Nosing around

Monday, 15 March, 2004
Cathy Marston, The Nose Bar
Mad for March
Treading grapes is like squidging eyeballs between your toes. I felt like a member of the Spanish Inquisition – probably Cardinal Fang – as Kevin and I slowly rotated in our tub and condemned one more bunch of grapes to death by toenail. It was the hottest day of the year so far and Kevin and I had gone to the vineyards at Môreson in Franschhoek for their annual 'Blessing of the Harvest'.

After a few playful skirmishes in the vineyards, we returned to the yard where we prepared to crush our precious grapes. A row of half barrels was set up across the yard and we tipped our grapes into one of them, stripped off (well, only as far as our ankles) and stepped in to begin.

Luckily, I'm built for crushing small objects and it only took a very short time before we had produced a bucket of green sludge which we were earnestly assured would turn into fine wine – with a bit of help. This achieved, we settled down to drinking as much as we could of the previous year's harvest and a good time was had by all. We're listing their Chenin Blanc this month. Try it, and try not to think too much about my feet as you do…..

Like any industry, the wine trade has a few little perks and jollies up its sleeve for lucky, hard-working restaurateurs. For instance, before leaving England for these sunny shores, I was lucky enough to get made a member of the Bollinger Vendangeur Club. What are my qualifications for this club? Absolutely none, my dear. It's a pure marketing gimmick which involves starting on the Bollie at 6am as you go through the Channel Tunnel, continuing to sup on it throughout lunch, a glass-in-hand tour of the vineyards and culminating in a sumptuous 5-course dinner, each course accompanied by a different version of champagne.

By the time we went back to the harvesters' quarters where we were sleeping and which is actually what qualifies you to join the club, we were raring to go. They had thoughtfully provided 6 cases of Bollinger between 16 of us and so the night passed pleasantly enough, drinking, playing Bollinger cricket (with a ball of scrunched up foil and an empty bottle as a bat) and singing dreadful songs. If you were staying in Champagne at that time and were woken up by a raucous version of Don Maclean's American Pie at 4am - that was me. Sorry. Our tour of the cellars the day after was quite difficult.

The plus side of drinking heaps of champagne is that you don't get a headache. However, the acidity causes other concerns and as we staggered around, moaning gently, our stomachs produced a rousing chorus of interesting noises which echoed from the vaulted rooves and scared the spiders as they scuttled off to dark corners. I knew how they felt – a dark corner was about all I was up to myself, but I completed my tour, was awarded my Bollinger neck-scarf and headed off back to the UK feeling I had earned it.

It was a bit of lighthearted fun and it's a good story to entertain and amuse. However, the downside is that the club involves its own rules – of which I was unaware at the time of joining. You see, if you can catch me on the first day of the month without my Bollinger neck-scarf, I am honour bound to give you a bottle of Bollie. But before you all start piling in looking thirsty, it only applies if you're also a member of the Vendangeur Club and are wearing your own Bollinger tie or neck-scarf.

I'm putting my faith in those being few and far between in South Africa, but if there are any of you out there and you fancy a free bottle of bubbly – come and have a go if you think you're hard enough!

Issued by: Cathy Marston, The Nose Bar
Tel: +27 (0) 21 425-2200