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Wine: Busting Myths & How To Get Into Wine, For Beginners

I didn’t grow up with wine-drinking parents. I’m from Johannebsurg and in my family wine was pretty much whatever came in a box. I didn’t really venture too far beyond anything other than Four Cousins. It was only after I moved to Cape Town four years ago, that I started learning more about, and falling in love with wine.
Wine tasting in the Helderberg
Like most people in their early twenties, I found wine to be pretty intimidating. I had no idea what the difference between a chardonnay and a sauvignon blanc was and to be honest, I thought that anyone who did was either a wine farmer, or lying.
When it came to wine, I was too embarrassed to go wine tasting at farms, since I expected the people pouring the wine to be snobbish. I didn’t order wine on the menu at restaurants, since I was too insecure to ask anything about it. That is why I did try out winemakers wine subscription as it provided me with wine that I did enjoy without having to feel embarrassed or insecure about my choices. All I knew was that red wine goes with red meat and white wine goes with fish or chicken. But I wasn’t about to start drinking either colour with any meal.
It was on a fun and relaxed trip out to the winelands with wine merchant extraordinaire Siris Vintners that I first got to learn a little more about the magic of wine. Through Terence (from Siris Vintners), I was introduced to young, passionate wine farmers, who believe that the wine they make should be enjoyed by anyone, at any time.
Since starting my journey into the wine world, I have continuously been very pleasantly surprised to learn that the wine community is not nearly as precious about their wine as I had thought. If you feel ready to dive right in, then you may want to check out this Beer and Wine Guide.
Here are 6 myths that have been busted since I started exploring Cape wine country:

6 Myths About Wine

1. Red wine only goes with red meat and white wine only goes with white meat – FALSE

The flavours in red wines often do accompany the flavours in red meat dishes really well, but there is absolutely no rule that dictates which wine you should have when. If you prefer red wine with your sushi, that’s fine too, but you might not be enjoying either of those fully since a white blend might help to cut through a fatty piece of salmon, while a pinotage will most likely just overpower it completely.

2. Ordering wine off a menu at a restaurant is too stressful – FALSE

Well, it’s not false, but it doesn’t have to be true. Don’t ever be afraid to ask your waiter to recommend a wine for your meal. The wine industry goes to great lengths to ensure that you, the consumer, can enjoy their wine with your meals by training the staff that stock their wine.

3. Wine farms don’t like it when young (poor) people come for wine tastings – FALSE

Me – A serious contender for “young winedrinker of the year”

Research has shown that the 20-something females in South Africa have some of the biggest wine spend, since we have disposable income (well, supposedly) and we often make the wine decisions/purchases. The winemakers I have met are often young, passionate and excited about people like me and you trying and loving their wines.

4. Wine is a serious and somber drink – FALSE

Visiting Franschoek for a tasting at Haute Cabriere
Wine is alcoholic, in case you’ve forgotten and can and should lead to good times. Wine festivals like Pinotage on Tap, Whacky Wine and the Stellenbosch Wine Festival are notoriously festive. Winemakers want you and me to drink and enjoy their wine. Around the braai, at dinner, watching a movie, at a party… There is nothing serious about it. Except that it is seriously wonderful.

5. If you don’t know the difference between a sauvignon blanc and a cabernet sauvignon then you can get out of town – FALSE

There are a huge variety of wines and varietals (the “grape” variety, for example pinotage, chardonnay, etc.) in South Africa and they each have a very specific character that you would probably never be able to identify unless you were actually into wine. For the most part, they do all taste like wine. The only way you will start learning to identify wine on smell, taste and colour, is by drinking more of it. Your palete needs to learn to identify and distinguish flavours in wine, so you need to give it lots of different opportunities to do that.

6. Terms like “guava notes” and “tobacco tones” are utter BS – FALSE

Bubbly at Lourensford

It might sound poncy and ridiculous, but understand it this way: Your brain has a filing cabinet of thousands and thounsands of flavour profiles stored in its giant filing room. When you taste wine, your brain flips through those files and identifies the flavours you are tasting in the wine. So when you taste “mouldy socks”, that doesn’t mean that you have a brain tumor or that the wine is bad (although, if you really do identify the flavour of mouldy socks I would suggest trying a different wine) it means that your brain is identifying a flavour that it has on record. So the more you learn about wine and train your tastebuds, the more flavours you will be able to identify with a certain wine or a certain varietal, for example; chardonnay often has flavours of buttered popcorn and butterscotch.

Want to get into wine?

Sign up for an UnWined course

I attended a 6-week introduction to wine course in Cape Town a while back and I absolutely loved it! Each week, a winemaker from a different farm brings their wine, tells you all about their farm and winemaking philosophy and then you taste the wines and make notes. It’s fun, informal, interactive and very interesting. If you’re keen on learning more about wine, this is a great place to start. More info here.

Go wine tasting

Don’t ever let the idea of uppity tasting room staff scare you. I can highly recommend these farms, where everyone who works there has the same goal in mind: More people drinking amazing wine. There are also quite a few free tasting opportunities in the city; follow Siris Vintners on Twitter for updates on where they host pop-up tastings, or book to attend one of &Union’s free tastings, hosted every Thursday. Also make sure to pop in at the Spier Secret Courtyard – a pop-up bar in a beautiful secluded courtyard in Wale Street. See this post for suggestions on friendly, easy-going farms that you should visit.

Check out the price of wines

Restaurant wine list prices are a wildly inflated and are not at all a reflection of South African wine prices. For around R30-R50 you can get a great bottle of South African wine. Visit Wine Concepts on Kloof Street or Wine at The Mill for a huge variety and awesome, helpful staff. Alternatively, check out this wine pricing guide to assist you in the search. Or if you’re into surprises, order a mixed case from getwine.co.za.

Go to a wine festival

There are a LOT of wine festivals throughout the year. Get your tickets and go experience the relaxed, daydrunk side of wine. Wine on the River, Whacky Wine, Seasons of Sauvignon, Soup, Sip & Bread…you could basically be at a wine festival every second weekend of the year.

Get yourself to a Wine & Dine evening

There are lots of wine and dine evenings all over the city on a monthly basis. Basically, a chef and a winemaker sit down and decide which food will pair best with which wine and then they create a special menu and charge you almost nothing to eat amazing food and drink amazing wine! Two of my favourites are Pure at Hout Bay Manor (monthly) – my review here, and The White Room at Dear Me (every Thursday) – my review of last winter’s menu here.

More wine posts:


  1. Great article!
    It was for all the reasons above ….that we brought GOW to SA!

  2. How to get into wine, eh?

    Always found a corkscrew helpful…

    The Sediment Blog

  3. Informative and interesting article.

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