Vygie du Cap


When it came to naming succulents of the Klein Karoo, the ancestors of comedian Leon Schuster had a field day. For starters, there’s the Hondepisbos (dog pee bush) so named on account of its smell while Haasballetjies (hare’s testicles) is a visual metaphor. My favourite vetplant (fat plant, i.e. succulent) is the Sifkop, also known as the Sterretjiebos (little star bush), which looks like a small shrub in an Ena Sharples (of Coronation Street) hairnet of tiny twigs that vibrate in the wind and scares the living daylights out of passing caterpillars who mistake the vibrating headgear for a nest of ants.

These names are way too much fun to ignore, so we’ve decided to use them as theme for the November exhibition of our Pendock Wine Gallery  exhibition that opens at 6pm on Thursday. This being the first Thursday of the month.  Vygie du Cap: a cunning pairing of vygies chosen by botanist Jan Vlok with unfiltered wines of Fleur du Cap.

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Stand on a rocky koppie in the Little Karoo with Jan (who personally named seven previously unknown species of plant) and the marketing slogan of WOSA (Wines of SA, the exporters association) will become as clear as a Boesmanskers (bushman’s candle) on a moonless night. “Variety is in our nature” is the slogan used to market SA wine in the UK with the plethora of SA styles on offer compared to the diversity of plant species in the Cape Floral Kingdom.

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Jan Vlok

And with SA now exporting way more wine (400 million litres) than is drunk locally (300 million), it was probably because safe bets like Proteas and Strelitzias were used to make the point in ad campaigns on the London underground rather than the Boerboon (Boer bean) or Gwarrie.

So taking a leaf out of the WOSA marketing manual I contacted Jan and we paired the six Fleur du Cap Unfiltered wines with appropriate vygies.

Koeispene & FLEUR DU CAP Merlot 2010

 Haaibekkies & FLEUR DU CAP Viognier 2012

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 Ghaap (above, by Chris Denovan) & FLEUR DU CAP Semillon 2012

 Sonskynvygie & FLEUR DU CAP Chardonnay 2012

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  Sosatiebos (above, by Chris Denovan) & FLEUR DU CAP Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

 Spekboom (below, by Chris Denovan) & FLEUR DU CAP Sauvignon Blanc 2013

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Does fynbos have any future in marketing wine? If the Kiwis can conquer the UK Sauvignon Blanc market with brands like Cat’s Pee on a Gooseberry Bush, then Hondepisbos Sauvignon is a no-brainer and Haasballetjies Hanepoot would ring a bell in Holland as the cultivar name comes from hane kloot, rooster’s testicles in Dutch. A Spekboom (bacon tree) Riesling would be a safe bet in pork-loving Germany while a Sosatiebos Shiraz might appeal in Portugal where espetadas are ever popular.

A Blomkoolganna (cauliflower ganna) Blend might go well with a cheese course and Armoedsbos (poverty bush) would be a popular brand for those Stellenbosch farmers battling to sell inherited family silver on the Helderberg.

But while global sales of Champagne and expensive icon wines may have fallen flatter than Gansmis (goose dung, in spite of its name, an edible plant used to ferment homebrewed beer) or Akkedisvel (lizard skin), the succulents of the Little Karoo may ride to the rescue for SA wine. Calitzdorp Port patriarch Carel Nel has set aside 2200 ha as a Spekboom conservancy.

With carbon sequestration the most sensible defense against CO2-related global warming, the Spekboom with its fleshy leaves is an efficient and beautiful carbon sink and puts Carel’s Boplaas brand right up at the top of eco-friendly SA wine.

Gallery hours: Tuesday-Saturday, noon-7pm.