I’ve just explained on the phone to a winemaker friend that July to September is to me what January to March is for him. Busy. Very busy; and anxious. He has harvest, I have the three months of the year when I’m actually quite busy, doing not only my morning job at UCT, but also tasting, writing and editing for the Platter guide. (Not to mention keeping a house clean, walking and loving a dog, cooking, etc. And writing the occasional article and blog. Plus an etcetera or two.)
One of the peculiarities of this period is that I drink far fewer of the wines I normally choose to drink. Wines, from South Africa and elsewhere that I buy because I want them, and usually keep for a year or ten before drinking them. For these three months most of what I drink is what Platter confronts me with. Unless it’s been a particularly disappointing day, and none of the wines are even worth trying again with supper. But usually there are at least a few wines that I want to sample again, especially with food, and with a more relaxed, full-glassed and less anxiously analytical frame of mind.
In the pic are the first deliveries of wines for me to taste (if only all of them would be as wonderful experiences as Colmant, Tokara and Waterford!); since this snap I’ve had a larger number to add to the pile – but I’ve already started tasting and writing. And I can tell you that, for example, I haven’t been reluctant to see how the excellent Colmant bubblies coped with my modest repasts.
I know from experience that I look back on these three months as happy and exciting ones, but now they’re still looming like a scary big mountain to climb. My lists of wineries to taste, of notes and introductions to write, of editing and proofing work to so – they seem insuperable. But of course they’re not, once I get into them.
It’s an extraordinary privilege to have the whole range of a winery’s products available in my own space, to taste as slowly as I like, to retaste them the next day if I’m unsure (as I often am, especially with a more ambitious wine: am I over- or under-estimating it? Are those awkward tannins more a matter of what was already lodged on my tastebuds? Will a day of air, or perhaps a year or two in bottle, bring them into harmony?)
I’m only too aware of the problems of trying to judge a wine when I know what its reputation is, etc. But – certainly for me – it’s less of a problem than sniffing and swirling and spitting wine no 88 out of 120 and hoping that such an exercise is even a vague approximation to what drinking a glass of wine is really all about.