“MY book club only reads wine labels, darling,” drawls a widely shared Facebook cartoon. Partners snicker about “wine club with a book problem”. So, 13 years ago, a group of PE women decided to dodge the jokes and formed “Wine Club”.
That’s it. No cutesy names. No expectations of great literary or oenological insights.
One of two remaining founder members, Sandra Marston, explains: “Instead of always buying the same old ‘safe brands’, we realised there was so much more out there to try, and doing it in a group like this made it un-intimidating, and affordable.”
Sandra’s become the resident wine expert and planner of tours – last year to Robertson and Paarl, and this year to explore Klein Karoo winemaking from a base in Oudtshoorn.
What they do have in common with book clubs is that their 13 years have seen partners come and go, children arrive and grow up, careers and homes change, and all the accompanying sharing of joys and sorrows. Along the way they’ve poured only one bottle down the sink for being undrinkable.
The format is simple – each of the 10 members brings a bottle, and they keep things affordable at about R50 tops. The hostess decides on a theme and chooses four bottles to open for tasting. The other six bottles go into a lucky draw.
They’ve done blind tastings and a box wine evening (with food in boxes too). Last year turned into an “around the world” year, and this month’s hostess, Janet Whitehouse, decided to mark the onset of winter with a “last of the summer wine” theme and asked everyone to bring their favourite summer wine. We started off with the lively, fruity dry Pongracz Rosé served with a raspberry in the glass – a lovely summer celebration bubbly. The reliable Ken Forrester Petit Chenin, a club favourite that delivers great value, got supper started, and then we headed into sweeter territory with a Neethlingshof Gewurztraminer. Made by only a handful of local estates, this is an ideal wine for those put off by very dry or tropical whites and is a great partner for curries. With characteristic rose petal aroma, this one was off-dry and crisp, with lingering litchi/kiwi fruit tastes.
The highlight was our dessert treat of Christina van Loveren Noble Late Harvest, a dense silky, spicy hint of honey and intense fruit, and a perfect way to end off any evening – and summer.