When we first met, it was a night of Secateurs; single-handed, electric, charismatic.
Meeting you felt like whole-bunch pressed grapes. It was the whole thing. It was like Chenin Blanc, made in the Swartland, grown on wild bush vines.
Over Neapolitan pizza, and a glass of Adi Badenhorst’s Secateurs Chenin Blanc, we laughed like old friends, wildly and openly. I was already fascinated by your stories, as though I had walked those roads with you for decades.
The walls at Coalition, an intimate Johannesburg pizzeria, bore Roald Dahl’s promise: ‘The greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places.’ I felt as though I was unwrapping you like chocolate. We sat with my sister and laughed until we managed to convince ourselves that the night had ended. As I walked back to my car I tried to brush it off as the kinetic energy of new friendship.
Weeks passed. Grape harvest began as January waned into February. New berries, bursting with promise, were plucked from vines, collected in baskets, and free-run juice entered its nascent existence as I headed back to the Cape’s distant embrace.
One hot Monday night in Cape Town, we sampled the menu at a small Mexican restaurant amid the chaos of Kloof Street. We squeezed into a booth with one of your oldest friends, and flavour danced on my taste buds.
Friendship bloomed like Doolhof The Dark Lady Pinotage, a wine made in Wellington’s implacable heat. The wine’s clove aromas turned up the heat, tangoing with a small, spicy menu. The beef tacos were a toe-to-toe match with the elegantly tannic wine.
Insatiable, we wanted more – more conversation, more views of the bustling city at night, more wine.
Our party of three clambered into the stylish elevator at the Silo Hotel.
I perused the wine list in pursuit of the unfamiliar, finding The Spider Pig Pinot Noir, created by winemaker David Wibberly of Bottled Up Wines. The Spider Pig brought the aroma of fresh strawberries and the taste of something delicate – it was a red wine of medium body with no pretentious airs.
Even after hours peering down at the city through windows in the sky, you insisted that I return with you to your Camps Bay enclave.
You made me tea and fell asleep on the sofa, while your friend regaled me with tales of your colourful adventures.
You returned to Johannesburg. Weeks passed and the dormancy of winter set in. Grape juice fermented in bottle and barrel under the careful watch of cellar teams while we waited for rain that simply refused to fall.
One Wednesday night, we did our dinner dance. We ended the night with something that felt a lot less like platonic friendship. Feeling the rush of familiar skin tingling and a nervous flutter in my stomach, I panicked and asked to see you the next night to stop this dalliance in its tracks. My friend was hosting a fashion event in Sea Point, and I thought that I could hide behind racks of Michion jumpsuits.
Over Graham Beck Brut MCC, we made dry jokes and tiptoed around the fire burning before us. Your hand slid around my waist and it was scintillating, like the sparkling wine in our flutes. We left, my heart in my throat, and found a window booth at Sundoo. Samoosas placated the panic and cool glass touched our lips, yours filled with whiskey and mine with a determination to veer off of this precarious path.
Treachery followed us to the bright lights of Orphanage, for a shared bottle of Shiraz and the company of another one of my sisters on a dark, cool night in the heart of Cape Town. The spice of Rietvallei Shiraz from Robertson rose eagerly from its glass.
Finally, we left and once more, we were alone, with a thousand question marks underfoot. The night ended with me bolting like a racehorse, aware that the joy of a new beginning could end with the fervour of a cruel ending.
The next day, we met for lunch at Villa 47, steak and more Shiraz obfuscating my perfect view of you seated across from me. Parsley and pasta peered out from the kitchen as I promised to forget you.
But a month later, you returned with all the questions I had buried with my resolve to move on. Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc MCC in our glasses – cool, tropical, with a bright red bottle – undid all of my bravado.
Underneath the setting sun, and peering over the ocean, glasses in hand, we began to walk a new path. While the anxiety of potentially broken hearts and broken glass had loomed over our heads for months, a new libation had matured: the resolve to be braver held firmly by the belief that a delicious new secret had been unwrapped in the most unlikely of places.