BY ANGELO VAN DYK
As I make final preparations for my newest endeavour, embarking on an admittedly ambitious undertaking, I remind myself of its humble beginnings. I attended a tasting in London called In Pursuit of Balance, a movement that was supported by a handful of Californian producers committed to changing the prevailing paradigm away from over-extracted, high-alcohol wines, to more acid driven, fresher styles. It was the catalyst for my pilgrimage out to the western shores of Northern California, where I spent a harvest at Wind Gap winery in Sebastopol, Sonoma. There my eyes were opened to a world of wine that I knew existed in theory, but had yet to engage with on a personal and hands-on level. It was a time in my life that I consider to be incredibly free and emancipating. I've been back in the Big Smoke of London for a little over a year now, and the harvest beckons once again.
In February I will be travelling back, not to California, but to my homeland of South Africa, to begin my own wine making project. Through the trusted investment of a few close, like-minded friends, I am going to be producing a small batch of a red blend, reminiscent of the styles I discovered in Sonoma. Tracking down well farmed grapes from over in London has been a challenge, but through an old network of friends and colleagues, I have managed to nail down some Grenache Noir from Bot River, a fairly undiscovered region, and Syrah from Stellenbosch. To begin with, the production will be roughly only 3 barrels worth, a humble yet challenging start for a man embarking on his first solo effort of making something delicious and fun. Preparation thus far has required purchasing of goods such as barrels, grapes, and fermentation bins, and organising the logistical movements of said grapes from the grower across to the cellar space in Stellenbosch. You quickly realise that people who produce wines in a garagiste environment and style tend to work with pretty minimal intervention methods, not because of what trend perhaps dictates, but rather necessity and financial constraints.
Wine can become over-complicated pretty quickly, but in staying true to traditional methods and honest wine making principles, I’m hoping that not only will we have a quality bit of grape juice in a bottle that is expressive of a South African vineyard and vintage, but also something that is representative of the gnarly hands and committed souls behind this wild idea.