Monday, April 15, 2013

Like Sweet Wine

They stand on shelves like a good book
waiting to be opened,
waiting to be enjoyed,
waiting to tell their story . . .

Recently I had the opportunity to visit the fairest Cape. I was planning a trip down to this southernmost part of our country in May, but when my son needed the new car his wife had bought driven down from Pretoria where we live to his home in Cape Town, I jumped at the opportunity. So on Good Friday, my husband and I set off on the 1500 kilometer journey across South Africa. The original purpose for my visit was to do some research on the new novel I’m writing which is set in the winelands of Stellenbosch, not far from the mother city.
During the two days we spent visiting various wine farms on both the Stellenbosch and Robertson wine routes, it dawned on me how much of the writer is in the winemaker, and vice versa. The more I thought about it, the more I realized there is a lot in common between our finished products. 
On these wine estate visits, I studied the differing wine bottle labels—some were elegant, some fun, some ordinary, others extraordinary. It was like walking in a liquid library . . . many made me want to take them off the shelves and take them home. I was reminded that the cover of a book, both front and back, is a reader’s first impression. Often I’ve purchased a novel based purely on the cover. Likewise, many a time I’ve bought a bottle of wine just because I found it visually appealing. Often that decision is made because I know the wine made by a particular vintner is good. In the same way, many readers buy books based on the strength of the author alone, or a title catches their attention or the back cover blurb. These common elements found on wine bottles, pique the interest of the buyer too.
·         Book title / Name of wine
·         Author / Vigneron or Wine Estate
·         Cover artwork / Wine bottle label
·         Back cover blurb / Description of wine on bottle’s back label 
Considering these things, I wonder whether winemakers too struggle with names for their new creations. How many bottles do they need to taste before that back label reads just right and captures the essence of what’s inside? Is it difficult for them to reduce all those flavors to merely a few words? It’s certainly not easy for writers to come up with just the right title, or to condense a hundred thousand words into one to two hundred. 
Let’s journey together down the Robertsons wine route to Weltevrede, meaning ‘Well Satisfied’, where I’ll show you some examples of the similarities I’ve mentioned above. Our recent trip there was fascinating, but I’ll share more of that on my next two blogs.  
The names of the Weltevrede wines are intriguing; the entire bottled package reads like a book. You’ll see what I mean by the picture below.
The Ring
(Wine name / Book Title)
Philip Jonker
(Winemaker / Author)
(Type of wine / Genre)
Turn the bottle around and the top part of the label reads like a beautiful blurb at the back of a romance novel, the bottom much like a tasty elevator pitch to an acquisitions editor or publisher. It tempts me to buy, open, enjoy. I’ve felt that feeling before with a paperback between my fingers.
I met Lindelize while studying to become a winemaker.
My debut wine was a Cap Classique of which I popped the first cork
at my wedding with my barefoot bride under an old oak tree in the Karoo.
The Ring is a constant reminder of this bond of love. 
100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs style.
Ripe limey citrus, hints of honey and creamy lees characters are elegantly
woven together to create a complex, yet elegant style.
Two to three years on lees.
Delicate bubble, hearty expression of ripe lemons and honey.
All Weltevrede wines and Philip Jonker Cap Classique collections have their own short stories. I just have to share another, the one I like to think of as the sequel to The Ring, pictured blushing in the background of the above two photos. 
(Wine name / Book Title)
Philip Jonker
(Winemaker / Author)
(Type of wine / Genre)

  The colour - A gentle blush.
Like the flush when touched by a beautiful emotion,
the colour of delight, of someone in love. 
Light salmon coloured. Elegant, stylish and joyous.
Just as books are published in series, like Karen Kingsbury’s Baxters for example, wines too are bottled as collections. Weltevrede has their Terroir* Estate Wines Collection that reads—or should that be tastes?—like a book series.  
Places of Rocks Chardonnay
Rusted Soil Chardonnay
Travelling Stone Sauvignon Blanc
Bedrock Black – Syrah 
(* Terroir: the combination of factors, including soil, climate, and environment, that gives a wine its distinctive character.)
Like glorious genres, wines have different blends for different tastes. There’s the soft romance of the reds—Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon—Victorian heroes and heroines that improve with age; the crisp contemporary whites—Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc—modern, every day; and the mystery and suspense of a Pinotage or Syrah—dangerous and dark. 
But wine is not only novel; it’s poetry too, and the Song of Songs truly reads like a beautiful blending of the senses. 
May your mouth be like the best wine.
May the wine go straight to my beloved, flowing gently over lips and teeth.
Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth—for your love is more delightful than wine.
Some time ago, I shared The Writer's Prayer by Sandy Tritt on ICFW. I love the way she begins this prayer: “Open my mind, Lord. Grant me the talent to write with clarity and style, so my words go down rich and smooth, like fine wine, and leave my reader thirsty for more.”
As winemakers blend flavors until the taste is just right, writers combine words to leave a sweet aftertaste long after the last page is turned.
Albert Finney, as Uncle Henry in the wine movie A Good Year, says: “. . . this sublime nectar is, quite simply, incapable of lying . . . all the planting, all the harvesting, all the fermenting—it's nothing more than the art of bottling truth. Pick too early, pick too late, it matters not—the wine will always whisper into your mouth with complete, unabashed honesty, every time you take a sip.” Isn’t a book much like that? It only takes a few pages for a book to whisper in your ear whether the writing is good or not, whether the words will go down like a fine wine. 
Some great connections between writers and winemakers, between words and wine:
  • Language is wine upon the lips. (Virginia Woolf)
  • Wine is bottled poetry. (Robert Louis Stevenson)
  • Letters are like wine; if they are sound they ripen with keeping. A man should lay down letters as he does a cellar of wine. (Samuel Butler)
On my next two blogs I’ll introduce you to Philip Jonker, the winemaker, the man; how I came to meet the Jonker family; and the interesting things I discovered on their 100 year old wine estate.
© 1999 Sandy Tritt. All rights reserved.
Marion Ueckermann’s passion for writing was sparked in 2001 when she moved to Ireland with her husband and two sons. Since then she has published devotional articles in Winners (2009) and The One Year Book of Joy and Laughter (published August 2011 by Tyndale House Publishers). She blogs for International Christian Fiction  Writers and belongs to Christian Writers of South Africa and American Christian Fiction Writers. She now lives in Pretoria East, South Africa in an empty nest with her husband and their crazy black Scottie, Wally.


  1. Great article Marion! Your comparisons inspire. Makes me want to be more poetical in my writing!

  2. Thanks for the super blog and interesting analogies. I'm looking forward to reading your new book.

    My parents and also my parents-in-law used to live in Robertson so we've visited the area often. The vineyards there a beautiful sight.

  3. Absolutely beautiful and intriguing. Would love to visit those wineries. But I'd need a guide. Any volunteers?

  4. Judith, you come to South Africa, I'll take you to the beautiful winelands of the Cape :)

  5. We lived in the Cape Winelands above Sir Lowrey's Pass (in Elgin) for over six years. It truly is a wonderful place of beauty. Judith, when you and Marion have finished with the wineries, make sure she brings you to P.E. see?

  6. What an interesting analogy, Marion. Loved the quotations.