Ambushed by South Africa

In Jennifer Weiner’s wonderful novel Good in Bed, a character refers to the panic and heartache that occurs when one finds a completely unexpected and seemingly innocuous reminder of a departed lover–in the character’s case, a crumb of dog food on the kitchen floor from his ex-girlfriend’s dog. I felt that same sensation of being sniped by memories on Saturday night.


I’ve been missing South Africa lately more than I’d realized, until I was at a party over the weekend and was completely blindsided to find, amongst the various wine and liquor bottles that had been set out by the bar or brought by guests, a surprise: the 2009 vintage of one of my very favorite South African wines, Raats Family cabernet franc.

Raats Family wines are a rarity in Western New York, so of all SA wines to come across at a party it was an unlikely appearance—and I was torn between an intense desire to know who’d brought it and an even stronger need to taste it.

When I did, I was unprepared for the emotional response: the peppery, mineral, tobacco-y cabernet franc notes that I love combined with the warm earth sensation that causes Stellenbosch wines to send pangs of longing through my bones. Longing, and urgency––I don’t know when I’ll be able to return to SA given financial and job constraints and I get sick thinking of all the beautiful wines that I’m not tasting because I’m over here. At least I got to drink a glass of this amazing wine.

Well played, Mr. Raats. Well played.

(Image is, obviously, of the 2008 RF cab franc that I tried while in SA in 2011; I was not able to snap a picture of the 2009 because I had lost my phone.)


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