ev·o·lu·tion ( v -l sh n, v -). n. 1. A gradual process in which something changes into a different and usually more complex or better form.

You often hear derogatory terms like “wine snob or pretentious git” when describing a person who professes to like fine wines.  I am unashamedly a wine connoisseur, a lover of fine wine.  I was not born with these tastes, the same way no child loves slabs of raw fish at birth – it is an acquired taste, honed over more than a few years.

The love of all things wine started early...

The love of all things wine started early…

I am not discussing the idiots who profess to “lurve” this or that, simply due to the price tag (“we used the Black Amex for that, dahling”, origin (“it’s from a luvvely village in France, sweetie, we vacation there often”) or the bling stuck on the bottle (“it also won a competition no one entered and was judged by the Minister of Education, my dear”).We have all taken a personal wine journey.  For some people there was that “Eureka” moment, for others it was a gradual evolution of the palate.

I grew up with wine; both my parents hail from the Cape and Sunday lunch was always accompanied by a sherry glass filled with whatever wine my parents were drinking – it took me years to understand that you don’t actually get “children’s wine glasses”, by the way.  Of course the wines were no great shakes, with the likes of Nederburg Diamanté being all the rage and Fifth Avenue Cold Duck a New Year’s treat.

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December holidays were inevitably filled with visits to Nuy Cellar and Backsberg to fill up the Venter trailer for the long journey back North.  The Navigator’s mother was very fond of the old White wine staple: Graca.  De Akker in Stellenbosch was my introduction to that beverage, not a fond memory, but it did improve my pool playing skills!  Stellenbosch University and its numerous pubs introduced us to Tassenberg, Black Label (Castle was not what the cool kids drank) and Chateau Libertas.  My cousin & I’d attend parties each clutching our own 5L box of Overmeer red and dry white.  The Navigator had to throw away clothes that were tainted by Leeukop spillage on a rugby tour  – he could never get the smell out (but he drank it!).  The Garage served Stein by the jug; no glasses needed or offered  (we’re all still debating whether it was actually wine in there).

I left university but not wine; I once organised a formal dance with a friend and Helderberg Co-op provided the wine (in 5L plastic containers!) that we could decant into “authentic” little wine barrels – the leftover White Wine popped the tops off the plastic bottles a week later but it could still be used to make a pretty decent white sauce when we had no milk…

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Fast forward to my first job when JC le Roux le Domaine and Bon Courage Blush found its way into my shopping trolley with Beyerskloof Pinotage and Van Loveren’s Four Cousins Naturally Sweet Rosé (The Navigator was also quite fond of Four Cousins dry red, in magnum!).  We drank copious amounts of the stuff and loved every drop.  I developed a love for Thelema Merlot after buying a gift for a friend and Steenberg Nebbiolo during the early days of the Estate’s development.  A stint as audit clerk for Louisvale introduced me to their unwooded Chardonnay (Chavant) and I started exploring the wonderful world of wooded White wines.   While visiting Robertson  a friend and I decided to turn off and visit the “Home of Homer Simpson”; and Springfield happened!

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The Navigator left Stellenbosch but his love for wine travelled with him and led him to explore his brother’s wine cellar and his “eureka” wine:  Veenwouden Merlot 1998 – when WINE finally made sense to him.

The point is simple: whatever you’re drinking right now is the right wine for you right now.  Whatever I was drinking at every time in my life, was delicious at that specific time and it lead to the next step in my own wine evolution.  What I loved then, I cannot physically enjoy now but I had to experience it to know where to go next.  I needed the “practice” to understand the Cartology in my glass, the bubbles in my Champagne and the complexity that age brings.

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Don’t turn your nose up at friends and family who are starting on their long and infinitely interesting journey into wine.  No pointing and sniggering at people who drink dry white with their ice and call Robertson Sparkling “champagne”… at least they are supporting the wine industry by drinking wine and embarking on a journey like no other: a journey that never has to end.

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 Tell us about your journey; your evolution…share the joy!