Château plonk and other Cape vino adventures

Pouring_a_glass_of_red_wineMy early experience with wine wasn’t of the most genteel kind. Just straight Tassenberg poured down the throat at small pubs in Stellenbosch on Friday nights when visiting a friend studying forestry at the university.

In those days we weren’t so interested in the taste of wine as we were in the mind altering effect. Tassenberg or Tassies had one major enduring feature: it may have been rough on the palate but it was soft on the student pocket and a sailor’s wallet because I was polishing anchors in Simon’s Town in those days.

Oh, I almost forgot about my genteel introduction to wine when I was about 15 years old. My father had arranged a seafood dinner at our home in Kalk Bay for some big shot from Peugot. The French gentleman brought along his two sons who were about eight and nine years old respectively. My two brothers and me, all of us much older than them, looked in awe as these two children were allowed wine with their meal.

On a recent Friday evening I was listening to the Classic FM wine review when one of anchor Carrie Adams’s guests mentioned that Château Libertas was still a good tasting wine at a reasonable price and with a heritage dating back to 1932. Curiosity piqued, I bought a bottle on the weekend and tried it out.

For my comparative test, I lined up a bottle of Pick ‘n Pay merlot 2013, a Darling Merlot 2012 and a bottle of Saxonburg Grand Vin Rouge (no vintage revealed). I hate to be unkind but the Château Libertas just didn’t make the cut. To me the nose was like diesel fumes and the taste was bitter like licking my tongue against a rusty pole.

Top of the four wines was the Saxonburg at a great price – so inexpensive I’m not going to say where I bought it as the bottle store still has a few cases left. I could taste a fruitiness and pick up a woodiness on the nose.

Today it’s hard to find a casual wine under R40 that doesn’t bite your palette and hurt your pocket. Yet some producers such as Saxonburg and Diemersfontein (Maidens’ Prayer) are putting out enjoyable wines for the winter.

Just by looking and listening you can still find some value-for-money wines. They may no longer be as cheap as they were in your student days but they won’t get you into any trouble or heaving your stomach out into a flower pot or side street pavement.

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