The Circus: Act 4
Let's be honest, after skimming through 1-3, you've probably had enough. Unfortunately for you, this isn't the end. Think of Circus as The Office. They tied it up neatly in two seasons, put a ribbon on it, smashed out a Christmas Special and called it a day.
But they didn't really call it a day, because a few years later, America paid Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant all the money and made their own version. It went on for too long, but it was still very...
Look, you'll hear more from Circus.
Pete Davison, The Alheit’s, Reenen Borman, Boschkloof, Dean Leppan, Newton Johnson, Ian Naudé, Marelise Niemann, The Mullineux’s, Bouchard Finlayson, Adam Mason, Matt Day, Klein Constantia, Guillaume Nell, Jacques De Klerk, Attie Louw…
Whether it was grapes or 8th-fill barrels, barrel cleaning or advice, sulphur numbers or simply an honest review, we’ve received gracious support from a cast that reads like Greg Sherwood’s Rolodex.
Even the Godfather of the Polkadraai, Danie Carinus, offered us Viognier. We turned him down obviously, because it's Viognier. But the point remains: Everyone helped. Everyone said "yes" (Technically we said "no". But only to Danie’s Viognier).
Without speaking for the rest of the Circus, this is what has struck me over the last few years: My experience of South African farmers, winemakers, viticulturists and those who play a role in turning grapes into wine, is overwhelmingly positive.
Most of them clearly derive great joy from helping others. They want to share their creations and their expertise. They want success for themselves and for their neighbours. They are bound by a generosity of spirit tied to the understanding that a rising tide lifts all boats.
But my experience is a far cry from the casual wine enthusiast’s. We all have friends who are curious about the stuff, but scared of engaging; the prospect of a conversation with an "expert" about as enticing as half a ton of Viognier.
It is the critics, writers, PR's, marketers, and influencers who need to stand up and be counted. Whether through our own fault or the complicated new media landscape, some of these stakeholders simply don’t make wine as accessible as they might like to believe.
Verbose tasting notes and didactic reviews don’t make wine more accessible, they patronize. Social media posts of free lunches don’t break down barriers, they reinforce them. Those who are knowledgeable and well-connected need to use their experience to actively welcome others in, not keep them at arms length.
Not to overplay it, of course. Most of us love seeing great bottles consumed and people enjoying themselves. It's just a drink at the end of the day. But as someone who communicates for a living and now makes wine on the side, I can’t help but feel that those of us who spend most of our time behind a keyboard would do well to spend more time behind the wheel of a tractor.
That’s where we found Marelise Niemann (Anysbos & Momento) when we went to pick up some grapes a few weeks ago. As we were leaving, Dan handed her two bottles of the radioactive, skin-contact, orange, Freakshow Verdelho.
Marelise's eyes lit up:
"During harvest, we have lunch with all the winemakers and interns from Crystallum, Gabrielskloof and Thorne & Daughters. Every day somebody opens something blind for everyone else. I’m taking this tomorrow."
Marelise and her colleagues were kind enough not to share their thoughts on our wine.
Instead, they share everything else.