Changing tastes

Taste can be so subjective. One person’s love of vanilla or coffee can have yet another turn their noses up at the mere thought of it. Somehow chocolate seems to be universally liked though ...

Feeling more than just a tinge of coolness in the wind got me thinking about how the change of seasons also brings about a change in so many menus. We all dress differently to keep the chill out, adding layers of scarves, woolly jerseys, socks and boots, but we also start to eat and drink differently too.

The green salad leaves and light white wine spritzers of spring and summer are dispatched in favour of hearty soups and stews, along with bolder red wines, darker spirits or beer and even sweeter muscadels or sherry.

I have a notoriously sweet tooth which extends to my love of alcoholic beverages, so dessert wines like noble late harvests, natural sweets, jerepigo or muscadel are right up my alley. But few people understand what makes these wines special – and so different. CHEERS has tried to demystify them somewhat so that the next time you step into a TOPS at SPAR outlet you can browse the shelves with confidence, knowing what sets a straw wine apart from a natural sweet.

Getting back to flavours, winter is citrus time. When I lived in Durban, the Victoria embankment used to be choked with massive freight trucks hauling cartons and pallets of citrus for export. Straddle carriers and zippy forklifts used to work around the clock loading reefer vessels. I know this because The Mercury Wine Week used to be held in the harbour’s N-shed and we’d see the trucks and stevedores hard at work, day in and day out while we set everything up.

Citrus sales contributed significantly to a 24.4% increase in South Africa’s agricultural exports (an improvement of R17.3 billion) in 2020. Apparently 2021 is set to be a bumper year with a heavy crop coinciding with an increased global demand for the juicy fruit – but there’s a shortage of containers to ship them in!

Yet the taste of citrus is wonderfully varied. From the puckering bitterness of grapefruit, the tart zingy acidity of lemon and lime to the sweet, rounded ripeness of oranges, clementines, mandarins and tangerines or naartjies. There’s something for everyone – which our spirit tasting in this issue demonstrated.

So gin and tonic can remain part of the repertoire for the cooler days, but can be mixed up with more spicy, citrus warmth as befits the season.