A Wine Trail via Africa, Italy and Kent
Who likes a nice glass of wine when sitting down to read a good book. What about a BookTrail through the eyes of a Wine Buyer?
The Book? Corkscrew: The highly improbable, but occasionally true, tale of a professional wine buyer
The book features a number of locations but there’s something very special about South Africa and the wines produced here….
Peter tells us more….
Cape Town, South Africa – Felix travels to The Cape on a two-pronged mission: to procure fine wines for his employer and to track down the mysterious Madame Joubert and her magic powder.
I lived in Cape Town for two years, running the wine buying department of a large retailer. It’s a spectacularly beautiful part of the world. You have the ocean, the mountains, botanical gardens, lush winelands, game reserves and dramatic semi-desert, all accessible within an hour’s drive of the fun-packed city. Wine enthusiasts might want to drop into Publik, an excellent wine bar in the centre of Cape Town, where your author actually wrote large parts of Corkscrew, drawing upon the fine wine list for inspiration.
The South African wine industry is centred on the town of Stellenbosch, which is ringed with wineries, most of which are open to visitors. Many have superb restaurants, some of them the finest in the country – I particularly recommend Jordan, Delaire Graaf, Vergelegen, Waterkloof and Overture. It’s also worth spending a night in the nearby village of Franschhoek and enjoying a glass or two as the sun sets behind the mountains – Dieu Donne is a great evening spot.
Robertson – Felix meets winemaker Wikus van Blerk. “Loot, more like! The proceeds of murder, perhaps. You look like the murdering type.”
If you intend to follow Felix’s route in Chapter 12, you must travel a little further from Cape Town. The village of Robertson, the location for Felix’s initial encounter with winemaker Wikus van Blerk, is quieter and humbler than Stellenbosch, but it comes alive at the beginning of June, during the anarchic ‘Wacky Wine Weekend’. There are a handful of charming hotels here and don’t miss the Graham Beck winery, one of the top producers of South African sparkling wine.
Calitzdorp – van Blerk takes Felix on a journey through the Klein Karoo. “Those feet are among the most dangerous weapons in the animal kingdom…”
Travel through the pretty village of Montagu and take Route 62 through the savage beauty of the Karoo with its jagged peaks and orange earth glowing beneath the African sun. Barrydale makes a nice stop for refreshments, and port lovers shouldn’t miss Calitzdorp, home of South Africa’s top fortified wine producers. Calitzdorp is also the centre of the ostrich industry and carnivores might wish to sample the local produce, a delicious, lean red meat, best served drenched in local olive oil. This is the land that inspired Chapter 13, though I sincerely hope you’re spared Felix’s terrifying encounters with the local wildlife.
Swartberg Pass – the travellers arrive at van Blerk’s legendary mountainside vineyard. “…a rocky gorge carried the road ahead down to the arid vastness of the Great Karoo, stretching to the horizon.”
One of the most awe-inspiring drives in Africa (make sure you’re driving a 4×4, or brave beyond reason), the Swartberg Pass is the gateway between the Klein Karoo and the vast Groot Karoo.
And that, as they say in the Wine trade is just a taster….