The world of wine is a curious thing – we are all connoisseurs in our own right. My good old friend Gustav – a wine fridge prominently displayed in my home – allows me to play to the notion that I know something about wine… Well actually, I’m more of a muso than a wino…
Old Gustav has qualified me as one of the “experts” in our group of friends when it comes to wine. Needless to say, the wine menu is frequently thrown in my direction at dinners out. This often results in my breaking into a sweat – I’m not sure whether it’s as a consequence of my trying to dodge the incoming three-thousand-word menu or if it is the pressure I feel from being chosen as the “wine-one”.
So let me be honest – when the wine menu (which is normally twice the length of the food menu) gets lobbed in my direction, I can decide which wine to order in about three seconds flat because I know the “crowd-pleaser” or someone, somewhere along the way mentioned they’ve been wanting to try this one because they’ve “heard good things about it”… Bla bla bla.
I do, however, take my time perusing the list to live up to the “Gustav Effect”. When the wine arrives, I give it the ceremonial swirl… sniff… and taste… and all is good in the world again… until the next time I’m playing dodgems at a different restaurant.
My bestie – who is in fact one of those fabulous people who really does know a lot about wine – recently celebrated her birthday. So when she gave me a call to ask if I wanted to tour Franschhoek with her for a day, I was packing my bags before she managed to finish her sentence.
In a flash of panic, I realised that, because of her outstanding knowledge of wine and the industry, I was going to be surrounded by people who can swirl their nectar perfectly and insert their noses into the glass at just the right angle. This is a trick I’m still trying to simulate for the sake of appearances.
Fast forward to three weeks later, I arrived in Franschhoek to the most pristine weather. The van was filled with our eager tribe (several of whom had over-indulged the night before). They were not only judging the wine for the day but also the “expertise” of everyone else around the tasting table.
As I write, I need to admit that there must be some sort of omnipotent being, as my saving grace appeared in the form of our first farm for the day – Black Elephant Vintners.
Mr Kevin Swart – a gentleman and a scholar. Kevin greeted us at the helm of Black Elephant Vitners with his trusty “guard dog” Kulula on his shoulder. Kulula is a Haynes Macaw who, according to Kevin, “is green like the airline and spends most his time grounded.”
From the moment I set eyes on Kevin, I knew that this was going to be something altogether different from your run-of-the-mill wine tasting. Kevin’s a jeans-and-t-shirt kinda guy who proudly flies his misfit-of-the-wine-industry flag.
As we entered the sanctuary that is the Black Elephant tasting room, my attention was drawn to a table full of headphones. The walls were strewn with posters depicting famous album covers that drew wine into the mix. It was only a bit later into the adventure that I happily noticed a fish bowl filled with “Rebels of the Vine” temp tattoos that everyone promptly applied and wore with pride. Bubbles of excitement filled the room.
Kevin’s tale about discovering himself at Black Elephant Vintners was spirited and filled with light. During the telling, he occasionally had to return his attention to Kulula to stop him from commanding the mere mortals quaffing nectar under his watch. Kulula‘s beady eyes fixed on a new consignment of pink wine – clearly he’s a bird with a picky taste.
Ho-hum. We’ve all heard of it. Pairings. Food and wine. Wine and chocolate. (Not for Chenin/SauvBlanc lovers – white wine and chocolate do not mix apparently – thanks Gustav). Wake up and listen to wine and music pairings! This is brilliant! Absolute genius! As Kevin so rightly declared – when you remember your best night out, you remember everything and music sets the tone for that. The music is probably the part that you remember most.
Have you ever paired a peacock with a cheerleader or a librarian with a sailor’s dream?
No boring tasting notes for Black Elephant Vintners. Rather, Kevin invited us to tell him what we were tasting with each wine while toe-tapping and off-key-singing engulfed the room. There was something for everyone – both wine and music. The laborious task of traditional wine tasting fell away – we were all having fun, laughs and creating memories together.
Kevin is absolutely passionate about Black Elephant Vintners – the wine, the labels, the wine names, the people, and the story. Most of our tribe avoid Pinotage as it is the one wine that guarantees painkillers and sunglasses the next morning. Kevin insisted that we try Black Elephant’s version – Three Men in a Tub. I have to hand it to Black Elephant. This was a Pinotage like we have never tasted before.
A special atmosphere filled the room when we tasted the last wine for the day with our headphones on – a spectacular Cabernet Sauvignon dedicated to Kevin’s father paired with a live version of Amazing Grace by South Africa’s very own Tree63.
So, as I sit here, toes tapping, sipping on my nectar perfectly cooled by Gustav, my mind drifts back to the tastes and sounds of Black Elephant. If you ever have the fortune of visiting the Franschhoek Wine Valley, I urge you to put Black Elephant at the top of your playlist.
Check out the site: bevintners.co.za/
And absolutely don’t miss the wine and music pairing menu: bevintners.co.za/wp-content/uploads/2018/08/Rebel-Playlist-August-Revised.pdf
Written by Tess Anderson