Fires. Fires are raging through Napa and Sonoma and it’s devastating to say the least. As of right now, 58,880 acres have burned across both counties and we’re at 5% containment. Though the list of wineries that have been affected continues to grow, I am happy to report that as of right now the number next to “deaths” remains a big fat 0.
There are so many different reports out there on the Glass Fire, I’ve tried to include the ones with “evergreen” content, like the Press Demo’s information on how to help those impacted, the most recent news (as of this writing), as well as those pieces I think did a great job covering key aspects of what’s going on in the region(s).
I can’t deny that these fires are impacting me in many ways. But I also can’t neglect what else is going on in the industry. Like this Zimbabwe sommelier who’s making waves in the way we think about and describe wine in an effort to create a more inclusive global wine industry; China creating a new wine style, indicative of its own terroir; India, going back to its roots, crafting spirits from the Mahua plant.
And, people, let’s not forget to laugh a little. How about some Hocus Pocus wine? No? Have you tried the Jalepeño Noir? Oh, and if you don’t mind a bit of shameless self-promotion, I was this week’s guest on the We Like Drinking Podcast, talking about the current state of the wine industry, wine journalism, with a few fun shenanigans thrown in.
If I can leave you with one thought, I will steal a line from Craig Becker of Somerston Estate, who has personally and professionally been affected by the fires, and said to me in a recent interview: “The buds will break again.”
Whether you want to take that figuratively or literally, I’ll leave that up to you. But, like all bad gas, I have to think and hope and pray that this too shall pass.
Our last stop in our tour of South African wine regions takes us to the Cape South Coast Region and its associated districts and wards as well as a quick look at the Klein Karoo Region. If you haven’t read through the South Africa Overview yet, definitely do so before diving in here, as there are a lot of key terms defined that will be integral to your understanding of the specific regions. Also make sure to check out information on South Africa‘s Coastal Region, Breede River Valley and Olifant River Regions as well.
“Cooler climates beckon winemakers around the world. It is hardly surprising that Africa’s southern tip, with its cool Antarctic influence has been colonized by the vine.” (The World Atlas of Wine, 8th edition)
I hope you’re finding the exploration of South Africa as fascinating as I am. Never before have I found the need to utilize detailed mapping as I have during this course. If you haven’t read through the South Africa Overview yet, definitely do so before diving in here, as there are a lot of key terms defined that will be integral to your understanding of the specific regions. My last post toured the Coastal Region. Today, we’re diving into the Breede River Valley Region and the associated districts and wards within. We’ll also make a brief pitstop into the Olifant River Region.
We begin our tour of South Africa in the Coastal Region—the birthplace of the South African wine industry. On April 6, 1652, Dutch-born Jan van Riebeeck, South Africa‘s first European settler wrote, “Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape Grapes.” The region continued to be a focal point for European wine drinkers, enthralled as they were with the Muscat-based sweet wines being produced, often preferring the luscious wine—simply called “Constantia”—to Tokaji, Madeira, or even Yquem.
Indeed the drink became the stuff of literature: Charles Dickens tells of “…the support embodied in a glass of Constantia and a home-made biscuit” in Edwin Drood; Jane Austen speaks of Constantia’s “… healing powers on a disappointed heart.”
Though the grapes grown and wine produced are much different than those described by our poets, the Coastal Region is arguably still one of the most popular regions South Africa has to offer. It contains the tourist town, Cape Town—a now shared name with wine district Cape Town District (once Cape Peninsula District)—as well as other well-known districts and wards such as Swartland, Tulbagh, Wellington, and of course Constantia.
I’m not going to lie, one of the reasons that I jumped into the Loire Valley (Pays Nantais, Anjou-Saumur, Touraine, Central Vineyards) was because I’ve experienced a recent fascination with Chenin Blanc. I’ve come across a few great expressions from here at home in California. I dare say it is Clarksburg’s heritage grape. (Read Yolo County: Little grape-growing region that could page 1 and page 2). But that love for local got me thinking—where are the actual benchmark regions for Chenin Blanc? Well, the Loire Valley obviously. But I also always hear about it in reference to South Africa. So that is where my studies are taking me next.
Now, just so you know the game plan for these posts (in case you’re an avid follower and are reading these “live” or if you’re a “read it later” kind of human and need to know how to navigate these articles), this first piece is merely an introduction to the region, including some key terms and pieces of information I think will be integral to following along with subsequent articles.
I am then going to break up the South Africa regional deep-dive into a three-part series. As “small” as the wine region(s) of the country may seem, I’ve been finding a lot of notable details that I’m going to want to explore. Following that three-part regional series, I will then have an article dedicated to my South African wine tasting experience(s).
Last but not least, I will cover the history and current status of the South African wine industry and market. I was going to attempt to squeeze that bit into the introductory material, but the country has a very, to me, interesting wine producing history—and how it’s navigated the twist and turns given its political, social, and environmental impacts, I couldn’t help but link up a bunch of stuff I’m learning in my D2 studies. So, I’m going to take a serious deep dive into that and, thus, it deserves its own post.
Alright, let’s get a bit of an overview. Welcome to South Africa…