Braai vs Pinotage

The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page“, said St Augustin.
Sout Africa is the first page of our book…for the moment.

First of all a touch of history…important to understand the wine culture.

The roots of the South African wine industry date back to the XVII century, in 1659, when the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riebeeck, produced the first wine recorded in the country. His venue was linked to the explorations of the Dutch East India Company which established a supply station in Cape Town.

Kaapzicht vineyard in summer

Kaapzicht vineyard in summer

However the boom of the South African wine industry is very recent. In 1918, growers in the Western Cape founded the “Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging“ (KWV), in order to increase the production and the quality of wine. But production quotas were only abolished in the 1990s. Prior to the end of Apartheid in the 1990’s South Africa was very isolated.  When Apartheid was abolished the boycotts of South African products were dropped and the world’s export markets opened to us.
« The real changes in terms of winemaking and production came about in the last 20 years », according to Helanie Olivier, winemarker at Hoopenburg Winery, in Stellenbosch. « We have come a long way since those early days.  South African winemakers nowadays are generally well travelled and innovative.  We draw from many different influences, as creative people tend to do, and find joy in creating elegant wines that truly express our unique terroir. », she added.
In 2012, South Africa produced  870.9 million litres of wine, becoming word 9th biggest wine producing country. Exportations are increasing every year. In 2013 South Africa’s wineries exported 525.7 million litres, beating the previous record achieved in 2012 by 26%, according to Chris Mercer (Decanter, Monday 13 January 2014).

A splash of geography…also very important.

Wine Regions of South Africa (copyright SAWIS)

Wine Regions of South Africa (copyright SAWIS)

Two important points to remember.

South Africans don’t have an “AOC system“ like in France. The wine regions of South Africa are defined under the “Wine of Origin” act of 1973. All South African wines listed as “Wine of Origin” must be composed entirely of grapes from its region. As a result, the WO does not place adjunct regulations on wine regions such as delineating permitted varieties, trellising methods, irrigation techniques, and crop yields. It only divides growing regions into four categories.
The largest and most generic are geographical units (such as the Western Cape region) which subsume the smaller, but still broad spanning regions (such as Overberg). Under these are clustered districts (like Walker Bay, Stellenbosch, Paarl or Swartland) and within them are wards (such as Elgin).
South Africa is located at the tip of the African continent with most wine regions located near the coastal influences of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans, as you may know. These regions have mostly a Mediterranean climate that is marked by intense sunlight and dry heat. In many South African wine regions irrigation is essential to viticulture.
For more information :

Now that you have some information in your hands to become an expert on South African wines, let’s talk about what excited us the most during our stay: Braai & Pinotage. Two lovely discoveries from the South African culture, which goes extremely well together !

Braai = Friends, Meat & Wine (or beer)

Braai @ L'Avenir Wine Estate

Braai @ L’Avenir Wine Estate


Any Braai is a unique moment. A social experience. A sweet way of relaxing yourself after a long day of work, around a fire, chatting with your friends, a drink close to you. Braai means “barbecue” in Afrikaans and the traditions around it can be considerably different from our european barbecue.
According to Helanie Oliver, « using gas is cheating.  The use of charcoal and briquettes is common, mainly due to their convenience, but using wood for the fire is the tradional way of preparing a braai.  The additional bonus is that it makes good use of alien plants that have been removed in aid of preserving biodiversity. For a bit of background: the Cape floral Kingdom has the greatest non-tropical concentration of higher plant species in the world and is located entirely within the borders of South Africa.  Most of the region is covered with fynbos which is home to an amazing diversity of plant species ».

Braai Masters' book

Braai Masters’ book

Braai Day is a celebration of South Africa’s rich cultural heritage and its unique national pastime, the braai. South Africans are known as the rainbow nation, and across race, language, region and religion, they all share this common heritage, celebrated on 24 September (South Africa’s Heritage Day).
We had the chance to experience several Braais with friends during our stay in Stellenbosch, Paarl and the Orange River. It was always a fantastic time !

