The Myth of the Winemaker

Visiting with Marco and Caitlin on a farm in the Voor-Paardeberg district, just about equidistant from Paarl, Wellington, Malmesbury and Durbanville, where they have hired an old farmhouse. From their bedroom and stoep they have a view of Table Mountain in the distance. This is a shot from our bedroom at 5:30 in the morning. Just above the roof of the old farm building in front the camera catches a glimps of Table Mountain. The eye could see more though, something of captivating beauty:

A teleshot might show what the eye had caught.

Marco – one of the new generation breed of whizz kids – has been given the task of chief viticulturist at a major winery in the area. Talking wine with Marco is always great fun. We discussed with him a recent article in Time about South African vineyards and a new approach to wine making around Riebeek Kasteel and Marco agreed wholeheartedly that terroir is the main ingredient. If the terroir is right, Marco says, you can make a good wine from a badly managed vineyard, but if the terroir is bad, the best managed vineyard will produce only wine of disputable quality. The myth of the winemaker came into existence as a result of bad farming whereupon the magician winemaker was called in to wave his magic wand in the cellar. These wines rarely outlast their first flush of youth, something that is often the trouble with South African wines – they must be drunk early – unless the grapes were grown in terroir suited to the variety – then a few classics can be achieved and enjoyed the world over.

It is all in the berry, Marco says. And what a wonderful image that is – to see the berry as a perfect tiny universe growing in its preferred terroir – from where you as a spectator are enjoying the sun, the warmth, the wind and the view of the countryside. To see the berry as something equally joyful and willing to ripen to its potential and to share its happiness with you and you with it once it has been turned into wine. Terroir is the key for humans as well, for they will thrive best in places suited to our talents. Such is the grape, Marco’s berry!

On our way onwards we took a photograph of one of the many horse breeding places in the area – happy animals in an appropriate environment.

Closing in on the mountain background.

Driving through the du Toit Kloof mountain range toward Worcester.

We wish you all a very happy, joyful transition into the New Year!

May it be blessed for all of us.

Montagu/Western Cape, 31 December 2010

Colleen & Walter