Every wine enthusiast’s history with wine is unique. Some started experimenting young, others chose to wait. Some stuck to what they knew and others delved into the more risqué. From local to foreign, in all their different styles and types, from the ones that merely teased to those that had to be dined, many wines have come and gone. Some were one night wonders and others convinced us to stay. Nevertheless, every wine lover has had that one experience that separated the boys from the men; that wine that completely changed the game. This is the story about how I started my journey of countless vineyards with a single sip, a mouthful of energy and light.
It was one late afternoon at the University of Stellenbosch and I, but a fledgling at the time, found myself in the Vinoteek by some chance so ludicrous that it could only be granted by the wine gods. For those of you that do not know what the Vinoteek is, I advise that you hold on to your knickers while I explain. The Vinoteek is, just as the mischievous play of words insinuate, literally a library devoted to wine. It is carefully, yet dangerously, placed one level below the department of Viticulture and Oenology, which boasts as a neighbour the historic Rooiplein in all its glory. It consists of layers and layers of bottled walls, lined with opportunity and choices that will drive any man or woman worth their wine unequivocally mad. As if it wasn’t overwhelmingly enough my first experience, I was given the opportunity to “quickly” pick a bottle of wine. My heart stopped and my eyes started jolting across the jam-packed cellar. I felt like one of the children starring in “Reggie’s Rush” as I ran through the isles, like a starving animal released in its natural habitat after years of captivity, in pursuit of the perfect bottle of wine. I was spellbound. My inner oenophile was born.
From the corner of my eye I spotted a beautiful Burgundy bottle with an intriguing yellow wax seal. It was love at first sight. I grabbed it and carried it home with great care. I took my best bottle opener, sliced the seal, pulled the cork and drowned in absolute astonishment. Never had my taste buds experienced such sensation. My appreciation for the art of winemaking flared and I drank every sip with sparkles in my eyes. That very specific bottle of wine, on that particular day, induced a thirst in me that cannot be quenched. I had by some benevolent force fallen completely and utterly, fatally in love with wine.
That bottle of wine drove me to fill the gap between where I was and where I wanted to be. With the blink of an eye and the slightest amount of paperwork later, I so found myself at the cellar door of that very wine’s producer this year, reporting for my first harvest.
~ Megan van der Merwe