Chit Chat: Marilyn Cooper

2011-08-26 14:39

The Soweto Wine Festival starts on Thursday. To get into the swirl of things, Babalwa Shota quizzes Marilyn Cooper, co-founder of the expo, on the fundamentals of wine appreciation

What is a wine snob?
Usually someone who knows a little, but thinks they know everything.

Are you one?
I hope not. I drink every kind of wine – from partying wine to ­expensive blends.

Why did you decide on Soweto for a wine ­festival?
In order to grow ­local wine ­consumption and knowledge, and ­because my partner, Mnikelo, comes from Soweto.

Why do you think beer, brandy and ­alcopops are more popular than wine in most townships?
Firstly, beer has always been available, even ­during apartheid, and it is much cheaper than wine.
Alcopops tend to be sweet and are accessible in small bottles. Brandy, ­unfortunately, is ­being overtaken by whiskey.

Are cheap wines bad wines?
Definitely not. The standard in South Africa is extremely high.

Explain the cork versus screw-top debate

The advantage of the screw cap is that you don’t need an opener. It is easier to open, and there is very little chance that the wine will be faulty.

The advantage of the cork is that is allows the wine to “breathe” if you are keeping it for a few years, there’s a wonderful “pop” when you open it and it’s a reliable natural sealant.

Does drinking wine in a box mean you are an unsophisticated wine drinker?
Definitely not. If you are having a few people around, it is much easier to put out a box than keep opening wine bottles. And it is easy to pack in the fridge.

What kind of career ­opportunities does the wine ­industry offer?
Firstly, in restaurants, as waiters and, ultimately, a sommelier in the industry, and also wine-makers.

Is it true that the older the wine is, the better it tastes?
That depends on the style of wine the wine-maker has set out to make.

Most wine is consumed within 48 hours of purchase, so why would it be made to keep? If you are thinking of setting up a cellar, pick the wines that you are keeping for a few years very carefully.

So should I preserve my 2011 ­bottle of Chardonnay that cost R30?

Usually one does not keep white wines; one keeps good-quality ­(usually expensive) red wines.

How does one go about investing in wine?
Firstly, only buy wines from “good” years, where there has not been too much heat or rain during the harvest. Then ensure that they have been wooded for keeping. Wine bottles must be stored at an average temperature of 16°C, lying on their side.

Is it a rule that you drink red wine with red meat, and white wine with seafood and chicken?
Certainly as a general rule, but there are always the exceptions. It depends on your own taste.

Why do reds taste better in the colder months?
White wine is served between 8°C and 12°C, while red wine is served at room temperature. This contributes to the “warmer” ­sensation.

What is the most commercially expensive bottle of wine in the local market, and why?

There are several. At the festival, you can taste Ernie Els, which costs about R550, his Syrah, around R350, the Alto Port, around R250 a bottle, Rupert & Rothschild Baroness Nadine Chardonnay, at R160, Anthonij Rupert Merlot and Syrah, R350. There are other wines that are released in very small quantities and not commercially available.

Why should people attend the Soweto Wine Festival?

To discover new and exciting wines, and to broaden their palate. Where else would they be able to taste 800 different wines?

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