Let me introduce myself…
I stumbled into wine writing, more or less by accident, back in the 1970s and produced a weekly wine column for the Cape Argus newspaper for about 30 years.
It’s a funny thing, wine. I hadn’t really considered it much until I was given an assignment for the newspaper and decided to do some background research in wine.
After a one-week wine course, offered by the Gilbeys Company, I was hooked.
I attended more courses with Gilbeys (this was before the Cape Wine Academy had been formed) and read up everything I could find.
In 1998 I wrote my wine judging examination and was frankly surprised to pass, but I did. It was by far the most terrifying examination I had ever entered — two days of intensive tasting and analysis under the watchful eye of Professor Joel van Wyk.
I was invited to be on the judging panel of the first Stellenbosch Bottled Wine Show, and later the Robertson Bottled Wine Show. Before that there were only regional young wine shows, of interest mainly to wine producers. The bottled wine shows were the beginnings of what developed into the annual Veritas Wine Competition, which is the biggest wine contest in South Africa. I’ve served on judging panels in every Veritas competition since its inception, usually judging the sweeter wines and fortified wines in particular.
I’m also a founder member of the very successful Wine-of-the-Month Club tasting panel, and have helped with the judging of the annual Muscadel Competition.
All this involvement in wine is rather odd, really, because I came from a family that didn’t regard wine with much respect. We were Karoo sheep farmers and mostly beer drinkers. My mother enjoyed a glass of gin and tonic every evening, but wine was for special occasions and usually very ordinary plonk, which was all that was available in our local Karoo villages.
Wine prompted me to write books, too. I felt there was a need for a really basic book on wine, so I approached wine guru Dave Hughes and we co-operated on a little book called Enjoy Wine, now long out of print, but I believe still a very practical guide.
I followed this with a series of annual pocket books called the Plonk Buyers’ Guide, which was produced for about 10 years until the wine industry became too big to handle.
In 1998 I produced a little book on port, brandy and fortified wines, called Any Port in a Storm, published by Ampersand Press.
It the intervening years I’ve produced several books of cocktails of all kinds …all readily available from Amazon. Feel free to click and order.
Apart from the wine and booze books, my collection of Karoo stories titled Karoo Ramblings, is once again available, after being out of print for two years.
But there’s more to life than wine, of course, and I find great joy in producing a daily column for the Cape Argus newspaper, under the heading of Tavern of the Seas. The column has been part of the Argus for many years and was started by the great South African author, Lawrence G Green.
(His books are out of print now, but if you should find one in a second-hand book shop, buy it. He wrote in a delightfully gentle style that has lost none of its charm over the years.)
The Tavern column gives me freedom to write about any subject that crosses my mind.
I like to think it’s an on-going public debate and it’s pleasing to see how many readers send me suggestions and comments on the stuff I write.
I hope readers will use this website as a public debating forum too.