The hottest wine topic of September 2018 undoubtedly had to be the annual Cape Wine show. I’ve always wondered what Alice must have seen and felt after falling down the rabbit hole into Wonderland, and as I walked in to the showroom this year I got a very vivid idea of how she felt.

With the Flagstone carousel slowly spinning to my right, the bright pink ‘One Night Stand’ where the flirty Illimis wines waited towards back of the room and the bright disco ball and western themed tower of the Hemel en Aarde’s wines that shone throughout the room, it was hard to fight off the bewilderment that swiftly overcame me. I took a deep breath and took a step into what seemed like a Western Cape Wine Wonderland.

I started off my wine tasting adventure at the Flagstone stand, which was based on a rotating wooden stand, with pictures of their various wine ranges and winemakers on display. After spending a few minutes on the winding wine stand, I made my way over to the Hemel en Aarde stand, where the winemakers were dressed in what seemed to be 80s themed apparel, sporting mullets (yes, you read that correctly), headbands, scrunchies and bright lumo coloured clothes. I met up with some classmates here, who were equally as enthusiastic about the top quality white wines we had tasted at the stand. The region’s stand had a big, shiny disco ball in the centre, which attracted a lot of attention as the winemakers went on to explain their phenomenal wines. The Cartology (Alheit vineyards) stood out for me, along with some other interesting wine styles such as the Mother Rock Liquid Skin (a skin fermented Chenin). It was a very informative event for any wine-lover to attend, the winemakers pulled out all the stops and showed me that you shouldn’t be afraid to try something innovative with your winemaking.

On to the next region, Swartland! I really did feel like Alice, making her way through the winding roads of Wonderland. The Swartland stand had a Chemistry/Sciency theme, with round bottomed flasks as spittoons and lots of plants growing in erlenmyers, I felt like I was walking into my grade 10 biology class again. Here, we received some very insightful advice from the winemakers, who told us to travel to as many international wine regions as possible and learn as much as possible while we are still young. Their red wines boasted an elegance in their body, with soft tannins and a good length on the palate. I was very excited to taste wines such as Touriga Nacional, Tinta Berocca, Mourvedre and Malbec at these stands because they aren’t commonly made as single varietal wines in South Africa. Additionally, I managed to grab myself a taste of the amazing 99 point (Tim Atkin) ‘T Voetpad white blend at the Sadie Family Wines stand, which undoubtedly blew my socks off.

The Elgin region called to me next, with crisp Sauvignon blancs and fruity pinot noirs that would give the French a run for their money, it was hard not to be impressed! Directly behind the Elgin stand, I spotted an incredibly bright magenta pink stand with the words “One Night Stand” in big, bold black letters. Curiosity didn’t kill the Chesire Cat, so I figured I was safe to approach. Here, I was greeted by the very familiar and friendly face of Lucinda Heyns, the proud producer of Illimis wines. Her Cinsaut and Riesling are showstoppers, and suddenly the stand’s name made sense, because a bottle of either would only last one night in my house! Lucinda also works at the University of Stellenbosch and recently took part in a student driven event called Scion, wherein she inspired many of us with her passion and love for both the vineyard and winemaking process.

Moving deeper into the Wine Wonderland, I found myself at the familiar Durbanville stand (I’m from Durbanville) where I was greeted by another familiar face, Arno Smith (aka Koekdief, because he stole an entire cake from Klein Roosboom Boutique Winery). Here, a classmate (Ronel Heunis) and I tasted his new Saartjie range, which started with the Semillon because his Jack Russel, Saartjie, would go into the vineyard with him and eat the fallen Semillon bunches. We unfortunately could not taste the Semillon because the new vintage has yet to be released, however we did manage to taste the Petit Verdot as well as the Cabernet Franc and Bordeaux Style blend.

A little bit further down the road, Ronel and I stopped at the Neethlingshof and Kanonkop stands, where I was reminded of my great love for red wine while tasting the formidable 100 point Paul Sauer Bordeaux Style blend. I finished off my tasting adventure with the powerful Neethlingshof red wines; their Malbec was a definite showstopper wine and never disappoints, I couldn’t help but to give my mom a call and let her know that she needs to stock up on a few of their wines! The clock chimed 15:00, and I unfortunately had to make my way back out of the rabbit hole (to avoid the afternoon traffic on the N1), but I did not leave disappointed and look very forward to the next Cape Wine Show!