Although I've always appreciated drinking wine, I developed a broader theoretical and practical interest in wine and the wine industry while living in Cape Town, South Africa from 2007 to 2010. There I had the opportunity to visit many of the surrounding region’s stunningly picturesque wine estates – among my favourites are Groot Constantia, Vergelegen, Dieu Donné and Boschendal (pictured).
South Africa has around 570 wine producing establishments (referred to as “wineries”) whose size ranges from small farms producing a handful of different wines to estates of over 2,000 hectares. The majority are open to visitors for wine-tastings and tours all year round, while many also have restaurants, picnic areas and accommodation.
While living in South Africa, visits to the local wineries became a regular fixture in my calendar and a really enjoyable way to spend a Saturday or Sunday afternoon. At the same time, I acquired some of the South Africans’ passion for wine and their enthusiasm for pairing wine with food. Food and wine pairing is sometimes seen as a stuffy activity, the preserve of high-end and often ludicrously priced restaurants. However, this image of food and wine pairing is completely demolished by Katinka van Niekerk and Brain Burke's "The Food and Wine Pairing Guide" (www.katinkafoodwine.co.za/guide.html). Through their lively, entertaining and highly informative book, Katinka and Brian show that trying to match wine with food is really just about having fun and ensuring that our enjoyment of both is enhanced.
I maintained my interest in wine going after returning to London in early 2011. That year, as a birthday present, I was given a membership to SAWines, a Wimbledon-based South African wine merchant which does online orders and deliveries and which also organises regular tasting events. More recently, I've also had a chance to visit other wine-producing regions, notably Canada's Okanagan Valley and France's Entre-Deux-Mers and Saint Emilion districts near Bordeaux.
I plan to use this weekly blog to share some of the insights gained while doing the course, as well as specific tasting and food and wine-pairing experiences. I hope you will enjoy this journey with me through the world of wine!