Review: Tokara Wine Made Art

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The cultivation of the vine, it is said, rescued mankind from the very claws of barbarism. The ancient Greeks – that epitome of ‘fine culture’ – celebrated food, wine and art together, thereby setting in place a tradition now perhaps best seen in the annual Wine Made Art evening at Tokara Estate.

Initiated in 2006, this event celebrates the release of Tokara’s new vintage wines with an exhibition of art work with wine as the sole medium. No easy task, given that wine does not always take as easily to the canvas as it does to the palate.

The theme of this year sought its inspiration from Simonsberg – the iconic mountain region on the slopes of which Tokara’s grapes are grown, and home to a recently spotted young male mountain leopard.

Making use of the Tokara 2012 Shiraz on watercolour paper, 25 pieces were selected out of the 46 submissions and each stood its ground against an aesthetically immersing venue.

A few paintings that invited closer inspection included Francia Morris’ Simon’s Afternoon Nap. This particular painting, the artist explains, was inspired by the urban legend that the mountain resembles “a rather fat Simon (van der Stel) lying on his back”. In Simonswag by Theresa Diedericks the painting expands into a horizon with a leopard silhouetted against the setting sun, while Zerilda Wessels’ Arbeidsgenot is a touching portrayal that hints at the delicacy of human poverty amidst the rich platform of nature. Others included the practiced use of tonal values within Ooruil by Konrad Brand and Many Faces of the Simonsberg by Suzette Viljoen.

And while wine had been made into art, there were some wines to hand that were quite simply an art in themselves. On offer at the launch were the Tokara Sauvignon Blanc 2012, Rose 2012, Reserve Collection Stellenbosch Chardonnay, Reserve Collection Walker Bay Chardonnay (both 2011), Director’s Reserve 2011 Bordeaux style white blend and Reserve collection Noble Late Harvest (only four barrels).

The highlight though was a 2010 Pinotage – of which a slim 1400 bottles are produced every year. Its feminine body held a light, seductive countenance which, accented by the dark, lurking flavour of fruit, delivered a graceful balance. Having quickly made itself known amongst the crowd, more than a couple of hearts dropped when it was announced that the 2010 Pinotage can only be found and sampled at the tasting room due to its limited release.

Living up to its nomination for the best winery restaurant in South Africa, the service and presentation of canapés were first class. Experimental textures and complimenting flavours courtesy of top chef Richard Carstens had the attendees well distracted. I could empathize with the man who delicately held up his West Coast oyster with pineapple sorbet and fennel air, giving it a look of admiration that should have been reserved only for his wife.

Amongst arancini (fried risotto rice balls, coated in breadcrumbs) with soft feta and aioli, Parmesan crisps with tomato and olive tapenade and apricot, and the guilty rounds of coconut macaroons and brandy truffles, the appetite was decadently caressed.

As a further treat, the corner displaying the new 2012 cold pressed extra virgin olive oils was frequented mercilessly, to make certain of course, that it was indeed as good as it had been minutes before.

With its public spaces almost religiously bathed in contemporary art, the procession through the inner rooms of Tokara’s restaurant and tasting room was a happy pilgrimage. The crowd was ample in presence and the spacious restaurant, rooted in wooden elements, was converted with just the right measure of creativity and flair with tree branches holding the paintings as though they were natural extensions. The layout promoted flowing movement amongst the viewers and low lighting invited warm banter to run rivulets between the growing count of empty wine glasses and rosy cheeks.

Be it by the goblet or splashed poetically across a canvas, the power of wine reaffirmed its place in history at Tokara. May many more pilgrims find their way there.

Christina Scholtz

The launch of this year’s Wine Made Art took place on 12 September 2012. The artworks are exhibited throughout September to the end of December and can be viewed at the Tokara Wine Estate, Helshoogte Pass, Stellenbosch.
Click here for images of the event

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