Asian Wine Judge, Sherwin Lao, Visits South Africa

South Africa (April 2013) 071I just returned from another trip to South Africa where I spent a few weeks touring and tasting with Sherwin Lao, a leading wine journalist, judge and consultant from the Philippines.  An expert on Asian wine markets, he has visited most of the famous wine regions of the world but this was his first trip to South Africa.  He wrote a four-part series of articles for Manila Standard Today about what he saw and learned in South Africa’s wine country.  Here’s his first impression…

My first trip to South Africa has been nothing short of astonishing, and I have just been here less than a week. From the time my plane was just about to land at the Cape Town International Airport, I was already captivated by the unparalleled aerial beauty I saw from my window seat. One thing that was so obvious from the onset was how much space there is in this country. South Africa is a huge country with a land mass area of over a million square kilometers, four times the size of Philippines. Yet the population is just 50 million, or half of our population.  Excerpt from “The South African Wine Road Trip Part 1” by Sherwin Lao.

Introducing Sherwin to the history and achievements of South African grape growers and winemakers was a highlight of my 30+ years in the wine business.  Sherwin’s articles and upcoming role as a judge at the annual Michelangelo International Wine Awards of South Africa will help wine enthusiasts from many Asian countries to discover great South African wines from the Western Cape.

The number of wines I tasted in my recently concluded Western Cape trip is more than that of all my previous total South African wines drunk in my entire wine drinking life. Since I have been drinking wines circa 1994, it seems like I have practically ignored South African wines for almost the last 20 years. And honestly, it may not be simple snobbery but more on South African wines’ availability and appeal in my little world here in the Philippines and the neighboring Asian countries I visit frequently. (The South African Wine Road Trip Part 2 by Sherwin Lao)

Our tour loosely followed the itinerary that I designed many years ago for visitors to the Cape and to Silkbush Mountain Vineyards.  We spent a few days at Silkbush where Sherwin stayed at our luxury guesthouse in the unsurpassed Breedekloof district. With his customary attention to detail and comprehensive coverage of each place we visited, Sherman summarizes some key facts about Silkbush:

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards – Silkbush is the English translation of the Sybasberg Mountain in Western Cape. Silkbush Mountain Vineyards has been supplying [the] majority of its grape juices to top South African wineries for over a decade now. The Breedekloof vineyards have been a favorite source for highly priced premium South African Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. But now the company is gearing more towards forward-integration and building their own brand equity. The company has the right size (tonnage), excellent vineyards, and a gifted viticulturist in Anton Roos. Silkbush also has a luxury self-catering cottage in Kingsbury Cottage, where I stayed for a few nights, and was blown away by its scenic surroundings, backdrop of the Sybasberg Mountain, idyllic vineyards and indescribable sunset and sunrise views.

I am pleased to have had the opportunity to meet Sherwin and be his tasting buddy and guide. Sherwin’s genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for South Africa’s wine regions will help introduce South African wine to wine drinkers in Asian countries.  In fact, anyone with even a remote interest in South African wine should read his well-written four-part series of articles for Manila Standard Today where he writes eloquently about what he saw and learned in South Africa’s wine country.


My 30th Trip to South Africa

Chronologically, I may not be a kid anymore, but on this beautiful May day in 2000 I felt like one: we had actually purchased a farm in Africa! That the Wabooms River (more a strong, year-round creek) was still flowing strongly behind me in late fall was very encouraging. The Wabooms rages in the winter and then becomes tame for the rest of the year. But it’s always comforting to farmers to see running water year round. Dave Jefferson

On Friday, September 14th, I’ll make my second trip of this year to the Beloved Country, and my 30th trip since April 1994, then my first trip to South Africa. If “self actualization” is being confused between work and play, being in the Western Cape is near-perfect self actualization. However, the trip from CA (10,000 miles) and the time zone changes (9 or 10, depending upon Daylight Saving status in CA) is strictly work. Continue reading “My 30th Trip to South Africa”