An audience with Simon Smith – tragically no sign of an amazing dancing bear.
Friday morning saw us rocking up at the instigators of this whole exercise, Louisvale whom we met up with for the first time last year and whose wines have been so well received since we took on the role of their importer.
(The man himself, Simon Smith)
Having enjoyed significant success in the 1990’s, their fortunes changed following a takeover at the start of the millennium and it is only since new owners assumed control in 2010 that things have, once again, started looking up. Throughout this whole period the one constant has been the ursine figure of winemaker Simon Smith. His uncompromising approach could hardly lay claim to being cutting edge but let there be no doubt, the range of wines assembled before us were some of the most approachable and appealing that we had encountered all week.
Simon’s first act following the most recent takeover was to set about the complete replanting of the estate and the dividends of this are now all too apparent. His bottles come adorned with a multitude of awards, the most notable being the IWSC Gold for his MCC sparkling Rose and an IWSC Silver for the truly outstanding Bordeaux Blend, Dominique. Perhaps the highlight of the whole visit though was a sneak preview of his new, ultra-premium Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 Barrels. After the years in the wilderness, the message that this wine conveys could not be clearer; Louisvale are not just back on their feet but this is a winery that should be taken very seriously indeed.
Then we had lunch.
(Obligatory wildlife shots)
The weekend had been written off for some R & R so Saturday saw us taking a quick, whistle-stop Safari around the Aquila Game Reserve where, amongst other things, I learnt that Zebras have very weak spines, hence they cannot be ridden and have never been domesticated. (Every day’s a school day.)
(Just like Glastonbury but without the mud, and with better wine)
Sunday turned out to be a bit more of a busman’s day off as we took in the Stellenbosch Wine Festival for a couple of hours of more relaxed tasting whilst chilling to the Gypsy Jazz of local band Manouche who played on the most ridiculously sized stage I have seen outside of an arena.