Beginning at the beginning

For the last twenty years I’ve been teaching at Bay College (now Greenwood Bay College). The story of the start and growth of this school is a long one and it is still ongoing but it has no place in this account beyond the fact that my work there helped sustain our life on the farm. Also the fact that the pitiful salary and complete absence of benefits (such as a pension fund!) was a catalyst in the start of That Wine!

Jo worked at Hog Hollow and ran That Place and we gradually clawed our way out of our dire financial straits. For a long time, filling the bakkie with petrol or buying new tires was something we had to think carefully about.

When Pete and Caroline started their wine-growing we didn’t take too much notice. We had no desire to tackle something we knew nothing about and we were just too busy making ends meet. Pete’s first harvest did nothing to change our attitude: his first grapes were full of bunch rot and the harvest was (to our unpractised eyes) a complete mess. He didn’t have a cellar so he trucked the grapes through to Cape Town and had the wine made there. Astonishingly, the wine was great and the Bramon Wine estate has gone on to win many awards.

At that dinner with Pete and Caroline we tentatively mentioned that we were thinking of doing a few vines. They were immediately enthusiastic and supportive and suggested that we try Pinot Noir. We knew nothing about this cultivar (or indeed any others) and we took their advice without doing any research – we assumed that grapes of one sort are as easy to grow as any other and that the only determinant is what kind of wine you like. Their advice was good – for a range of reasons which I will discuss later – but we had no idea then that Pinot Noir is the hardest grape to grow.