by Megan Jones


It’s Megan, back from South Africa. Did you miss me? You don’t need to say it. I can see it in your eyes.

Feels a bit glib writing an email about my once in a lifetime trip to South Africa the week after Ruth was singing the praises of the Lake District staycation. We probably should have sent those emails the other way round. Oops.

On the glib note – this was very much a family-subsidised holiday. My uncle used to be a pilot and his regular route was Heathrow to Johannesburg, so he’s a big fan of South Africa. So as a gift to himself (and the rest of the fam) he decided to rent a house out there for six weeks and invite anyone who wanted to come and join him. I think all retired people should do this. Casually mention it to your parents/aunts/great aunts/rich relatives this weekend.

So I won’t bore you with tales of every single thing I did (surfing, sea kayaking with dolphins, shooting an Uzi [at a target, not at passing snakes]) coz I know you’re here for the wine. Don’t worry, there was plenty of that. I’m nothing if not consistent.

As you’re probably aware, we had a South Africa tasting a couple of weeks ago, and Peter-Allan, owner of Crystallum and winemaker at Gabriëlskloof, came down to chat to us about his wines. Spying an opportunity, I stuck their address into Google Maps and lo and behold, it was a half hour drive from where we were staying in Hermanus. Ding ding! Emailed the importer and he set up a tasting with one of their reps, so I corralled the more civilised members of my family and off we went. When we arrived, I saw Peter-Allan strolling across the lawn, and he ended up giving us a tour and the tasting himself, and also very patiently answered all of our stupid questions. Hope that rep isn’t still looking for us. We tried seven wines in total – things got a bit fuzzy towards the end – but the standouts for me were the Amphora Sauvignon, the Clay Shales Chardonnay and the Peter Max Pinot Noir. If you’re in the area you should totes go – it’s right here and it’s stunningly gorgeous, with manicured lawns and zen-style pools of water. It has a banging restaurant too, Farro, where I enjoyed some springbok tartare (sorry springboks). For someone who never normally eats anything more adventurous than ratatouille, it was quite the departure from the norm. Eloise, the owner, came out and chatted to us personally after my aunt told her I work in wine. I love when my aunt brags about me. She did it on the plane for like four hours to the poor unsuspecting woman sitting next to her, who then came over and asked which wine bar I worked at. Bam, more customers.

Our winery tour continued the next day in Franschhoek, where I spied the Mullineux estate – Mullineux, aka makers of probably my favourite white wine ever, the one I poured for my housemates at Thanksgiving and which actually, for once, got a reaction from them. They normally just glug the £30 bottles I bring home, so for them to comment on it means it must be good. Had lunch in Stellenbosch at Postcard Café at the Stark-Condé winery, which is so fancy that their tasting room is on an island. An island connected to the mainland by a relatively short walkway, but who cares, how many tastings on islands have you been to? Thought not.

After Stellenbosch we headed in to Cape Town for a couple of days, climbed Table Mountain (in the cablecar, obviously, have you seen how steep it is?) and then hit up Publik, a sweet natty wine bar in Tamboerskloof where I spied Force Celeste in the wild (did this multiple times actually, and for some reason felt the need to take a picture of it every time I did. What for? I don’t know. Posterity?). Went to Fledgelings Test Kitchen in Woodstock for lunch the next day, which is a really cool social enterprise that employs people who might otherwise have no way in to the hospitality industry, trains them up and then helps them find work, either in their sister restaurants or in other establishments. My favourite part of it (apart from the ridonkulous food) was that every time a new table arrived, the hostess would shout ‘new table!’ and every single staff member would stop what they were doing and yell ‘Yes!!!’. It was kind of like that bit in The Menu where all the employees screech YES CHEF whenever Ralph Fiennes gives an instruction, except like, not psychotic. The Test Kitchen is in a lush square full of restaurants and sick clothing stores, where you can get a beer or a glass of wine and putz in and out of shops while you’re drinking. I did some tipsy shopping and purchased a bunch of clothes that I won’t be able to wear for another six months due to their general lack of substance.

Back in blighty now, sucks to be me. Catch you at the bar this week.