Having had such a lovely visit to the Moreson Vineyard, even if the drive back to Cape Town was fairly crappy, on our last day we pootled up into the super wealthy foothills of the Constantiaberg on the edge of the Table Mountain massif not ten miles from the centre of Cape Town. Having driven up to the Constantia Vineyard and found a guard on duty at a barrier we pushed on to the Buitenverwachting Vineyard which has a progressive social policy towards its workforce.
The sun shone and the little roads were empty but for the occasional security guard camped outside the electric-fenced mansions tucked into the verdant vegetation. We took the Buitenverwachting turn, encountered no security guard (although was that car parked down the splendid grove of oaks keeping an eye on us?) and drove sedately, in our fairly clapped out VW Polo (Presidential Blue), by the vines, the immaculate estate rugby field, a most beautiful chestnut stallion, tall reeds in the cool running waters, past meticulously restored stone workshops, and stacked pallettes of bluey bottles in their plastic wrapping around to the restaurant. We got out of the car and walked into the restaurant only to find it was closed for the day, it being a Monday. The very nice young woman said we might be able to get a picnic and showed us a most mouth-watering picnic menu. She directed us to one of the old houses in the main part of the estate in which stood the most splendid Norfolk Island pine.
As I took nervous photos of this wondrous oasis of privileged calm a friendly looking white guy appeared with a fairly massive dog. Responding to my question as to the make of the beast he laughingly said as it lolloped off, 'A mad one' only to add, sottovoce, 'A Ridgeback.' We laughed in response, relieved to see the great ur-dog of white rule in Zimbabwe disappear.
We knocked on a blank green wooden door in the hope of ordering our pcinic only to be told by a friendly but busy Coloured woman that there were no picnics on Mondays. It was a minor disappointment in this 'olde worlde' setting where the tribulations of the modern world and all that 'race stuff' seemed soothingly far way.
Whereas, of course, the whole set up, from its get go in 1773 had presumably been based on the widespread use of slaves from Madagascar and Sri Lanka brought in by East India company ships plying the spice routes back to Europe.
However, the progressive character of the current owners of the estate is for real and contrasts markedly with conditions we saw elsewhere. We didn't drive around the workers village, as this seemed intrusive to say the least, but the estate lists its progressive policies on its website. These aim to create a 'financially viable wine-producing farm with a happy, healthy and efficient staff.' The staff have a representative committee which 'meets on a regular basis with Lars [Mueller, the owner], whose benevolent and firm code of ethics is appreciated by them.' So there you go. As a conclusion to Buitenverwachting Jancis Robinson rated their 'delicious Bordeaux blend' Christine 2003 one of the top reds from South Africa - it was retailing for just £16 in the UK at the time.
As a coda to this we revisited the botanical gardens at Kirstenbosch, driving by black guys selling their craft goods at intersections on the M3, and ate at a nearby restaurant. We got into a right rap with one of the Coloured waitresses who was really - as they say in Italian - in gamba - (on the ball/up for it) mainly about my leisurely life as a non-remunerative sculptor. Somehow this got round to me saying maybe the people of Constantia would come across my website to which she replied in a trice and with more than a little contempt - 'You'll be lucky. The people of Constantia are still trying to find themselves.'
On leaving I gave the Congolese guy in a uniform and red beret guarding the Constantia punters' cars a big tip having previously chatted with him and found out that he was a Man City fan. I laughingly said, 'Have a beer on me if City win the upcoming derby with Utd.' I hope he did and I hope he remembered. (Man City beat United).
Following the Premier League is a big thing in South Africa. I had a long and hilarious chat with some Cameroonian guys at the Pan-African Market in downtown Cape Town who supported United. As I left I gave them a 'Man Utd forever.' One guy raised his first in reply and said somberly, 'Till death'.
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