The SA wine industry has more than its fair share of legendary characters that make the wheels go round.
There are those who have helped shape it into the giant we now know and those who have inherited something really worthwhile—and keep it alive.
Greg Landman has met hundreds of them and finds them fascinating subjects—always. Here’s the first in a series he hopes you find equally interesting. Meet Peter Finlayson, winemaker at Bouchard Finlayson…
Fortunately there have been many a fine glass of wine, but a great Barolo tasted during my Rheingau year of 1975 left such an impression with me that I managed to import the first Nebbiolo vines into SA in 1989. This variety with the Sangiovese managed to set up the foundation for our now famous Hannibal wine. That particular Barolo (Nebbiolo) had the most sensual of all tannins, like a mixture of suede leather and silky satin underwear.
And the worst?
I must not be too quick to criticise winemakers who present bad wines. Remembering that there are folks who are tone deaf but still try to sing. But winemaking efforts from summer rainfall African countries have probably been the most disappointing.
Is there something that makes South African wines special? Can you describe it?
The extraordinary beauty of our wine lands lends itself to the majesty of our wines! Further, the dedication of not deviating from a philosophy of respecting quality in wine making garners respect in the long term.
What do you find attracts you to people—as friends?
Having an inquisitive mind and sharing clarity in conversation. Friends inevitably simply enjoy that unexplainable connection.
What do you like most about yourself?
This is tough! But perhaps the fact that I rely heavily on others to complete my package. There are very few solo accomplishments in life I, for one, need to achieve with the help of others and it is important to recognise this!
Too often I forget people’s names.
When in your life have you been happiest—till now?
Braai-ing in the Kalahari or the African bushveld and sipping on fine wine, enjoying those heavenly moments where one can reach up and pluck the stars out of the dark crystal skies!
What can you just not do without in your life?
My three pillows and a piece of dark chocolate after dinner, or the Cape mountains …….and three times a year enjoying a bowl of best bouillabaisse!
When do you think it is right to tell a teensie weeny lie?
When I am cross borders smuggling some superb wine on my way to another fantastic African safari destination.
When have you been most bored?
Listening to politicians sprout rubbish, which honest human beings appear to thrive on.
When I experience beautiful singing ……or listen to a leopard outside my tent at 01h00 in the morning. Or perhaps every night when I manage to reach my bed with the comfort of a lovely wife and my three beautiful pillows. Finally those occasions when I know I have hit the jackpot with another cracker of a wine!
Bouchard Finlayson is in The Hemel En Aarde Valley outside Hermanus, 028 312 3515
Words: Greg Landman