Tag Archives: wine

Our Kids Take Us Wine Tasting in Cape Town’s Winelands

For as long as I can remember, my grandmother treated all my ailments with a shot of brandy. I am a strong believer that a good glass of wine cures most pains. We are not the only ones who believe alcohol is medicinal. Jan Van Reibeck, a surgeon of the Dutch East India Company, was charged with managing the supply station in the Cape of Good Hope. The Dutch maintained the area as restocking a midpoint between home and India. One of the leading causes of death for the sailors was scurvy and the Dutch believed that grapes and wine would ward off the decease. The exact date of South Africa’s wine birth can be traced to Jan Van Reibeck’s February 2, 1659 journal entry, “Today, praise be to God, wine was pressed for the first time from Cape Grapes.” Since then, South Africa has grown to be the world’s eighth largest producer of wine by volume.

We’ve visited vineyards in all corners of the earth but had yet to see a wine country as beautiful as the Cape Town winelands. Even during winter, which the locals say is dreary, the mountains glisten green and the vineyards form blankets along the hills and lakes east of Cape Town. Many vineyards have horse stables, lakes for fishing, and small game reserves or orchards, all of which add to the allure. Wine tasting in South Africa is a leisurely affair. Many tasting rooms are set up as living rooms, with expansive views and inviting fireplaces. Some even have pre-packed picnics so you can enjoy a meal among the grapes. Tastings last over an hour as visitors are there for the atmosphere as much as for the wine.

We are on a mission to expose our kids to anything and everything and see no reason why wine tasting should be any different. By that we mean Ava and Kayan do the wine sniffing and Sandeep and I do the swallowing. We chose to park ourselves at Vrede en Lust, a winery whose history spans over 300 years. We felt very welcome upon entry when this sign greeted us.

As tempting as it was, we decided to forgo the nanny and have Ava and Kayan help with the tasting. As we admired the view over the mountains, the sommelier chatted away about pencil shavings and coffee on the nose. We asked the kids for their olfactory opinions.

For the Rose, Kayan said, “Strawberries and chocolate.”

For the Merlot, Ava said, “roses and rainbows.”

For the Chardonnay, they both agreed, “Gummy bears!”

Just to be clear, they only drank water.

As much as we know what wines we like and don’t we’ve never been able to describe the smells with such flair. It just goes to prove that kids to have stronger and less inhibited senses than adults.

One of the many things we already love about Cape Town is how child friendly it is. The winery offered the kids a set of crayons, a sticker book and paper to busy themselves while we enjoyed our wine. When we asked for a recommendation for another “child friendly” vineyard, our hosts casually assured us that anyone would welcome the kids. I guess there is plenty of love for everyone in the winelands.


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Filed under Africa, Food, South Africa

Turkish Inventions and Irrational Behavior

In 1992 I remember being in Floriade, the flower show that The Netherlands holds every ten years ( it’s on this year from April to October in case you want to see blankets of flowers disappearing into the horizon). The display of flowers, namely tulips was so immense that I, as many people, thought that tulips originated and were perfected in Holland. Not true. Tulips are actually from Turkey. They found their fame in Holland after a 16th century Dutch ambassador took the bulbs back home. The tulips garnered such adoration that people started to pay irrational prices for the plants, and in 1637 the love led to what can be argued was the first speculative investor bubble. Our Istanbul stay coincides with the city’s annual tulip festival and we wanted to catch a glimpse of the 12 million bulbs that were planted for the occasion.

Ava and Kayan were thrilled at the color variety when we visited Emirgan Korusu, a suburban park boasting the city’s largest tulip display.

Turkey has invented other things associated with irrational behavior.

One of them is wine. Actually, there is some debate as to the origins of wine. Archaeological evidence points to Georgia (as in the country not Peachtree) as having first produced wine but ample findings show that the Hittites in central Turkey were enjoying wine while living in their underground cities thousands of years ago. Today Turkey is the fourth largest producer of grapes. The bulk of this goes toward raki, the native aniseed brew. Contemporary wine is gaining popularity, but in an odd dynamic. Much of Turkey’s vineyards are in conservative areas where the production of alcohol is frowned upon. It is common for vineyards to sell their grapes to wineries who blend Turkish wines, some of which we have had to spit out, but some that have been really especially good over a late night game of Scrabble.

Another Turkish invention that causes irrational behavior? Money. Entire fields of study are dedicated to our relationship with money. We may have Turkey to thank for its origins, at least in the coin form. There is evidence that it was the Lydians of what is now Turkey who first started assigning value to metal objects. Perhaps in a rational celebration for not making it into the EU, Turkey introduced a new symbol for its currency last month.

Tulips, wine, money, kebabs, the Bosphorus, indulgent breakfasts… We could stay forever. And that’s not irrational.


Filed under Turkey