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As most of you will have realised, Suipie never left the 60’s. In fact, as Douglas Adams, author of the The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, so accurately observed:  “the 60’s happened while I was listening to the The Beatles”.

That’s exactly how it was for Suipie too.  Suipie could not have put it better.  Fifty years since the decade ended but for Suipie it never has.

What made Suipie think about this now was reading the book by John Densmore called Riders on the Storm.  Densmore was the drummer for The Doors.  You might still catch their big hit light My Fire on the radio every now and then, or maybe will remember the opening sequence in Apocalypse Now when the ghostly choppers flew across the hotel room wall to the sound of the Doors’ song The End.  Quite brilliant.

The Doors of course were in a sense Jim Morrison, perhaps one of the best known of the rock stars who-died-at 27.  There are some big names in there: Brian Jones (Rolling Stones); Jimi Hendrix; Ron “Pigpen” McKernan (Grateful Dead); Janis Joplin; Kurt Kobain (Nirvana); Amy Winehouse; and perhaps the least known but most important, Robert Johnson, one of the most outstanding blue musicians ever. 

He died in 1938, supposedly having been poisoned after breaking the rule of never drinking from a bottle that you had not seen opened before you.  The perpetrator was said to have been the jealous husband of a lady with whom he had been flirting, but nobody knows the truth, or even where he was buried.

His influence as a blues man cannot be understated.

They all died of various causes, but Jim Morrison’s was alcohol.  Nobody is sure how exactly he did die, but booze was his demon.

Suipie thinks that the best way to deal with something horrible is to deny it, by making it funny.  That’s how Spike Milligan tried to handle his war time experiences.  He almost certainly had Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome.

So Suipie doesn’t disparage the harm that alcohol can and does cause, but (sorry about this politically correct persons), he thinks its funny to joke about it.

Hence: “an alcoholic is someone you don’t like who drinks as much as  you”. And

             “I am not an alcoholic because I do not go to meetings”.

And perhaps a comment from one of the most famous alcoholics of all time, the poet Dylan Thomas: “Somebody is boring me. I think its me.”

A wise friend once told Suipie that he liked alcohol too much to abuse it.  And that is how Suipie approaches wine.  It’s too precious to damage it.  The day that you stop drinking it to taste (and hence learn) you must be careful because, Suipie thinks, you may be on a slippery slope.

Anyway, that’s Suipie mantra and it seems to have worked for all these years.  So far.  And there is always something new:  Suipie was asked recently what the effect of smoke is on the grapes before they are picked.

This was not specifically in relation to what is going on in Australia, but as it turns out, they for sure have some cause for concern in all this.

It has been long been known that vineyards near gum trees produce wine with a  eucalyptus flavour, and those surrounded by fynbos often have a wild herb taste.  Those wines in particular can be really delicious.

Suipie had never actually thought of smoke though.  It seems that it all depends on how much the exposure to it there was, as well as the stage of growth.  Apparently it can sometimes be alright.  After all, you can get a faint smokiness in Shiraz, which is very pleasing.  The problem, however, is that it seems you are not likely to find out until you have made the wine, so not only do you risk losing the crop but you also have the cost of making the wine on top.

Suipie has been reading about litigation in California where insurers are not compensating some wineries for losses in 2017 caused by exposure of grapes on the vine and in the tanks to smoke from wildfires.  It seems that it is very difficult to predict what effect smoke is going to have on the grapes but it does seem that reds are more at risk than whites, because the taint rests in the grape skin.  White wines do not sit on the skins during fermentation like reds do.

Suipie suspects that not many South Africans really like Australians much, even those who have gone to live there don’t always seem so keen on their new countrymen, but Suipie’s heart goes out to them in their fire disaster, especially if it does affect their wine industry.  Suipie knows that this is probably the least of their problems, but it is still a big one!

Without trying to sound as if Suipie is trying to be funny, Suipie wonders what a smoke-tainted wine would be like with a braai!

That leads to food and wine matching.  Thank goodness the old “white with white meat / red with red’’ has gone.

Nowadays, food is so much more sophisticated and wines so diverse, Suipie really only has two things to say:  firstly, don’t be too taken in by what the back label on the bottle says.  It is so generic that it really gives no clue at all.  Secondly, match the wine as much with your mood as with what you are going to eat.  If things are not going too well with you that day, a bad day in other words, the wine won’t taste so good.  When the mood is right though, everything seems better, ordinary wines taste wonderful, and that’s the thing about wine!

Wine is quite unlike anything else.  A beer is just a beer.  A whisky is just a whisky (Suipie will leave the question of Single Malts for the moment).  But wine is a chameleon, and its taste changes, sometimes even while you drink it.

So have whatever you like with whatever food you are eating.  If it doesn’t work, chalk it down to experience.  If it does, don’t forget and use it next time! Just to close now, going back to the rock stars and 27-years-old.  Another one who falls into that category is Richey Edwards of the Welsh band, Manic Street Preachers.  He was 27 years old when he simply vanished, one day, back in February 1996.  Look it all up for yourself.  It’s a most puzzling story!