It turns out I’m terrible at boules.
Fortunately, both sports are fair game at what is an undisputed highlight on the SA wine industry calendar - the annual Foodies vs Winos ‘bring a magnum’ boules tournament at Warwick Estate.
The rules are simple:
- Dress for success
- No magnum, no entry
- Bring your A-game (as well as your game face)
This is not a widely publicised event (in fact, all it said on the Facebook page for last year’s event was “If you know what this is, you’re invited). Okay, sounds a little bit elitist, and perhaps it is, being mainly for trade, but the aim here is to blow off some steam after the silly season and foster some friendly competition between the Cape’s most notorious Foodies and Winos in the biz.
But why boules? Isn’t that the game of choice for retired French people?
Mais, oui. If you've ever strolled through a Parisian park in the Summer, the median age of people rolling silver balls over gravel is probably about 65. But don’t knock it 'til you’ve tried it - I’d argue there is no better Summer activity while wearing your best Parisian chic attire, knocking back flutes of bubbles poured lavishly from gigantic bottles. La vie est belle.
Surprisingly, some of our local trade take the whole thing pretty damn seriously - to the extent that the annual tournament is divided into the ‘social league’ and the ‘serious league’. You can guess which league Glou Glou gravitated towards. Meanwhile, the more serious league comprised of teams with members from some serious foodie establishments like The Test Kitchen, Riverine Rabbit, and Tamboers Winkel, facing off against wino-heavy teams like Port2Port and Publik. On both sides, we saw motley crews of winemakers and foodies alike, with some not-so-serious team names (shout out to Irritable Boules, Great Boules of Fire, The Bould & Beautiful andBoules Deep).
As to the format: throughout the day, teams battle it out until the last two teams of the serious league are left standing. Obviously, I was knocked out in the first round (hand-eye coordination has never been my strong point), but to be honest, it wasn’t the worst thing – in fact, it left me with more time to examine the industrial-sized crates brimming with chilled magnums brought by guests.
It’s a first-come, first-served affair. Given the January heat, it’s no surprise that whites and rosé vanish first. It’s also no surprise that the good stuff practically evaporates - by the time I arrived, the Ken Forrester FMC and Raised by Wolves Muscat de Frontignan were long gone.
The good news is that bad wines usually don't make it to magnum size - so if it's more than 1.5 litres and in glass and not a box, there's a reasonable chance it's a goodie. Magnums of Graham Beck Brut were a staple of the day (a steal at R290 on Port2Port) as well as Cape Rock White and Warwick First Lady Rosé (when in Rome).
There really is no downside to a magnum. More wine, more fun, more sharing - and more entertaining to sabrage extravagantly (a sabre tucked into a belt was not an uncommon sight).
As the games slowly funneled towards the finals and the heat eased off, the reds finally had their moment to shine - from lighter numbers like Radford Dale’s Thirst Gamay Noir to Kanonkop Kadette (well-priced at R210).
In a nail-biting final, the winos reigned supreme with Team Bosman + Rent-a-Friend clinching the coveted title - but let’s face it, when you’ve just quaffed your fair share of magnums, you can only be a winner.