Ground Hog Day @ Groot

Monday, the 2nd of February, is turning out to be something of a personal Ground Hog Day. The 350th birthday party for SA wine just won’t let me go and I keep finding myself dining on steak with an oyster mushroom sauce at the Jonkershuis, a restaurant on Groot Constantia, drinking Gouveneurs Reserve 2005 by the Riedel full.

a Ground Hog Day @ Groot

That Monday, the main event climaxed with a glass of 1860 Muscadel. A solera Nagmaalwyn lovingly topped up by generations of Jouberts – or Jauberts as they used to spell it – the wine was first made in Wellington before the family relocated to the Klein Karoo. Drinking it was a truly religious experience and confirms that the post-modern winespeak school of remote reportage by rumour has some serious limitations.

The next day, lunch was repeated with Groot’s larger-than-life winemaker Boela Gerber. The board had agreed to spot me a ticket to attend Monday’s party and set aside the next day to tour the vineyards and taste product. In the end, I didn’t need the bibulous bursary, as I 1Timed down the previous week, courtesy of Absa AgriBank and stayed on. Which was all appropriate as everyone at the Monday party paid for themselves, which ensured for a better class of guest.

Last night, it was Chris, the steak, the mushrooms and the Gouveneur at the Jonkershuis all over again at the Aussie bash for the opening night of the Mining Indaba. To drink, Amstel as the event was sponsored by Aussie Rules Footie who are training 17500 township teenagers in the robust mysteries of a game that was started off by two teams of Aboriginals kicking a dead kangaroo between two rivers as a novel way of settling tribal differences.

A big improvement on spearing. The Aussie Rules initiative puts the wine industry’s goal of training 2010 sommeliers in time for the soccer World Cup into perspective. Why are we messing around with soccer when an Aussie Rules World Cup would have a far better upliftment component?

Amstel nothwithstanding, Groot managed to smuggle in a tasting of 2008 Sauvignon Blanc and a terrific 2005 Pinotage that had assorted mining moguls swooning in their Blundstones (it being too hot for Uggs). The largest eye opener was the high powered team of assorted diplomats at dinner: seven Australian ambassadors and High Commissioners to divers African states and even the Queensland Agent, flown down from freezing London. All asking not what Aussie miners could do for their country, but what Australian diplomats could do for them, to invert JFK.

There were so many Ausaid representatives and trade attaches in the courtyard, it was impossible to swing a cat, never mind a kangaroo. A surfeit of diplomats quickly shattered the Ground Hog spell, as the number of SA government representatives the previous week was a big fat disgraceful zero. Salt was rubbed into the wound when the glamorous High Commissioner bussed back to town with us on the Atlas coach. When did you last see a South African diplomat on anything quite so bourgeois or indeed be of any use at all?