Triangulating Terroir


One of the best Dad’s Army wheezes of the British home guard in the phoney war which later went postal, was to jumble up the sign posts on country lanes in England so that when the panzers rolled up the road to London, they’d end up in Middle Wallop. SA vinous terroir is very Mom’s Army with style sign posts jumbled up and confusion the result. SA wine needs a map.

The Douro, first formally demarcated wine appellation in the world, showed the way when Baron Joseph James Forrester produced one in the 1830s. A cartographic enterprise which has been brought into the 21st century by David Eley whose Douro Map (below) will be auctioned at Christie’s in London in June, along with a vertical tasting of 12 vintages of Quinta do Noval from 1937 to 2003.

Cover with border 202x300 Triangulating Terroir

David is an unlikely successor to an ennobled Victorian Port negoçiant who drowned in the Douro in mysterious circumstances. Dragged under by the gold sovereigns in his money belt, according to lurid legend. His body was never found.

From a watery base at Quinta da Perdiz owned by the Symingtons of Grahams Port fame, David spent many years sketching a geographically based thematic map and he knows his way around the rocky terroir and the 7000 odd quintas, of which he has a unique, encyclopediacal view.

Maps are most definitely Fine Art of the minute after Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei released one on Friday of the Middle Kingdom, fashioned from 1800 tins of imported baby formula. A powerful statement that food security still evades the second largest economy in the world and the one-child policy which ensures Chinese tiger mothers take extra care when it comes to what little Li eats.

Ai maps milk terroir with “Hainan island is a garish orange, while Taiwan – which China regards as a rogue province – gets a slightly softer yellow” according to the Wall Street Journal. It’s a nice touch that most of the cans are imported from Australia and New Zealand, like the wine, and is a powerful argument against bulk bottling. If Chinese moms suspect Great Wall, what hope for Cloudy Bay bottled in Chengdu?

With the Douro polished off and new blood eagerly awaited at WOSA, the exporters’ mouthpiece, perhaps the time has come to commission a terroir map of the Cape Winelands. Perhaps as a legacy project for World Design Capital 2014? After all, the largest publishing group in SA is run by a visionary, Koos Bekker, who has made the arid slopes of the Simonsberg bloom with a veggie garden to make Louis XIV green with envy.