It was seventies filmmaker Jamie Uys who inadvertently launched Amarula as SA’s biggest international liquor brand. A brand worth more than parent Distel, according to marketing guru Jeremy Sampson. The marula-based liqueur with an elephant on the bottle achieved serious brand recognition after Uys’ smash hit Beautiful People starred a family of tuskers, tired and emotional after eating elephantine portions of fermenting marula berries. Could the same thing about to happen to SA Port, with fruit moths the unlikely aficionados?
Sundowners on the banks of the muddy Olifants River – which forms the border between Mpumalanga and Limpopo province – became the set for an impromptu wine tasting last night as flights of crepuscular fruit moths demonstrated definite predilections for specific cultivars and styles of wines on offer. Mopani worms, caterpillars of the Gonimbrasia belina moth, are an important food resource and tourist curio in these two northern provinces of SA and the prospect of using moths to compile wine guides indicates a bright economic future for these butterflies of the night.
With their powerful pheromone detecting abilities, tasting teams of moths are a novel way of rating wines with zero, one, two and even three moth scores possible. The assessment is made by simply counting the maximum number of moths simultaneously choosing a particular wine in the tasting “flight”. No need for seeded players or dodgy consultants to arrive at a rating as moths make neutral and natural wine judges. They don’t even need to be paid in cash or kind as unopened tasting samples are of no interest to these aerial judges.
Jean-Philippe Colmant’s recently released Franschhoek bubbly blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir rated two moths. Tasted blind by detective writing duo Michael Stanley (A Carrion Death) and Peter Newsom, international sales director of Headline Books, the human rating was “medium-price French (US$25-30), somewhere between Möet and Veuve Cliquot.” Which provides a calibration between moth and man.
Blaauwklippen Cabernet 2005 was a one moth affair, a rating readily agreed by the human panel. But the overwhelming favourite of both moths and men was a Boplaas Port 2005, a definite three moth stunner. After sipping copious amounts of the fortified nectar, both teams of tasters underwent remarkable behavioral changes. The moths performing acrobatic barrel rolls and Stuka-dives while the humans sat around laughing at the feeblest of jokes. Which brought down the curtain, so to speak, on the tasting.
This inaugural moth/man tasting produced a fitting champion as earlier this year, Boplaas owner Carel Nel had employed a team of elephants to tread his grapes at his Calitzdorp cellar. Obviously hoping that Jamie Uys’ success in matching elephants with marula berries would carry over to Port. The word from the Olifants River, nexus of animal alcohol appreciation in SA, is that elephants are extraneous as moths are the new Port champions. And they even provide their own transport to tastings.
No moths were harmed during the writing of this story.