11 Jan Cape Town: To wince, or not to wince. That depends on the wine.
Guest post by freelance travel writer Jack Jones on wine tasting in Cape Town, South Africa.
I’ll be straight from the start: I am not a wine connoisseur.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy the grapey goodness – quite the contrary in fact – but when it comes to judgment on quality, two criteria govern my uncultivated tongue. Did that first sip make me wince? Or didn’t it?
As I’m spending my gap year vagabonding round the world on a budget tighter than a boa constrictor’s cuddle, fine wine (or abysmal wine for that matter) does not often accompany my evening meals of instant noodles and whatever else I can scavenge from stray dogs.
However – and this is a big however – I’m now in Cape Town, South Africa, and if there is anywhere in the world to swot up on wines, this is the place to do it. The world-famous Cape Town wine would give me chance to expand my frankly ignorant palate beyond the aforementioned benchmarks.
And so it was, I got myself on a tasting tour. It would have been criminal not to.
Choosing where to go wasn’t difficult; the Franschhoek winelands, a short drive from Cape Town, are among the most celebrated in the world.
Exquisite wine aside, the scenery alone makes this place worth visiting. Sprawled around the pretty village of Franschhoek, the estates meander through the stupendously scenic Franschhoek Valley, with endless swathes of bottle green vineyards stretching up its steep slopes.
I visited the Boschendal Wine Estate, one of the oldest in the area, having been settled by French Huguenots over 300 years ago. Nestled in the foothills of the towering Groot Drakenstein and Simonsberg Mountains, it’s received numerous awards for its wine, and I was about to find out why.
First up was a 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot, which, according to my charming guide, would give me a burst of rich red and black fruits – cassis to mulberry – well rounded tannins and a touch of mint…
Yep, I got some mint.
Anyway, the important thing is this: that wine was the best thing I’ve ever tasted. It was the flavoursome equivalent to a tongue massage.
The experience taught me a rather obvious truth – you don’t have to be a connoisseur to recognise a good wine, you just need taste buds (a penchant for alcohol helps too).
Naturally I enquired how much a bottle (or three) of this heavenly nectar would set me back.
The answer made me wince.
Jack Jones is an English freelance travel writer. This quote from Pete McCarthy pretty much sums him up… “He instinctively understands that the purpose of travel is to be able to tell your friends about it and make them feel that staying at home was the poorer option, even if it wasn’t.”