It was a windless day in the Swartland, oppressive, dry, inescapable.
The kind of summer afternoon the locals had come to expect, something they bore with a quiet determination often escaping into a dreamless, listless sleep at the height of the afternoon, the brave sipping steaming cups of black coffee around a darkened kitchen table. Mev. Kirsten manning the stove. The theory being that should one raise one’s body temperature to match that of your surroundings, it would become bearable, cool even (mind games). A Skerpioen doggedly made his way across the stoep, haltingly at first and then almost nonchalant, seemingly having realised that no-one was capable of drumming up enough energy to care. The Pofadder knew enough not to lie directly in the sun, lest he start cooking from the inside, though the hard baked earth warmed his blood in a pleasant way. The whitewashed homestead stood proud against the slopes of the Skurfberg. Itself dry, drier than it should be and though as dry as it always had been, the vegetation long since having learnt that if it were to survive here, it would have to endure. The result being a decidedly hardy bunch of inhabitants.
Soldaat, the pitch black pavement special canine, had been lying on the stoep overlooking the Kloof, systematically repositioning himself every so often to fit into the ever-thinning column of shade as the sun moved across the sky. He’d been watching ’t Voetpad all afternoon, both in anticipation and absolute disinterest at the prospect of meeting the the two Latin Lords responsible for propelling the Kloof into the spotlight (though one could argue that it had enjoyed a natural spotlight since the beginning of time). Mev. Kirsten had been bustling around all morning preparing the good china, making Room Horinkies, Hertzoggies, Yskas Koekies and Maaskaas tert. Afternoon tea being a serious affair, requiring a number of sugary treats, of which, when their guests finally arrived, they would (as a rule) sample one of each. The heat left no room for any dietary consideration.
The Lords, when they did appear around the bend, resting in the shade of the Kokerboom, looked old, grizzly, unremarkable. (Though a Swartland afternoon can strip you of your vanities.) It was they, Lucius Junius Moderatus Columella and Palladius Rutilius Tullius Aemilianus who first sparked Eben Sadie’s interest in making terroir specific wines from the previously unexplored, remarkable soils of the Swartland. Their emphasis on the virtues of the old vine lies at the very centre of what was to become a national obsession, a quest to obtain the very Swartlandtest of Swartlandness. The Lords had so inspired Mr. Sadie that he set about finding and making wines from some of the oldest vines in the Kloof, the result of which the Lords had come to assess, and which we offer you here (sans Mev. Kirstens's Room Horinkies, unfortunately):