Grape: Stories of the Vineyards in South Africa

Provocative and quirky, Grape is the highly readable story of vineyards and wines in South Africa. Grape takes us from the earliest Dutch settlers’ struggle to plant vines under difficult conditions, through slavery, the forgotten black wine makers, land dispossession, a long history of making plonk (with a few exceptions) and the emergence of a world-class fine wine culture in the 1990s.

At the intimate launch held at Dear Me in Cape Town, a group of journalists were awarded the opportunity to engage with the authors over a selection of canapés and fine wines (for the full menu please click here).

All three authors were candid in their responses and open regarding the logistics of compiling such a detailed book. The book, as the authors explained, was researched by all three authors; Jeanne Viall, Dr Jakes Grewel and Dr Wilmot James but Jeanne provided the single unified voice in terms of the writing thereof.

Dr Jakes Grewel shared that he came from “a farm workers family” and that he “grew up on a farm”. This story was one that he felt was necessary to be told and that the book “illustrates the history of the wine industry” and highlights “the displacement that went into creating this industry”. He also adds that the book is not only one sided but “explains both the disposition and the triumphs of the wine industry”.

Journalist and author Jeanne Viall explained that before setting out to compile the book she “knew very little about our own history” and chose to search for “personal stories” for the book. This was something she admits was very challenging. She continued to say that as a result of the book she now has “a passion for history” and that she was drawn to the farmers “interesting stories”.

Dr Wilmot James explained the idea and motivation behind the book as “I wanted to write a book about coloured people, without writing about coloured people” and that the “choice to write about the history of the grape provided a neutral basis to base the history on”. He continued by explaining that the book was a partial illustration of the “integrated and interconnectedness of our [South African] integrated economy”.

Jeanne concluded the question and answer session with a powerful thought; “stories aren’t black and white, only our perception of them is, there are in fact many shades of grey”.

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

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