By Kori ~ July 29th, 2009.
Because Mom and Dad (fellow Wine Peeps John and LaGayle) took a three week trip to South Africa’s winelands in February, I took a special interest in this month’s Wine Book Club selection, Africa Uncorked: Travels in Extreme Wine Country by John and Erica Platter. I remember how intently they studied Platter’s South African Wine Guide before the trip and how helpful they found the information. While John Platter no longer writes the guide, he has been South Africa’s most prominent wine commentator for many years.
In this book, the Platters chronicle an amazing trip through the African continent, from Algeria to Zimbabwe, where just getting from one wine area to another was an adventure in itself, not to mention the challenges winemakers face in areas where nature says growing grapes is nuts and in Islamic countries where making wine could put a price tag on your head.
While I doubt that any of these countries, save South Africa, will be known for its world-class wines anytime soon, the book weaves a fascinating tale of how doggedly determined winemakers have accepted the challenge of producing wine when all the odds are against them. I found the Platters’ story of locating and then exploring Les Celliers de Meknes in Morocco, a huge and modern winemaking operation located anonymously with no signage or directions so as not to offend the devout Muslims, extremely interesting and almost unbelievable.
The Platters finished their African continent winelands tour, fittingly enough, with South Africa where they had lived and worked for more than twenty years. As the eighth largest wine producing country in the world and with 350 years of grape growing history, South Africa is the flagship for wine on the African continent. Based on what Mom and Dad told me from their travels in South Africa this year, I think the Platters did a good job of telling the South African wine country story through the diary of their six week excursion.
However, as the Platters say in this book, the trip is not complete. There are other winelands in Africa they want to visit, and there are winemakers in this extreme wine country worth keeping an eye on, such as Sam Pfidzayi of Marondera in Zimbabwe for his Cabernet Franc, Faith Rutto’s Cabernet Sauvignon in Kenya, Ramilla Ramguendez’s “new wave red” in Algeria, and Jacques Poulain’s Atlas Vineyard wines from Morocco, just to name a few.
Whether it’s adventure, travel, or wine that excites you, I believe that this book should have a place in your library. You can pick up a copy from Amazon or your book retailer of choice.
Have you already read Africa Uncorked: Travels in Extreme Wine Country? If so, please leave a comment and let us know what you thought of it.
For those of you who would like to read along with us in the Wine Book Club, the August selection is A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover’s Dream by Ferenc Mate.
Filed under: South African Wine, Wine Book Club, Wine Books