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Mossel Bay
29th February 2024
Community & LivingGeneral knowledgeTourism & TravelWine

WINE LABEL STORIES

It’s a tough job making sure our travelling friend gets the full experience of (some of) the more unusual wine estates and their winemakers in the Western Cape. Our next two visits each had a lovely story going in terms of their wines and, more importantly, the logo on their labels. First up, was John Loubser of Silverthorne, a property sitting on the banks of the Breede River in the small wine town of Bonnievale.

John and his wife, Karen, have an obsession with rocks, the complex geology of their area, as well as palaeontology, particularly since they have found countless artefacts in the ancient rocks and soils of their property (they are close to the Karoo). The wine tasting room is filled with a fascinating collection of skulls, iron objects, stone tools, and beautiful stones and rocks, all of which tell a story of a different landscape eons hence. This passion extends to the names on their wine labels. Who wouldn’t be enchanted by an MCC called The Genie, or River Dragon, or Jewel Box??

The River Dragon references vestiges of the presence of dinosaurs left behind in our Karoo rocks, but the story then morphs to Africa’s mythical Draco africanus, a dragon that would use smoke from its nostrils to sky-write across the sky. So, Silverthorne having a river in front of its property and a dragon’s back silhouette in the distant Riviersonderend mountains, this is how River Dragon came into being.

Genies, “free-willed spirits of Arabia formed from smokeless fire”, inspired John’s decision to make a rosé MCC from Shiraz, a grape variety aptly originating in ancient Persia. Good move, as The Genie was a double-gold winner a few years back. Finally, Jewel Box is inspired by our own Southern Cross star constellation. Embedded deep within it is Kappa crucis, aka Jewel Box, which English astronomer Sir John Herschel described as “a casket of variously coloured precious stones”. And, of course, as John the winemaker reminds us, there is the monk, Dom Pérignon, who is famous for saying, “Come quickly, I am tasting the stars” when he chanced upon an old wine, naturally fermented, deep in an old underground chalk cellar.

Finally, off to Warwick Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, where, when Norma Ratcliffe first established the winery (in the process becoming rather famous as a woman winemaker), the estate label became synonymous with the logo of a woman holding a chalice above her head.

There (of course) is a story to it. Norma once discovered a 14th-century German wedding cup in an antique store. There was a legend attached to it, that a smitten goldsmith crafted the chalice, hoping to impress a beautiful woman named Kunigunde. (The story doesn’t go on to say whether he was successful or not in wooing her.) But over time, Norma went on to collect 16 of these antique cups.

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