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Cape Wine 2018: Seeing and believing

It’s September. The rains have been better than they been for years and dams are beginning to fill up, the vines have been pruned and started to show the first little green flags of verdant growth. The sun shines brightly and with more warmth as it rises a tad earlier and sets a few minutes later. Everything seems poised and full of promise of good things to come.

Nowhere was this more obvious than the genuinely eager anticipation of Cape Wine 2018. In April this year while attending the Decanter World Wine Awards in London the topic came up in virtually every conversation with the local wine trade folks when they heard my South African accent.

“Ooh! Can’t wait. It’s going to be great!” they said – or those not so lucky to have already cracked the nod were ever optimistic: “Well... if I play my cards right, I might get to attend. I’m desperate to visit the Cape.”

I kid you not! That was the word used: “desperate”. My impression then was that South Africa is undoubtedly the hottest ticket or best destination in the wine world at present – and all the anticipation about it on social media has borne that out.

The first few pre-Cape Wine events have been held and the feedback has already been positive. The Old Vine Project treated some of the first guests to a tasting with a few of the Cape’s charismatic producers – and the pictures on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook reflected the good reception. Similarly, Bruce Jack hosted a group at The Drift farm and, in typical inimical fashion, provided an impromptu history lesson against the backdrop of a tumbledown shepherd’s cottage on the farm. The same evening De Warenmarkt in Stellenbosch thronged with winemakers and Cape Wine delegates getting a preview of the wines while simultaneously being entertained by African rhythms.

While it is undoubtedly the premier showcase of South African wine to the world – it’s also a fantastic opportunity for local wine media to make the most of having everyone under one roof. I recall that the last Cape Wine staging three years ago was the first time I got to taste Newton-Johnson’s Albarinho, their first vintage – and it was my personal discovery of the show. Then there was Piekenierskloof showing off its new branding and rather tasty Grenache. Rheenen Borman of Boschkloof made waves with his wines too. The Zoo Biscuits challenged the Swartland Independents with their quirky collaboration ... but superb wines as Peter-Allan Finlayson, Francois Haasbroek, Mick & Jeanine Craven and the Alheits showed.

The parties are epic and there is little doubt that everyone – locals and foreigners – have a great time, but the intent remains serious. Cape Wine is an opportunity to show the world what our wines are made of, where they’re grown, the science, craft and artistry behind it – and the people behind it.

For foreign buyers and writers this is an opportunity to go beyond. It’s all well and good knowing the facts and tasting the wine while in the UK or the US – but seeing the place and hearing the stories of what has gone into its making, the genuine philosophy and journey the winemaker has taken in conceiving, gestating and producing it takes it beyond a commodity or product. The stories become richer through personal experience.

South Africa has a truly unique story to tell and the message has fallen upon very receptive ears.

- Fiona McDonald