Drinking for the sin of it

Eben Sadie’s Columella MMV, our wine of the year for 2007, is 80% Swartland Shiraz. Wikipedia, the people’s encyclopedia, claims that the grape is named after the city in Iran and former capital of Persia, Shiraz, and credits a returning crusader with introducing the popular black grape into the south of France. Yet when Robert Byron visited the area in the thirties, the locals had yet to rediscover it.
rb Drinking for the sin of it

Byron’s travelogue, The Road to Oxiana, published in 1937, is one of the great travel books of all time. On a journey to Persia and Afghanistan in 1933, Byron had some insightful comments to make about Persian, and indeed wine in general.

“Wine is another boon of the Persian south. Its fame has spread and etymologists dispute as to whether Sherry derives its name from Xerez or Shiraz. So far we have discovered three varieties here: a very dry golden wine, which I prefer to any Sherry, though its taste is not so storied; a dry red claret, nondescript at first but acceptable with meals; and a sweeter vin rosé, which induces a delicious well-being. If the vineyards had names, and the makers corkamorimcork Drinking for the sin of it
by Amorim Cork
s, enabling different wines to be distinguished and stored, Shiraz might produce real vintages. But Persians, broad as their views on religion are, drink mainly for the sin of it and care little for the taste. While if foreigners introduce these improvements, they will inevitably try to imitate their own brands, as the Germans have done at Tabriz. Second-rate hock is drinkable, but not interesting; I prefer a worse wine with a taste of its own.”

Byron’s final comment throws question marks at the SA habit of slavish imitation of foreign styles: Bordeaux blends from the Simonsberg, Marlborough-style Sauvignon Blanc from all over. Perhaps the secret of Sadie’s success is the authentic Swartland character he translates from the rolling wheat fields into the bottle.