These days, with the proliferation of a globalised market and an Amazon-like accessibility to almost anything you can think of via the click of a button, rarity tends to be sought-after but rather well … rare.
Yet, there is something magical when you finally do get your hands on something scarce - it sparks the flame of your imagination, brings together a specialized community of people and perhaps most importantly, shines a light on the value of appreciation, encouraging us to take a step back from our instant gratification-type lifestyles.
During the hustle and bustle showcase that was Cape Wine, an event so rare was held it may as well be called a unicorn. Organised by the light-hearted-in-spirit but serious-in-winemaking group self-titled The Whole Bunch, the winemakers from B Vintners, Lourens Family Wines, Usana, Carinus, Lukas van Loggerenberg, Patatsfontein and Boschkloof Wines decided to take the limelight off themselves for the night and instead honour the wines that raised them. The wines that have inspired and motivated them to craft the award-winning bottlings they produce today, and that highlight the high level of quality winemaking South Africa has to offer. The timing was carefully selected to precede the Cape Wine trade show that occurs only once every three years during September, in order to share these limited wines with visiting international wine critics among the likes of Jamie Goode.
Held at the beautiful and historic farmhouse of Usana Family Wines, The Whole Bunch sourced 9 heritage wines that are priceless. The evening was expertly convened by Higgo Jacobs, Founder of SASA and Greg Sherwood, MW and Fine Wine Buyer at Handford Wines.
As the evening began, winemakers Pierre and J.P Winshaw of Usana Wines introduced themselves and their fellow Whole Bunch members, with Pierre explaining the tale of how the bunch got access to these extra special wines.
“Our grandfather started the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery and played the role of a wine merchant for many years during the 1930s. He’d store a lot of his wine under the kitchen floor, and over the years, he’d add to his precious collection. Today we are digging into his private cellar to offer you the rarest of wines, including the first bottled Pinotage in the world, the 1959 Lanzerac Pinotage.”
As the tasting flights commenced, the Whole Bunch members patiently stood around the room and observed, allowing the guests to taste, and refraining from enjoying the wines themselves as there simply wasn’t enough to go around.
“We’ve tried the wines before in our private tasting group, and decided we would rather invite more people this evening to experience these South African greats than having them again ourselves - as tempting as that is!”, explained Franco Lourens of Lourens Family Wines.
With the likes of a 1961, 1963 and 1966 Lanzerac Pinotage being poured as well as a 1957, 1961 and 1966 Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon, the quality of the wines were generally applauded, with comments including that the wines were not tired and had vibrant perfumes and acidity. “Are we being overly patriotic, or are these wines as good as we think they are?” queried Higgo, with a resounding agreement that the wines could stand up to international standards.
However, at one point a wine was poured that quite literally stunned the room, with no one saying a word until Greg Sherwood announced that the Chateau Libertas 1957 in his glass would be receiving his first ever 100 points for a South African wine. As the tasting flights were finished, there was no doubt amongst those in attendance that the magic of the evening would last as long as the finish on the wine - perpetually.
In the past, wines were not regarded as very important to cellar and hold back. Yet, over the years and as some of these heritage wines have aged with grace, winemakers and drinkers have begun to see their value. Sadly, like great artists, sometimes their work is only appreciated once they are gone. Luckily, thanks to events like these, there is a new wave of appreciation, and whether you are a wine aficionado or novice, we are all keepers of our heritage.