There are many people—some even still living—who have shaped the SA wine industry, made it what it is today. They are forceful personalities who didn’t take no for an answer—ever—who always found a way to make things interesting, and above all, different.
Ken Forrester was a restaurateur in Johannesburg who had a dream, with his wife Teresa, to make superb wine in the Cape. They bought a derelict farm in Stellenbosch in 1993 and made the leap of faith of coming here to do just that. Ken has made his name synonymous with some of the finest Chenins made we have in this country. They are internationally much sought after and fetch high prices in New York especially.
I asked him some questions so we could find out more of what makes him tick….
Can you describe the best glass of wine you’ve ever had the pleasure of drinking?
The best wine I was ever party to was a bottle of Chateau Haut Brion 1964, shipped by Eschenauer. An incredible wine, that filled the room with its evocative perfume of red and black fruit as it was uncorked. Such intense aromas that it stopped our conversation, we tasted the wine with the gentlest tiniest sip, almost scared to disturb it or diminish the intensity.
Immediately we put dinner on hold, decanted the wine and quietly almost reverently sipped through the bottle, fortunately we were just 4 people! Literally hoping one could have one’s cake and eat it, we drew it out as long as possible but alas all too soon the wine was finished, almost as if it had evaporated and nothing but the lasting ethereal memory of a great spirit remains.
And the worst?
The worst wine of my life was so utterly forgettable…
Is there something that makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
Certainly there’s something that makes SA wine special, perhaps it’s that indominatable spirit of Africa, coupled with the fact that we do still have the oldest soils in the world, surely that must make a difference!?
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
Friends? Their outgoing confidence
Arrogance especially the really dumb kind.
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
Almost all of my life, like different happy chapters of the same book. Right now I’m in a wonderful wonderful space with 2 adult daughters that are happy in themselves and our relationship is really more like being good friends, the best of friends. We are really happy watching them with their lives and I have a truly great wife and lifelong companion.
What can you just not do without in your life?
Really good coffee, until it’s a respectable time to drink wine!
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
Anytime you can avoid hurting someone’s feelings.
When have you been most bored?
Most bored…spending time with the auditors. It seems like so long after the event, like the ship has sailed,the horse has bolted, yes those are the numbers, and……?
Listening to barrels fermenting or people being really happy.
How does it feel to have your name on millions of bottles of really good wine?
Yardda yadda yadda… I think one gets used to it – eventually.
Who buys your clothes—you or your wife?
Me. I always buy the same blue or white shirts and Tommy Hillfiger or Levis jeans. My wife buys the really nice shirts though!
Words: Greg Landman
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.