A Waste Land of SA Wine


Well I did it. I folded and watched The Da Vinci Code on M-Net last night. At the risk of sounding like an anorak, from a wine point of view, thought TS Eliot handled the Grail Legend much better in The Waste Land. But perhaps it was because I’d spent the day tasting wine in Aprilskloof.

eliot A Waste Land of SA Wine

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.

When TS Eliot penned this immortal opening stanza of his masterpiece in 1922, the vines on Babylon’s Peak in Aprilskloof on the Paardeberg were bearing their first crop, the farm Nooitgedacht having been bought by Stephan Basson’s great-granddad in 1919. But they were unlikely to have been Pinot Noir, so lilac (along with violets a most sought-after Pinot adjective) was unlikely to have been an appropriate taste descriptor.

The Waste Land, the poem, is strangely connected to SA wine. No prizes for guessing the identity of Madame Sosostris as Shiraz producers who entered last year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show will confirm:

Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante,
Had a bad cold, nevertheless
Is known to be the wisest woman in Europe.

after a UK MW of mega gravitas arrived to rate their wines, full of ‘flu. Madame’s Tarot pack features “Belladona, the Lady of the Rocks”, which sounds just like a wine from Robertson like Springfield’s Life from Stone or Place of Rocks from Weltevrede. “The man with three staves” surely makes a wooded Chenin Blanc for WINE magazine’s Chenin Challenge while the “crowds of people, walking round in a ring” she sees, could be punters at WineX.

Any doubts as to whether this is a Trophy Show tasting at the opulent Grande Roche are dispelled at line 77

The chair she sat in, like a burnished throne,
Glowed on the marble, where the glass
Held up by standards wrought with fruited vines
From which a golden Cupidon peeped out
(Another hid his eyes behind his wing)

featuring particularly ornate Riedel tasting glasses with several candidates for the role of golden Cupidon springing to mind. I stopped drawing wine parallels at line 85

From satin cases poured in rich profusion
In vials of ivory and coloured glass
Unstoppered, lurked her strange synthetic perfumes
Unguent, powdered, or liquid – troubled, confused
And drowned the sense in odours

after receiving a rude letter from the Wine & Spirits Board telling me to check my facts before making allegations concerning illegal additives.