When a vintage is born by Samarie Smith

Photo credit: Samarie Smith

South Africans are spoiled for choice when you look at the wine shelves of liquor stores. Not only are we treated with a variety of styles to suit the flavours we love, but we don’t know how fortunate we are when you look at price versus quality.

There is a long history to this back log in price and why South African wines are trying to play catch up, but I am not writing this to dig up old graves. I am writing this to liberate your relationship with wine going forward. Because whether it’s that hearty Italian meatball recipe you crave or something a bit daintier like dauphinoise potato and pouched salmon, there is always a wine to take hands with these flavours and textures. As simple or as complex as these combinations may be, it brings you joy, fulfillment and satisfaction. I see the wine I want to pair with my meal when I start to cook. This is a kingship that is stirred when you fidget through your spice pots in search of that smoked paprika, rosemary or white pepper.

As soon as the aromas envelops your senses, you favourite chardonnay or syrah enters that yum-space you are after. Flavours are born in my house every day.

But, it is not every day that we stop to look at the vineyards of the Cape and where they are in their life cycle. I’ve been documenting some vineyards blocks and I’ve been overwhelmed with all the intricate details. It is no easy journey for the vines ahead – completely vulnerable to the whims of nature.

Spring is announced in birdsong and blossoms, but if you took a closer look at the vineyards, life also started there with budburst in September. These tiny leaf factories are where it all starts when daily temperatures exceed 10 degrees Celsius, and they swell and burst to become new shoots. Leaf growth is then powered by the vine’s carbohydrate reserve, helping it to reach for the sun throughout November. The face of the vineyards changes daily and it is humbling to be reminded that they will need to hang on for dear grapes so that we can fill our glasses.

Samarie Smith is a certified wine taster and currently the brand manager for Benguela Cove. Follow her all the way until harvest for musings from the vineyards.