This song happens to mean a lot to me. I’m not even sure why. Possibly it’s from memories of ancient Japanese men dancing along to it in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III. Oh Casey Jones… (Sigh). Or maybe even from the old Listerine commercial that featured the song. Who knows? Even now that I’m an adult, those who have had the pleasure of sleeping in the same room as me may have heard me mumble the song’s chorus in my sleep. You think I’m kidding…but this has happened more than a few times.
So in honor of my return to Africa next week, I thought it’d be fitting to feature one of my favorite songs from the 80’s that ultimately gets me pumped for Africa, along with one of the keys to my heart, South Africa. And although I will not have the pleasure of visiting that particular country again this time around, the aura of Africa is in the air and with it the amazing moments that blessed me along the way.
So enjoy the article below and join me in a cheers to Africa. And cheers to you Tarzan Boy.
“Today, praise be to God, wine was made for the first time from Cape grapes.” – Founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeek, wrote in his diary in 1652.
I’ll never forget the moment that I first laid eyes on this incredible land. One thought instantly came to mind…this place is OLD. Whereas in Iceland the landscape was so young and geologically active that it made me feel as if I went back in time to the Jurassic Period, the Western Cape instead pushed me forward through time. Staring off into jagged mountains that at their metaphoric peak were taller than the mighty Mt. Everest, but now are the majestic ruins of what once was.
Okay, so now let’s get geeky.
Despite its distinct categorization as New World wine, the Western Cape of South Africa and its historic estates such as the illustrious Groot Constantia have been producing wine and winning the hearts of Europeans well before the likes of big names like Lafite and DRC had hit the main stage. Producing both Old World and New World styles of wine, South Africa has stamped itself as the home of perplexing Chenin Blanc, or “Steen”, refreshing Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, luscious Hanepoot (Muscat of Alexandria), peppery Shiraz, velvety Bordeaux blends, and……ah that’s right, Pinotage. But don’t be scared off just yet. Despite the former consensus of the American palate, these crossings of Pinot Noir and Cinsault produce rustic little wonders that are capable of sheer elegance matched by earthy complexity.
While all of the wine producing regions of the Western Cape have soils that are inevitably able to drain well while retaining necessary moisture, they each maintain their individuality of terroir. The unmistakeably Afrikaans region of Stellenbosch rests upon soils of decomposed granite and sandstone while the French-influenced areas of Franschhoek and Paarl sit at a higher elevation resulting in wines with full flavors and higher acidity levels. Positioned further south along the coast, Walker Bay indulges in its cooler maritime climate and soils of arenaceous shale while the warm and arid Breede River Valley produces ripe and full bodied wines.
With its ruggedly eroded landscapes, the Western Cape produces wines that express an eccentric minerality that is simply inexplicable. That concept in line with the overall Mediterranean styled climate, unswerving amounts of sunlight, and cool winds of the Benguela Current brought in from Antarctica, result in underrated masterpieces that have yet to truly be appreciated in this world we live in.
And did I mention price points? Anyone who has spotted South African wines in a wine shop would have noticed the unbeatable price level typically bound to these bottles. My advice? Invest a little bit of time and money, which goes a long way in this case, and really delve into these marvels and truly discover what this phenomenal country can offer. As not all South African wines are created equal, I do recommend that instead of just grabbing any bottle that is reasonably priced, talk to the retail staff and get their take on the particular producers and wines that are offered.