Another tough day in Africa

Wednesday, 14 April, 2004
Arnold Kirkby
Far from the hustle and bustle – with a supply of KWV’s 2004 Nouveau wines
It was a time to sit and reflect under the leafy boughs of a 200-year-old oak tree deep in a valley on the leeside of the Langeberg Mountains - all that while tasting some of the first wines from the 2004 vintage. We joined friends on a family camping trip to the Simonskloof Mountain Retreat, situated in the Koo Valley between Montagu and De Doorns.

It was an idyllic way to spend a long weekend – far from the hustle and bustle – with a supply of KWV’s 2004 Nouveau wines, which are at present on their way to the US, Japan and Germany. They are known by various names, such as Nouveau 2004, Early 2004, or Primeur 2004, in the different markets.

A friend who works at KWV was in the party and he was fortunate enough to organise some of these wines he had helped along the creative process only a few weeks before.

We arrived early on Saturday morning and set up home around the massive trunk of the oak. Five tents fitted under its canopy with ease and at least another two could have been accommodated. It was a pleasantly warm day, but the oak which dwarfed everything around it, ensured that sunburn was not a factor for those enjoying its protection.

By the time the Boeing from George or Port Elizabeth or some point east had droned overhead interrupting the tranquillity, Kobus Jordaan had peeked inside his super-dooper cooler box and produced the first of the three wines in the range. We sat back and sipped a chilled Nouveau blanc made from early ripening Chenin blanc grapes.

Although it had only been bottled about 10 days previously and was still settling down in the bottle, the guava aromas and flavours in this crisp, dry wine were most enjoyable. It was ideal with the light luncheon of a bit of this and bit of that which everybody contributed to.

We progressed to the Nouveau Rosé, which was also very fruity and well constructed, though a little sweet for my palate. It was, however, not cloyingly sweet and left a pleasant raspberry aftertaste. It found favour with a number of wives in the party, who gave it the thumbs up. It was one of those days where wide ranges of topics were discussed and philosophies expounded. Fortunately we had no radio or television reception, so we were not aware of the rugby battle at Newlands which might have put a damper on events.

As the afternoon progressed people slipped off to their tents for a quick forty winks, or strolled around the dry, but beautiful valley, silent with only the occasional bird calling. Jurgen, who is of Swiss-German descent, has travelled widely through Africa described himself as the keeper of the property for his younger brother who apparently had inherited the farm from his grandfather, joined us for a glass, but stayed for dinner. His protests about having to travel to Montagu to look at proofs for a brochure, were met with sceptical looks and after a second wee drappy I think he knew he had lost the argument.

As is custom in Africa, a fire was started in a pit and out came a couple of cast iron potjies and the boykies started doing their thing. There was a flurry of peeling and chopping as veggies were diced and spliced. Chicken was produced in volume and added to mounds of sizzling onions that had been brazed in some oil. Once the drumsticks, thighs and breasts were golden brown like some of the children who had been swimming and enjoying the sun, the veggies were added and the camp settled down again to let nature take its course with the food.

We then relieved a bottle of Noveau red, made from Pinotage and Gamay noir, of its inhibiting cork. It was slightly chilled, which subdued its aromas for a while, but they too showed very quickly. The blend of the two wines provided a juicy fresh berry flavour, with obvious acidity expected from such a young wine. The sun tinged a few high flying clouds through various hues, including Rosé, then the purple of the red wine, before the evening star led a procession of constellations across the night sky.

A bottle of 2002 KWV Sauvignon Blanc Reserve provided an apt accompaniment to the chicken potjie, into which everybody tucked heartily, while sorting out the woes of the country and the world. So ended another tough day in Africa and everybody was off to bed early so that they were ready for a hike up the slopes of the Langeberg to a cool pool.

Standing on a high slope looking down over the valley – with a gentle autumn breeze at my back – I realised many a pleasant memory will be relived about an all-too-brief sojourn in the shade of that magnificent oak. It will bring to mind the wines we enjoyed there in a place where time slows down considerably.