Naming rights

Rupert & Rothschild recently opened a beautifully revamped tasting centre at the Fredericksburg farm in Simondium, between Paarl and Franschhoek. Seeing the range of Rothschild wines from Argentina, New Zealand and France alongside those of their South African Rupert partnership set off a train of random thought about wine names.

Available for tasting were Château Clarke from Bordeaux, Barons de Rothschild Champagne, Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough – and of course, courtesy of the 1997 partnership with the late Dr Anton Rupert, Rupert & Rothschild’s Baroness Nadine Chardonnay and Baron Edmond, a red blend.

It got me pondering about wine names: not those which challenge your intellect like Ataraxia, Intellego or similar Latin derivatives, but the ones with personalities attached to them. The South African wine fraternity is positively awash with examples on wine labels!

Just off the top of my head I came up with the Bellevue’s PK Morkel range, Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer – and following that trend, KWV’s Perold, named for the ‘father’ of Pinotage. Then there’s Rustenberg’s Cabernet Sauvignon, named for Peter Barlow, and from the neighbouring Ida’s Valley property in Stellenbosch, Glenelly, a range that honours its founder, Madame May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, with the Lady May range which currently only comprises a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Graham Beck Wines of Robertson pays respect to the Beck family matriarch Rhona with a beautifully sweet muscadel, while Graham Beck’s son Clive, who died tragically, appears on the label’s prestige Cuvée – and there’s also The Joshua, the second name of the late Mr Beck himself.

A firm fixture at the ‘Chef de Tasting’ in the Thelema tasting room for years, Gyles Webb’s mother-in-law  Edna McLean was immortalised in the Ed’s Reserve dry white.

One of the most innovative namers is Fairview’s Charles Back. Both his late mother, Beryl, and father, Cyril, boast tribute wines. Simonsig similarly honours the family patriarch with its Pinotage-driven Frans Malan Cape blend. Eben Sadie set off on his journey involving the redemption and rejuvenation of old vines after finding a patch of desperately old and neglected vines belonging to Mrs Kirsten. His labour of love became the sought-after Mrs Kirsten’s Chenin Blanc.

One of the most interesting back stories to a ‘named’ label belongs to that of Stellenboschkloof winery Jordan. They came up with a novel moniker for the 2014 lightly barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc unveiled in January: Inspector Péringuey. There were blank looks all round when Gary Jordan asked if anyone had heard of him or knew what his claim to fame was…

He went on to explain that Dr Louis Péringuey was the inspector-general of vines in South Africa at the time of the outbreak of phylloxera. He was not only the man who discovered the first affected vineyard and alerted locals to the problem but also the one who ensured that phylloxera-resistant American rootstocks were imported in order to graft healthy vines onto, a practice that continues today.

And true to his training as a geologist, Jordan brought out a variety of rocks to demonstrate his next nugget of information about Inspector Péringuey – that he was also interested in anthropology. Having found some Stone Age hand axes and other ancient rock tools while in the Stellenboschkloof in the late 1800s, Péringuey wrote a paper about his finds. He set the proverbial cat among the pigeons by challenging the wisdom of the time that the oldest tool and implements were only to be found in Europe. His African finds dated back 500 000 years, a fact now readily accepted by historians and scientists – but quite radical at the time.

But my random name hunt just scratches the surface. There are still heaps more – Lanzerac’s Mrs English, Distell’s Adam Tas, Alvi’s Drift’s Albertus Viljoen, Backsberg’s John Martin, Du Preez’ Polla’s Red all the way through to Welbedacht’s Myra and Mon René, and Zorgvliet’s Simoné. Each one with a personality enshrined on the label.


Rupert & Rothchild's newly opened tasting centre

Johann Rupert at the opening of the Rupert & Rothchild tasting venue

Available for tasting at the event was Rimapere Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand

 – Fiona McDonald