It’s dawned on me that I’ve changed. I’d started Cape of Good Wine as a fun hobby. A way to assist my ageing memory and keep track of the wines I’ve been drinking.
It’s still a hobby and I have no desire to switch careers (sort of). But the more opportunities I’m offered to taste wines and attend events, the more I feel responsible for…well, everything.
As I notice more people engaging with me on Insta, the more I feel that I need to provide valid content and contribute positive information about South African wines. I don’t feel comfortable with this (someone also just failed her tasting exam…so take my notes with a pinch of salt…that may just improve the flavour of the wine). But it’s also the subcategory of the Insta wine community that I most enjoy. I feel that it gives the serious wine enthusiast useful information, and hopefully helps secure SA’s spot on the global list of premium wines. Maybe I haven’t found them, but there aren’t many SA instagrammers who post detailed tasting notes. I’ve latched onto the ones that do, and have the world of respect and appreciation for them sharing their notes. I wish there were more of us.
Tasting notes are subjective…it’s my opinion and my palate. But getting the facts correct adds another level of pressure. I found myself hunting down and actually fact checking tech sheets from producers. Double checking the history. Triple checking why my tasting notes differed to the winemakers. Putting into perspective the ‘romantic’ histories that start with the day a Huguenot arrived…and ignores the contribution and suffering of people of colour. It’s a lot to think about (I honestly don’t know how anyone has time to get drunk on wine when there is so much thinking required!). So much so that, after rewording phrases to sound as ambiguous as possible for lack of being able to state a fact with absolute certainty, I’ve started reducing this detail…and erred on the side of posting more frequently.
When I was designing the Kunye label, a work colleague commented that she didn’t think I should feature the gabled Cape Dutch architecture because of its connotations…to her. I defended my decision with confidence – its part of our history and we can’t run away from it. I stand by this decision. But I sometimes find myself at a moral quandary….do I speak up about the less widely published facts about the original history of Constantia, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek? Will that alienate producers with whom I’d like to form friendships? Honey vs vinegar etc.
What about the vast majority of wines that are farmed conventionally? Wines farmed purely for profit. They’re beautiful wines. But there are equally beautiful wines farmed in a sustainable manner that deserve twice the recognition and praise for their consideration of the environment, community and people who are integral to producing the product. We should be supporting producers who choose a more responsible path – celebrating their extra efforts!
But do I then refuse the large majority of wines produced in SA because I believe they can do better? Does a beautiful final wine excuse the manner in which it was made? Am I the person who holds these wines accountable? Gosh, I wish I was in a position to do this. But that would limit my overall understanding and exploration of our wines.
So here’s where I’m at
I remember when learning about wine was a lonely and self motivated pastime. I remember starting to piece together thoughts, and ask myself larger questions about those thoughts. To feed my curiosity, I embarked on a more formal wine education course. But with each level of wine study, I was left feeling like I knew even less than before. Worse still, it left me feeling as though I’d adopted the ‘wine lingo’ and was regurgitating the opinions of others who I know have more knowledge than I do.
This weekend was National Shiraz Day in South Africa. As I prepared to post on insta, I paused and wondered why SAShiraz felt the need to add a national celebration day when we’d only just globally celebrated Shiraz Day a month prior. What was the purpose…does it not dilute the message of celebrating this grape and style of wine…do we really want to take on the Australians…wouldn’t it make more sense to leverage off of the global celebration in July? (Knowing full well that we have Pinotage Day…and we pretty much own Chenin Day.)
I scoured the internet and social media to find one other person who felt the same way that I did. One other person who was questioning this. Someone else who wasn’t blinded by patriotism (okay, that’s a bit dramatic…but I was bewildered). But I didn’t…so I diligently posted a ‘Happy National Shiraz Day’, thinking ‘I must be wrong’.
The day before, I’d had a similar situation in our WhatsApp wine group. I’d posed a different take on a published article by a well respected member of the wine industry…and waited…and waited. But nobody took the bait…so I let it go, thinking that ‘I must be wrong’.
And then I remembered one other thing that I’d been whispering to myself since starting my wine journey: ‘I want to find my own original voice within the wine industry’. It’s the reason there’s a ‘Musings and Ramblings’ section to this website – a place for me to ask questions and voice my doubts. It’s the reason I committed to further wine studies – so that I’ll be more informed to better form and defend my own opinions.
Since WSET, my use of ‘vast majority’ has increased 10 fold! And I visibly shudder each time this phrase escapes my mouth. I don’t promise that I’ll stop using this phrase…and the many, many more will help me pass my exams. I do want to promise that I’ll hold onto the desire to have an individual voice…and aim for original thought. But to do this, I need to find my confidence. How many times have we been told that half of wine tasting is believing in yourself. Trust your gut.
My gut says that I should stop hiding behind ‘Cape of Good Wine is just a hobby and a way to assist my ageing memory in keeping track of the wines I’ve been drinking’. My gut says that maybe I do have a voice in the wine industry. My gut says that I need to change my bio.