The Sharpener’s new weekend focus on kul-cha has left me in a bit of a bind. I can’t stand opera, loathe ballet and fell asleep the only time I’ve ever been to the theatre. (Macbeth, Stratford, fifth-form Shakespeare trip.) But I do like wine. Even better: free wine.
So, next month I’ll be going to the Wines of South Africa mega-tasting, in Old Billingsgate in the City of London. What does that have to do with you? Simple: this is a public service announcement to let you know just how easy it is to blag free entry to a “press and trade only” event. Go here to register online. As long as you can come up with a vaguely plausible reason for attending, you’ll sail through no questions asked. I’ve called myself “Press” in the past, even though I’m a freelance hack with only a vague acquaintance with wine writing. I even got an invite to the Press Centre this year.
Though I’m a bit distressed the event is no longer at Lord’s (with free lunch in the UFO press box chucked in), it’s still unmissable. Over 280 producers, thousands of different wines. Silky, sweet Stellenbosch reds, seaside whites from Hemel-en-Aarde that taste (just a little) of the local fynbos, the Western Cape’s indigenous floral kingdom. I’ll be making straight for my favourite producers, the ones I can’t afford when it’s me paying or that are impossible to find outside the trade: Vergelegen, Hamilton Russell, Klein Constantia, Kanu, De Trafford. At the cheaper end, Du Toitskloof, Bon Courage, and Graham Beck’s award-winning fizz are all worth hunting down. Journos looking for a story might make for Thandi, the black empowerment vineyard set up by Paul Cluver, of Elgin pinot noir fame. If you want to skip straight to the expensive stuff, there will be a themed tasting of wines that received 5* ratings in the 2006 Platter Guide.
If you like wine, can get to the City, and have a spare hour or two on October 11th or 12th, you shouldn’t miss this. See you there?