Welcome to my playground… The Londolozi Wine Cellar, a museum filled with some of the most beautiful artworks in South Africa, created by some of the greatest artists in the world. With over a thousand bottles of wine, more than one thousand liters of magical juice is kept safe here, under lock and key, just like the Louvre in Paris. One may wonder what makes this art any different, and perhaps more special, than the Mona Lisa?
Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting has been on display in the Louvre since 1797, it was stolen and recovered in the early 20th century and has been vandalized and restored a few times. It is now housed behind bulletproof glass and is untouchable, but in essence it remains unchanged. The artworks we keep in the Londolozi Wine Cellar are forever changing. Whilst any artist can make an identical copy of the Mona Lisa, no winemaker can ever duplicate another’s wine and no winemaker can ever duplicate his work exactly the same again either. Why is this you may ask?
The answer is Terroir (pronounced Tehr-Wahr). It all comes down to this French word which means “soil”, but when it comes to winemaking it encompasses so much more. It refers to the topography, geography, climate, animals, plants, basically all the characteristics of the land on which the grapes are grown which affect how the wine will turn out. The same grape varieties may be grown all over the world but they and the wines they produce are all different because the terroir varies from area to area and is always changing.
To provide a bit more detail on the above, the topography encompasses aspect, inclination and altitude. This refers to the direction the slopes of the land face and their inclination, as well as the lands height above sea level. Climate encompasses the amount of moisture (rain / irrigation) received, the temperature and wind. The soil structure can allow a vine to struggle and produce wonderful fruit or thrive and produce poor fruit. All these factors affect how warm or cool the land is, determines the speed and intensity of ripening, and impacts the final flavour of the grape. No one’s land is identical to their neighbours, topography differs, soils differ, and climates differ. Weather changes from year to year which is why each year the same wine produced from the same winemaker will always be different.
If the walls of the Louvre could talk, I’m sure they’d tell tales of grand conspiracies to steal its beautiful treasures, hence one has to admire from a safe distance, where they are stored behind bulletproof glass with big alarm systems. But the artworks in the Londolozi Wine Cellar are crafted to be thoroughly enjoyed, allowed to be fully consumed, to please and excite all the senses, and to give one a glimpse into the hard work applied by the winemaker and his team, and the conditions supplied by Mother Nature each year. If the walls of the Londolozi Wine Cellar could talk, there won’t be speak of conspiracies, but stories of evenings spent in the cellar, slowly grazing on Chef Anna’s wonderful creations (an artist herself), bottles of wine enjoyed, filled with love, laughter and (dimmed) light.
Who is your favourite winemaker (artist) and what makes their wine so special for you?
Written by: Kim Drake