Pinotage, a red grape made in South Africa

Pinotage Grappes - Stellenbosch

Pinotage Grappes – Stellenbosch

Pinotage is for the South African wine industry what the Eiffel Tower is for French tourism : a signature. Pinotage is a viticultural cross of two varieties of Vitis vinifera, Pinot noir and Cinsaut (also known as “Hermitage” in South Africa) and created in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. It represents 6% of the total South African wine production as well as more than 95% of the world Pinotage cultivation. In addition Pinotage is also grown in Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States and Zimbabwe. It is a required component in “Cape blends“, red wines with a proportion of Pinotage blended with other grapes (30-70%).
The vines are vigorous like their parent Cinsaut and easy to grow, ripening early with high sugar levels. Pinotage can be grown via the trellised system or as bushvines. The older Pinotage vineyards are predominately planted as bushvines and it is perceived that these lend a higher concentration of fruit and more depth to the wine. This cultivar  is naturally high in tannins which can be tamed with limited maceration time but reducing the skin contact can also reduce some of the mulberry, blackberry and damson fruit character that Pinotage can produce. Tannin management is key.

2 delicious Pinotage we had the chance to test :
Pinotage Grand Vin 2012, from L’Avenir Estate
Comes from the Stellenbosch area. Nose of berries. Smoke, leather and spice enlivened by distinctive floral notes. Harmonious mouth with elegant tannins, nice freshness. Black fruit on the palate. with a juicy plum fruit. Nicely balanced. Good now with decanting for two hours minimum but also long term potential. Fine match for game and braai in general ! 3,000 bottles produced/year.
Winemaker : Dirk Coetzee
Cellar price : 250 rand (about 17.5€)
More details :

Le Vin de François 2011, from Chateau Naudé
Produced in limited quantities and made from only the best examples of Pinotage found in the Cape Winelands, le Vin de François is the pinnacle of Chateau Naudé Wine Creation’s range. Comes from seven Stellenbosch and Bot River producers. Complexe nose of ripe mulberries and plum with a touch of licorice. Fresh and juicy mouth, well composed with enough tannin to reward extended cellaring. Fine match with a chocolate cake.
Owner/winemaker : François Naudé
Auction price: up to 5 200 rand for a case of 12 (about 30€ a bottle)
More details :

Thank you South Africa for your warm welcome.  Now there remain 91 pages – countries – for us to write and we will be able to complete our “wine world experience“ book.  



Inventory of an Explorer on the move

Who wants to travel far must spare himself“, said Jean Racine.

So to be sharpened like blades, ready to pounce on every occasion, to throw ourselves headlong into the adventure – this beautiful and sweet scents which smells of the perfume of  the great unknown – we better equip ourselves accordingly.

Step 1, essential but not least : updating vaccines
(or how to have enough antibodies for the next 3 generations)

Wine Explorers ; Jean-Baptiste Ancelot ; wine ; adventure ; travel ; tasting ; discovery ; vin ; bouteille ; tour du monde ; wine tour ; wine trip ; voyage
Let’s be serious for two minutes. It is important to prepare your body to such a “marathon” trip, especially with 92 countries in the crosshairs. In total, and if I counted well, we got eleven injections administered per explorer ! Yes, yes, I assure you:
-1 injection against Yellow fever, the only vaccine required when you move in “tropical” countries, especially in Africa, South America and the Caribbean – and highly recommended in general

-1 injection against MMR (Measles-Mumps-Rubella), pure prevention, since I didn’t have measles as a child. And adult measles, it is best to avoid … It seems to sting a bit.
-1 injection against Hepatitis A
-3 injections  for rabies pre-exposure : the 1st at D1, the 2nd at D+7 and the 3rd at D+28

-1 injection against Typhoid fever
-2 injections  against Japanese Encephalitis: the 1st at D1 and the 2nd at D+28

-1 injection against Tdap-IPV (Diphteria-Tetanus-Poliomyelitis-Pertussis)
-et 1 injection against Meningococal Meningitis
Plus some nice fevers… It is part of the “package” !

