you to submit YOUR favorite low-cost wines.
Blame it on the magic of having a new baby in the house – the kind of special magic that wakes you at 3AM and keeps you up until 6AM soothing a small, crying human being and saying things like “Aaaaaawwwwwwww…. What’s the matter sweet lil’ munchkin?“
Anyway, let’s make up for this gross oversight!
Got a great “budget wine” recommendation? Shout it out in the Comments!
1) You have to think the wine is good
2) The wine needs to be widely accessible
3) The wine needs to be cheap (ideally under $15 USD, but certainly not more than $20 tops).
In other news: My stint in “new baby-land” continues, and so far I am really digging being a dad. To help me out and give me some extra diaper-changing time, there will be more interesting guest posts for you next week. Stay tuned…
(images: Joe Roberts)
That time when a young man’s fancy turns to love.
And to thoughts of what wines are best to get that love just a little bit tipsy. Or maybe a lot tipsy, depending on the moral stature of the young man.
Although the weather here in the Mid-Atlantic/NE has been a bit unpredictable lately, I know for certain that Spring is finally here. I am sure of it, because I receive regular calls and post mail from Chemlawn asking if I want to participate in their lawn care program (apparently, it’s Spring and my lawn looks like crap).
I had originally planned to write a nice, conventional little post about Wines for Spring. I was even going to call it “Rite of Spring” (get it?) which sounded cute to me (despite the sacrificial death portrayed in the ballet of the same name).
Then the Dark Side took over. Literally…
You see, Quite a bit has been written (very well, I might add) already on the subject of lighter wines for lighter-weather times. For example, WineLoversPage.com has a great recent recommendation of a sparkling pink Prosecco for Spring.
There are many other wines that would serve you well on a Spring picnic. Like a spritzy Vinho Verde. Or a light rosé, which is a nice option for easing out of your heavy Winter reds into lighter Spring fare.
But you know what?
Even though it’s Spring, the evenings are still on the cool side here in eastern PA. And I don’t want to give up those heavy Winter reds just yet.
Maybe I’m just not down with the vernal equinox, but I still find myself liking my wine dark. And when not dark in color, I want that wine dark in character – bold and “heavy.”
To bolster my stubborn stance, it seems the general wine-buying public isn’t easy to sway either when it comes to changing their wine drinking habits. In the Winter, people drink big, bold wines like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
And in the Spring and Summer, they drink: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
At least, that’s the tale that the wine retail sales figures in the U.S. tells.
Who am I to upset the applecart?
Welcome to Spring. Drink whatever the hell you want!
There will be plenty of time in the months ahead to savor those crisp, fruity, spritzy, mouth-watering and thirst-quenching lighter wines.
For now, savor that chill in the air that greets you when the sun goes down and the wind picks up just a bit, for just a second. That’s a little stab of Old Man Winter’s cane, as he pokes you lightly in the gut. You know what he’s saying?
I’ll be back.
As you take a swig of that last big, dark, gnarly, 14% alcohol red wine you had stocked up on when it was snowing outside, just look Old Man Winter in the eye and tell him something for me:
Whatever. I’ll be waiting. And I’ll have more of this killer Shiraz with me, too.
(images: all from Joe’s house!)
Although I was raised in the shadow of Roman Catholicism, I am not by any stretch of the imagination a religious man.
In fact, after attending an Oblate grade school, a Franciscan high school, and a Jesuit university for undergrad, I ended up totally religiously-confused. Not exactly a poster-child for American religious education.
Still, despite being (more-or-less) totally religious-averse, I would consider myself a spiritual person. Over the last few years, I have been introduced to Zen and Buddhist principles that I have tried to integrate into my life, with some great results. I don’t claim to understand any of the universe’s mysteries, but there is no denying (for me, at least) the powerful & moving experiences of communion I’ve felt when meditating.
“This small word – witnessing – contains the whole of spirituality.” – Osho
And by “meditating” I don’t just mean the familiar image we have of someone sitting on a pillow silently exploring the depths of their witnessing (though doing that is great and I’d highly recommend it to anyone). I mean going about your daily life activities and truly witnessing each moment of your life – trying to be “in the zone” and really living, treating every action you take as sacred – whether you are washing the dishes, walking the dog, negotiating an important business deal, playing music…
…Or tasting wine.
It’s by truly being meditative when tasting that we can most maximize both our enjoyment of wine and our wine appreciation skills…
I’ve written a few “glasses of zen” articles in the past, but I’ve never really explored how the simple act of witnessing can enhance the enjoyment of wine.
Some of the greatest noses in the wine business follow a similar “witnessing” tasting method, though they themselves may not call it meditation.
Take the love-him-or-leave-him wine critic Robert Parker, for example:
“When I put my nose in a glass, it’s like tunnel vision. I move into another world, where every bit of mental energy is focused on that wine.” – Robert M. Parker, Jr.
A similar tasting ethos has been expressed (quite eloquently) by the venerable Christie’s wine critic Michael Broadbent:
“You do not need to be an expert, or even that interested in wine to enjoy drinking it. But tasting is not the same as drinking… The important point is that there is a reason for every colour, smell and taste. Every facet of a wine’s effect on our senses… is meaningful. Exploring and understanding these facets helps us to appreciate a wine more fully.” – from Winetasting, by Michael Broadbent
Those are some serious big-league wine-tasters, whose opinions have been known to make-or-break sales for virtually any wine that they happen to taste. So, you don’t just need to take Dude’s word for it!
I could wax philosophical on how the quality of our focus may or may not increase the quality of our wine appreciation. But I’ll leave that one to the book Questions of Taste: The Philosophy of Wine which has already explored it in great detail.
Instead, I will simply leave you with another quote, and then request that you do just one simple thing. Here’s the quote:
“Meditation is not something that we just do for 20 or 40 minutes every morning and then forget about. Meditation involves a principle of awareness that you can practice in every moment of your life.” – Wildmind.org
Here’s the simple request:
The next time that try a glass of wine, really taste it, don’t just drink it. Don’t think, just taste.
If you find yourself marveling at how all the disparate aspects of nature have come together to allow you this moment of real, focused living – connecting you to the small miracle of how the fruit of a wild plant can end up producing the complex and pleasure-giving drink in the glass in front of you – well, my friend, then you “get it.”
Nothing left to do but sit back, relax, and offer up a small prayer of gratitude to the universe for the gift you have received.
Well, that and finish your glass, of course.