A horse of a different stripe

QuaggaIt’s a low sprawling bit of mountain rising green and blackish amidst the wheatlands of the Swartland. A granite pluton, I think, in vaguely geological terms. The Dutch settlers called it the Paardeberg, after the quaggas that roamed it in blissful Edenic happiness (except for the occasional arrow or whatever from some lucky San hunter). Presumably they thought the quaggas were, more or less, stripey horses.

The settlers proceeded to utterly destroy the stripey quaggas and also to turn themselves into Afrikaners, who then started calling the mountain the Perdeberg. The fancy winemakers who’ve gathered there in the past decade or so have for some reason decided, although they’re mostly Afrikaners themselves, to revert to the Dutch version and generally refer to it as the Paardeberg. (Analogously, perhaps, they generally like to spell cinsaut as “cinsault” – which is not the standard French spelling, but the way it most appeared in the Languedoc. There’s no accounting for pretension.)

It doesn’t really matter, the spelling, I suppose, though a bit more uniformity wouldn’t do any harm to people who speak neither Dutch nor Afrikaans. The American wine journalist James Molesworth notoriously once referred to “Poor Vaardeberg” instead of “Voor-Paardeberg”, and who’s to blame him? Especially when we sometimes get the name of his glossy magazine (arguably) wrong and call it the Wine Speculator?

So. We have a nice little mountain called alternatively, not to mention alternately, Paardeberg and Perdeberg. Most of it’s in the Swartland, and its slopes are home to many wine-grape farms, including some marvellous vineyards (as well as some that produce high-yield stuff for Distell, co-ops, etc) and some marvellous wineries firmly committed to the excellence of the new Swartland.

There’s also Jim Molesworth’s Wine of Origin ward, in the Paarl district, usually called “Voor-Paardeberg”, which means something like “in front of/at the foot of the Paardeberg”. Fair enough, that describes it just fine. It’s in Paarl. There’s also, in Paarl district, a former co-op, now corporatised or whatever the word is, called Perdeberg Winery. Also fair enough, as the Perdeberg mountain is its closest big feature, and in fact pretty close.

Less fair enough: now, Bacchus (or some other god) help us, the Wine and Spirit Board “has received an application for the demarcation of a ward under the name ‘Perdeberg’”.


The Perdeberg – nothing to do with the proposed ward of the same name

You might expect the proposed Perdeberg Ward to be in the Swartland, encompassing the mountain, kloofs and foothills of the sprawling granitic pluton called Perdeberg (or Paardeberg by Dutch-leaning Swartland revolutionaries). An excellent idea! But no. The proposed Perdeberg ward covers a large stretch of flatland between the Perdeberg and the backside of Paarl Mountain. With equal justification, or lack thereof, it could be called “Paarlberg Ward”.

There’s just one winery in the proposed ward. Guess what its name is? And could it be wanting, perhaps, to cash in on the renown the real Paardeberg/Perdeberg has been receiving because of the likes of Badenhorst, Sadie and Lammershoek, whose wineries are on the mountain?

Really! Isn’t it odd that the Wine and Spirit Board should even be entertaining the possibility of giving a new Paarl ward the name of a mountain which is by no means included in the ward – and is actually in another WO district entirely, the Swartland? And should the Board be entertaining a ward name which is also the name of an existing winery?

Well, this is the same Board (and its demarcation committee) which, as I reported here is firmly proposing that irredeemably inland Tulbagh and Wellington should be part of a district called Cape Coastal. So who can tell? But if you care, you can object (to both things, in fact!). I believe that the Perdeberg/Paardeberg farmers have, in fact, indicated their opposition to the Perdeberg business at least..

If you, too, would like to object, “the Board would like to invite any comments on the proposed area under said name. Kindly address same in writing to the Secretary, Hugo van der Merwe, at hugo@wsb.org.za.”  That’s what I shall be doing. In the name of a Wine of Origin system whose integrity needs to be perpetually fought for, it seems.

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