Step 2 : Administrative
(and no…it’s not facultative… snif…)

Wine Explorers ; Jean-Baptiste Ancelot ; wine ; adventure ; travel ; tasting ; discovery ; vin ; bouteille ; tour du monde ; wine tour ; wine trip ; voyage

Yay ! I love running from right to left for a forgotten tampon, a signature in the wrong box on the x or y form, or a new copy of the identity card – because on the previous one does not recognize any of your head, the printing is awful…

In short, once all these festivities ended you have in your possession some essential tools for your “Super Explorer” equipment :
-2 passports (Yeah ! That’s the class), and one of which is called “big traveler” with 16 more pages to welcome all your future customs stamps
-1 International Driving Permit (attention, it is only valid for 3 years)
-1 new identity card. Yes, I was obliged: try to explain to the customs border control that it is you, the little beardless boy on the old school photo, while today you have a 5-day beard and your hair mid-long…

Step 3 : the backpack
(or how to try not to look like a mule while your bag weighs 30kg)

A mix – no, more like a Chinese puzzle ! – to successfully fit into a single backpack all the necessary equipment to travel – from clothing to sleeping through to the toiletries – not out for one but for two explorers! Why will you ask? Because Ludo will have on his shoulders all the technical equipment, and believe me, he will also carry his cross. Result : we optimize, reduce to a minimum, and look for the most compact and lightest equipment.

Quick summary of an “optimized” backpack for one person:
-1 pair of hiking boots, airy and waterproof, protecting the ankle and allowing your feet to breathe correctly (I hope …)
-7 pairs of anti-blister socks (love progress!)
-7 beautiful adventurer boxers/briefs
-2 convertible pants shorts
-1 legging
-1 light and windproof coat
-2 cotton long sleeve  shirts
-1 lightweight sleeping bag
-1 silk coth bag, which makes you gain 3 to 4 degrees and allows you to keep your sleeping bag clean
-1 hammock, with net system and anti-rain integrated
-without forgetting… the first aid kit !

The equipment seems to work nicely and the first steps in South Africa are going very well. It only remains for us to experience a night in hammock under the African stars…


Monture de luxe Wine Explorers ; Jean-Baptiste Ancelot ; wine ; adventure ; travel ; tasting ; discovery ; vin ; bouteille ; tour du monde ; wine tour ; wine trip ; voyage

Live your dreams

How many of us haven’t dream of a new start to dare to live his own dreams ?

Life is a dream, but dreaming is not living“, said Huygens.

Did I do everything to be happy ? It’s in asking myself this question that I progressively ceased to imagine the existence of my dreams to really live them. From dream to reality there is sometimes only a step. And most of the time, the only Grail, the only true motivation that drives us to take this step and to do things, much more than the desire to earn more money or to engage in a socially better valued job, is simply the fact of “being happy”. Happy to live. Happy to discover. Happy to meet people. Happy to share things.  Whether it is caused by a professional hazard, a personal factor or made by a sudden awareness – which was my case ; this step forward is less and less of a leap into the void.

Living a new start needs to be prepared, anticipated. Six years ago, still virgin of any knowledge on the subject, naked as a worm in the middle of a vineyard, I embarged into full retraining, I jumped into the wine. The most beautiful corner of my life. I sat on the benches of the school and there I began to devour every book on the subject that I could find, with a frenzy without limits. I was quickly invaded by thousands of questions : Why do journalists always talk about the same wine countries ? What is the true face of the wine world ? What does wine taste like around the world ?… It is in response to these questions and many more that I imagined WINE Explorers. It took six years of reflection, research and preparation before finally being ready to hit the road. In addition I was helped by great and wonderful people, who guided me in my moments of doubt.  So now it’s my turn to share some tips with you.

Before the big plunge, make sure that your project is well thought out. Instructions to embark on the adventure.

Establish a specific career plan : be sure yours is viable, that there is a demand for the activity that you lead, and most important of all, that your family is in line with your desires. If it is essential that your project is first of all personal, it is necessary that those who accompany you also find their place in it, which is not always easy.
Take stock of your current situation : do you feel a strong need to change your life or do you feel more of a point ill-being tied to a particular event in your life ? Achieve to distinguish one from the other is a critical step and does not happen in a few days. Allow yourself time to think, to make sure that your desire is feasible.
Do not idealize your future place of life : try to take a few weeks vacation instead at a time of the year you’ve never done previously, before you decide to make the leap. And if it is rather the “world tour” life style mode that attracts you, we will prepare your route.

Dear Friends, it remains for me to thank you all as a closing of  this first article. Thank you for your support. Thank you for being with us to experience and share this wonderful human adventure. May it encourage you too to go after your dreams. The world is opening  it’s arms to us.  And always remember this : we are all Explorers !

Let’s start !