Reflections in the times of COVID by Alicia Hanekom
I’m on my way back from our local town where I had to buy much needed supplies for home. It takes a while before the electronic gate opens and in that moment I breathe. Something inside me just lets go. Maybe it’s all the stress of shopping with the annoying mask and the constant hand sanitizing. Maybe it is the crisp weather of fall or just our invigorating mountain air. Inhale, exhale. I breathe because I feel relieved, I feel safe. Secure. Two things greet me as I drive through the gate, the burgundy like foliage of the vineyard, the unnatural blue color of the mountain, for there is rain coming for sure, and of course the indispensable tawny orange leaves of the tree in front of our house in the distance. And then there is the unnatural silence. No clunking tractors, no wine transporters. Has there ever been a time in Schenkfontein without all the seasonal activities? No people visiting our tasting room. Their distinctive laughter and cacophonous as they celebrate with the companionship of friends and loved ones. Without the diligent workmen who complete their daily tasks with ease? Maybe the vineyards are enjoying the tranquility, for the passing cars the only noise heard or maybe they need the white noise to enjoy in their annual winter dormancy.
For the past two months, out of the blue, it seems as if the entire wine industry also has gone into a rest period, with the help of Covid 19. Some were forced to stop in the midst of harvest time. The first time no alcohol may be sold, transported or even manufactured. This is something the 2020 vintage will carry with him forever. How excited we were at the beginning of the year when we made the first Verdelho in the Schenkfontein series. With each test run we could taste the improvement and couldn’t wait to introduce it to the market. June can’t come soon enough!
It reminds me of the prohibition law that was applied in America a century ago in 1920. There was also a ban on transport, sale or manufacture of alcohol. And it took a good 13 years! Suddenly two months felt brief. At that time, wines were only prescribed for medical purposes and used in churches for sacraments. The result, many sick people with only cure a prescription of enough wine would save, and churches that started selling wine with an additional in the offering plate.
One of the myths of the saying, the real McCoy, also comes from this era in America. This is attributed to Captain William S. McCoy, a Scot, who transported alcohol, especially rum, from one coastal area to another in the United States where it was then distributed. To delight, of many people of course. Some say the saying originated as a whiskey, the best Scotland has ever produced. Maybe he just had a very interesting life and loved good whiskey. Who would really know?
In this unsettling period in which we find ourselves today, it is a great comfort to know that the wine industry, or the gentleman of the agricultural area, will dust themselves of, and tell each other about the real McCoy up their sleeve. That fermented liquid currently in the cellar, bottle ready, and which by no means will have the cruel taste of prohibition. That good wine will still come out of this dreaded year, no matter how oppressed our industry is.
As I parked by car at home, with screaming children greeting me, I am grateful. In this uncertain time I am grateful for good health. I am grateful for the unusual quietness. I have begun to realize that you can listen to the silence and learn from it. And of course, utter most grateful, that I am married to a winemaker, because my glass is always half full.