Soon after my arrival in Peru last May I was asked if I could organize a container of South Africa’s finest wines. Positive in nature and bullish about South African wine as I am, I agreed to the task and immediately started sending emails to SA’s top wineries to engage them in exports to Peru. The selection ended up being a short list of South Africa’s Grand Crus, with a bit of local taste thrown in. As the list of interested people in Peru grew, so grew the list of wines ordered. We settled for eight different wines, which we believed to have stood the test of time, including a newcomer who had been tasted before by a friend in Lima. The list included the Thelema Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Kanonkop Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Rustenburg Peter Barlow 2007 and Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2009, the De Toren Fusion V 2009 and of course Meerlust’s Rubicon 2007, and two Pinot Noirs, the Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak 2009 (would never omit this one from a list of SA’s finest) and the Crystallum Cuvee Cinéma 2011, both from Hemel en Aarde. By the way the Meerlust Rubicon was the only brand name known by my Peruvian friends, except for the Crystallum.
After the selected wines were all rounded up by the shipper in Cape Town, we were notified that there isn’t a ship going from South Africa to South America, and that the most likely route is from Cape Town all the way to Hamburg, Germany and then via the Panama Canal to Lima in Peru. Visions of storms in mid-Atlantic rocking our bottles, and endless periods of sweltering heat in the equatorial ocean, clouded our minds, fearing the worst for the quality of our fermented grape juice, fermenting even further to the undrinkable.
Nevertheless after two months at sea, our shipment arrived in Lima, and local customs notified us of the arrival of our precious package. That was on the 20th of November 2012.
Logistics professionals immediately started handling our case, promising to have the load cleared within two weeks. Hurray, we will actually have the wine well before Christmas, let it lie low for two weeks to get rid of any bottle-shock and celebrate the end of the year with South Africa’s finest. Not so fast! Customs checked documents carefully and found every spelling mistake, however minute. Documents had to be resent. Then customs wanted images of the labels. Again, the winefarms complied immediately and sent me jpg’s and pdf’s of their labels. Of course not enough, the back label had to be sent as well. I am very grateful to the farms for their patience with me and my ever recurring wish list. Not enough yet, now we needed a list of the chemical ingredients – fermented grape juice, for Pete’s sake. No, far failed, the little bit of sulphur needed to be stated too.
Then comes the Christmas period and not much is happening at customs. Again we had visions of the Southern summer sun pelting down on our wine standing in the open in the blazing heat, but there was little we could do but comply. The help from our farms in the Cape to our requests was always immediate and swift. Also by now I got daily queries from my Peruvian friends about the state of our shipment and when the freight would be released.
The final clearing of the lute came suddenly in the morning of the 20th of January, and the distribution began immediately. Curiosity by now was so high that all recommendations to keep the bottles lying down for at least two weeks to get rid of any bottle shock were just dust in the wind. Luckily our South Africans survived the journey in sovereign condition and the positive feedback about it came in by the day. Everybody is in awe about the high quality of our wine and so excited about the different tastes, as if they had just discovered a new continent (for wine anyway).
Just in case you remember your history lessons about Homer’s Odyssey of Odysseus’ long way home from the Trojan War to his kingdom of Ithaca, and you believe that was a difficult trip, then you have no idea of the long journey our wine shipment had to endure from the Cape of Good Hope to Lima at the Pacific shores of Peru. And that was only part one. Today I heard my friends say that we had ordered way too little and we need another container, only this time a bigger one…
Well done, South Africa! Maybe there is a new market in the New World.