All about


A colleague was recounting a story about synchronicity the other day. While taking his son to school they’d been talking about a particular song, joking about the lyrics. As Junior was about to call up the song on his mobile phone, that particular track started playing on the radio …

“How freaky was that?!” son and dad both exclaimed. A maths boffin could probably work out the precise – and infinitesimally small – odds on that occurrence but it doesn’t take much brain power to realise that it was indeed, quite freaky.

But there’s another example of this sort of weird coincidence in this very issue. Editorially we took a look at brandy as the spirits element of the magazine – and unusual or lesser known white grape varieties for the wine segment.

Tasting the assortment of brandies was really no hardship. The everyday or commercial brandies which consumers can find lined up in virtually any and every TOPS at SPAR throughout South Africa are good quality. In fact, great for a casual social event with friends, mixers to the fore. When the ante is upped a notch to the vintage and potstill brandies though, it’s when the heart begins to flutter just a bit. These brandies are SO good! Seriously: world class in their complexity, subtlety, refinement and elegance. They’re the kind of tipple which anyone could quietly sip and enjoy over the course of an evening – much like a top-notch single malt. So why is it that there’s more cachet or sexiness to pouring a single malt or an imported Cognac than one of the country’s finest brandies? There’s not a great deal of difference in cost. If anything, the brandy probably offers better value than either the Scottish, Irish or French imports. (Read the story to find out some of the possible reasons.)

One of the key components in making brandy is the raw material: the grapes – specifically chenin blanc and colombar. Here’s the link: the latter also features in this month’s wine feature. Colombar is possibly poised on the threshold of a journey already made by chenin blanc. Three decades ago chenin was the work donkey of the SA wine industry, used for everything from brandy, to bubbly to sweet wines. Nobody took it seriously, giving it any love and attention. Now look at it! There are hundreds of examples on wine shelves, from serious top-end oaked examples to the entry-level, everyday, cheap and cheerful quaffers. There is a recognition that chenin is capable of distinction.

That’s the path that colombar is potentially poised to follow. It too has been overlooked, overcropped, overutilised and possibly underestimated. But with clever winemakers wanting to try and give it some attention, making wines of personality, authenticity and genuine point of difference, critics are starting to take notice.

How exciting to be sitting on the sidelines, popcorn in hand, anticipating an “I told you so!” moment in a decade or two.