We’re in crisis. We know this. The number of jobs that are at stake in the wine industry could be calculated to the size of a small dystopian city. Nowhere I would ever want to visit. Though it’s not just about livelihoods, our very wine culture itself hangs in the balance. But this isn’t a piece about loss; instead, it’s one about love. 

South Africa is making the best wines it ever has—and what a privilege it has been for me to grow up with these wines. I often get the asked the question – ‘what was the wine that lit the flame?’

For me it wasn’t one, there have been many wines that have had an impact on me, whether emotional or cerebral, South African wine is as a part of me as the blood in my veins (and often the two do mix).

Let’s start with my birthday wine, Vin de Constance. When I was a cash-strapped student nice things like a bottle of South Africa’s most famous wine was completely out of my reach. My then-boyfriend (now husband) made it his mission to ensure that every birthday I got a bottle of the precious liquid (this tradition went on for a few years). I savoured every sip; I adored the misshapen bottle weighty with history, which upon being empty would become a holder for flowers. 
I guess in a way VdC taught me to dream, to reach beyond my current circumstances. Fast-forward many years later, and I found myself in London at the Institute of Masters of Wine, where Klein Constantia’s winemaker Matthew Day presented a four-decade vertical of VdC.

The oldest in the line-up was a 1987, the colour of toffee and sweet dreams realised. I wish I could go back and tell that student holding on to every sip that these were the kinds of experiences that awaited her.

The most immediate emotional response I’ve ever had to a wine was the Huilkrans Chenin Blanc 2017; even thinking about it now gives me goosebumps. This wine helped me understand the concept of luminosity.
Pure crystalline fruit with an electric acidity described its place of origin as if it had taken a photograph: old vines in the Skurfberg on an isolated mountainous outpost that has a cliff that weeps when it rains.

Speaking of place, the most unique wine I’ve ever tasted – both local and international – is the Bamboes Bay Sauvignon Blanc (2016), which is grown and vinified by the sea. So distinct is this wine that I have no problems identifying it in a blind tasting. Bamboes Bay (kelp bay) is the smallest Wine of Origin in South Africa, located 500m from the ocean; the vineyard pummelled by salty breezes. The cellar is also located ocean-side on a jetty, and through the winemaking process, the sea continues to influence.