Living in London for some years, I always thought wine tasting was a thing for posh people. And I never considered myself posh, so I never thought of doing it. But I’m in South Africa, and South Africa is one of the top global producers of wine (about the 7th biggest global producer), so this trip was the perfect opportunity!
Ellie and I booked a tour through the Cape winelands. I’m not sure if we were looking forward to learning about wines, or looking forward to tasting the wines. Either way, we were very excited and so early in the morning, we got some chicken nuggets (breakfast) and got into our tour bus.
We drove through different wine regions just outside Cape Town – Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek – and stopped at four different vineyards. Oh they taught us so many things about wine,… most of which I can’t remember. Things to taste for, things to look out for, the difference between oaked and non-oaked wine…the list goes on! “Now, if you swirl the wine in your glass, you should be able to smell a hint of some chilli and some other spices…”. I was just there swirling and sniffing my glass thinking “hmmm,…. this is going to taste like some good red wine!”.
Every wine vineyard we went to, we had a full array of wines to “taste” (I did notice some people drinking instead of just sipping to taste).
- Pinotage – Unique to South Africa and so is a signature red grape SA variety;
- Sauvignon Blanc – only remember it was a white grape variety;
- Shiraz – red grape variety. I remember liking this one for some reason, but I can’t remember if it’s because it had a bit of a spicy taste or if I just liked the name;
- Merlot – definitely liked the name of this red grape, but can’t remember the features;
- Methode Cap Classique, or MCC – the SA bubbly (they can’t call it champagne because it’s not made in the Champagne region in France); and
- A whole list of other wines I can’t remember.
Essentially, there was a whole load of wines that we had to taste. At the Backsberg estate, we had a quiz. A sommelier was hosting our visit, and so he gave us an extremely easy version of some of the exams or tests he had to take. We all had to take a sip of wine, and guess what grape was used. Needless to say, my guess was so terribly wrong, but what was more shocking was when he told us that for some of the sommelier exams, they have to go as far as guessing the region that the wine was made from. I mean,… how can you tell that form just tasting wine? Apparently, people do, and that’s their profession. Taste wine and tell you all this fancy background story about the wine they’ve tasted.
By the time it got to the afternoon (about 2pm), I had started getting tipsy, and so my brain was struggling to keep up with all the information. For most part, I stopped listening, and just drank water unless I heard an interesting characteristic of a particular wine. But the moment I heard our tour guide/ aspiring sommelier say “you can now taste the pony in the wine“, alarm bells went off in my head. My hand shot up immediately (in the true fashion of a class teacher’s pet that I am):
Nex: “Excuse me, but I thought under wine regulations, you can’t physically add anything to the wines to give it a particular flavour. All flavour has to come from the grape?”
Tour guide: “This is very right indeed”.
Nex: “So can you please explain how a PONY got in our wine?“
Tour guide: *looks flustered*. *No immediate response*. *Inserts laughter*.
Tour guide: “Gee,.. I don’t know,.. maybe someone got a pony and dragged it through the barrels of wine!!“
Other tourists: *Roars of laughter*
Nex: ***Wondering who is laughing with these folks. Or why a legitimate answer wasn’t given to my legitimate question. But plays along with this ‘joke’, grabs a glass of this red wine, and sips. Then coughs. Coughs hard***
Nex: “Excuse me please! Excuse me! I think I’m chocking on some pony hair!!! Help!!!“
Other tourists: *Roars of laughter*.
NexTours would definitely advise that you:
- Bring a notepad and pen if you intend on seriously becoming more knowledgeable in wines and winery. If not, just go, drink and enjoy yourself!
- Don’t be like those American MBA candidates who thought they were going wine tasting in the Napa Valley and dressed up all posh and nice with their long sleeve shirts, and blazers, and sweaters wrapped round their neck….it’s not that serious! It’s casual and chilled!
- Please eat before you start wine tasting, and eat a healthy lunch during the day. You don’t want to be that person that gets tipsy very early on and slowly degenerates to a state of drunkenness before the tour is over…not cool!
- BUY WINE. Seriously, the prices are an absolute steal. Wine lover Ellie got about 4 different bottles for a total of about £13!. If you want to buy in bulk, they have excellent shipping options and deals! Come prepared to get fabulous bargains on very good wine!