The Swartland Revolution

Me trying to be a revolutionary!

What can be said about the Swartland revolution?

One of the planet’s most remarkable wine events has come and gone. It was an incredible experience, and I was so thrilled to be part of it.

Olivier Clape

Olivier Clape

Everything about it just worked. The scale – around 280 people – was perfect. The wines were great. The mood and tempo were just right. The location, in the small town of Riebeek Kasteel, was ideal.

Things kicked off on Friday night with a vertical tasting of Clape Cornas with Olivier Clape. These are really interesting wines, and the range of vintages he showed – 2009, 2008 and 2001 – contrasted nicely with each other. Two wines from each year were tasted: the young vines Renaissance cuvee and the main Cornas cuvee.

This was followed by a big party, with a barbecue, a band, and a lot of drinking. Apparently, 200 people got through 600+ bottles of wine. [Nothing to be proud of, of course.] I have no recollection of the later part of the evening, except for a vague memory of going to a bar and that everyone was in a very good mood.

Michael Fridjhon

Saturday started bright and early (for some) with a tasting of the fabulous Mullineux wines. This was followed by a beer and pizza break, and then a panel session. Three of us – Michael Fridjhon, Jorg Pfutzner and I – had been asked to choose three wines each which we thought had some relevance to what was going on in the Swartland.

Adi about to kick off our session

We then presented these wines and had some discussion about them, moderated by Adi Badenhorst and Callie Louw. There was some quality banter, as well as some good audience participation. Jorg presented the Matassa Blanc 2008, Eben Sadie’s Priorat wine (Terroir Al Limit 2008) and Dirk Niepoort’s Batuta 2007. I presented Le Soula Blanc 2006, Herve Souhaut’s Romaneaux-Destezet Syrah 2010 and Arianna Occhipinti’s Frappato 2009 from Sicily. Michael showed Domaine Gayda Chemin de Moscou 2008 and two Chateauneufs: Beaucastel 2008 and Domaine Mathieu’s Cuvee Marquis Vignes Centenaires.

Lunch then followed in Bar Bar Black Sheep in Short Street. Many wines flowed, including some of the remaining bottles from the tasting, and wines that people had brought along with them. I was sitting on a table with Jorg so we had a few Niepoort wines (Reserva Branco 2007, Charme 2007) as well as an Egon Muller Sharzhofberger Kabinett, and an Observatory Syrah 2002 that Tim James provided.

Lunch segued into the street party – one of the highlights of the event. This is where our focus returned firmly to the Swartland, with a large group of producers pouring their wines. These included some of the more famous names, as well as newcomers just making a few barrels. I made some great new discoveries, although I wasn’t tasting in earnest. This was more about fun and camaraderie than serious note taking.

A short report like this cannot do justice to the Revolution, which has to rank among the best wine events anywhere. I met so many great people, and learned a valuable lesson  – when someone suggests going to a bar at 2 in the morning, politely decline the invitation.

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