THE new year has been well and truly rung in, the hangovers hopefully dealt with, and the working year begun for most. A good time then for Weekend Post to ring in a new wine column.
It's a little daunting following in the footsteps of my first boss from my days in the Times Media newsroom. Derek Smith knows his stuff when it comes to wine, and over the past few years he's pointed the way to some fabulous bargains – good wines at "plonk prices".
I must confess at the outset to being a semi-literate adventurer (in wine terms, anyway) enjoying the journey, and looking forward to sharing it with our readers.
Like many wine-lovers, my journey started in 'varsity years with the likes of good old Tassies or Chateau Libertas (when the parents' allowance arrived or we'd had a good waitressing shift), and Taverna Rouge at the end of the month. We also knew the precise times at which happy hour commenced and free bar snacks were served, at every pub in Grahamstown.
For many, the journey started with semi-sweet whites. I remember serving the likes of Bellingham Johannesberger and Kupferberger Auslese by the caseload when waitressing was funding the monthly grocery (and Tassies) bill. Then, we spent many weekends celebrating our school and student mates' 21st birthdays and weddings, and we toasted them with 5th Avenue Cold Duck and Grand Mousseux.
Somewhere along the line, the palate matures and we discover dry whites and chardonnay, more complex red wines, the plethora of dry pinks that are now available and the difference between sparkling wine and Methode Cap Classique (MCC).
The focus is going to move away a little from price limits and start exploring wine trends and blends; visiting both well-known and off-the-beaten track wineries; dabbling in food and wine pairing and talking to Eastern and Southern Cape folk about their passion for wine.
We'll also keep hunting for hidden gems and bargains.
Trends we see coming (with thanks to Woolies' wine selector, Allan Mullins) include light and "diet" wines, organic and biodynamic farming practices and a focus on issues such as sustainability and fair trade – plastic bottles of which are also part of that trend. We'll be looking at all of these topics over the coming months.
The impact of climate change on the wine industry means we're now making wine in J'Bay, and Plettenberg Bay is officially a Wine of Origin region, with some 18 wine producers – pioneering estate Bramon's Sauvignon Blanc MCC being a personal highlight of the festive season.
Tell me about your wine highlights and discoveries by e-mailing me at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Let the adventure begin!