Today, as a tribute to David Bowie, I’m handing my column over to the man who, inspired by Bowie’s era defining album, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, christened his latest white wine release, Dr. Melk and the Spiders from Sars.
Before I do, I should explain that he goes by the name of Rick or The Liberator and that he wants you to “drink the episode.” Don’t worry, if you read on it’ll all make sense.
Beyond the periphery of South Africa’s conventional vineyard regions lie great vinous treasures, resigned to anonymity; forgotten, abandoned or just simply undiscovered. It’s my mission, as an intrepid Cape Crusader, to seek out and liberate these rare wines.
Some say that The Liberator conjures up images of a disguised, cloaked superhero, charging around the Winelands rescuing bottles in distress. But I’m no Superman. I’m just plain Rick; a Cape crusader perhaps, but, instead of a cloak and superhuman powers, I possess only a tatty Tweed jacket and a polished palate.
On my regular jaunts around the Cape, I’m often confounded by the number of great wines that are resigned to a tragic fate of being blended away or disposed of in bulk. It might be an occasional experimental batch, or possibly an interesting off-cut from some proud winemaker’s latest premium release. Whatever their provenance, it’s my mission as The Liberator to procure these precious vinous orphans and give them a better home.
Inevitably, each wine I discover comes with its own story; a tale of its untimely existence. Every release has its testimony recounted, in bottle and on screen, as a unique and evocative Episode.
Expect the unexpected …
I was never a glam rock fan, but the inspiration for the title of Episode Six comes from David Bowie’s seminal album, released in June 1972, The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars.
On the hunt for some new wines to liberate, I received an email from Rijk Melck inviting me up to Muratie on my next excursion to the Winelands. Dr Melck had been my GP when I lived in the Cape a few years back, but had since given up his practice in order to return to the family wine farm after the death of his father.
Passing through the cellar door at Muratie is like stepping back in time. It’s a warren of small rooms and tiny passageways filled with old concrete tanks that now lay idle. The place has not seen a duster in decades and is a paradise for the spiders who happily spin their webs there.
Fitting right in with the bohemian nature of the place, Rijk appeared sporting long, unkempt hair, a far cry from the white-coated existence of his previous life.
The wine that Rijk was anxious to introduce me to was a Cape White Blend; a delicious mix of five varieties cleverly combined to produce a stunningly well-balanced wine, full of richness, complexity and texture.
But the volume made was too great to contemplate selling it all from the farm. Plus, he had another spider to feed. The money spider. SARS – aka the South African Revenue Service – the taxman. He needed to turn wine into cash quickly and I was the solution.
So, I liberated the wine in bulk and bottled it at renowned winery, DeMorgezon, in July 2015, after the blend had been slightly tweaked by cellarmaster Carl van der Merwe.
Anyway, there you have it. Doctor Melck and the Spiders from SARS. A tenuous link, perhaps, but a great wine all the same. I wonder what, to quote Bowie, it’ll be like in Five Years?