In Wine
on 11 Nov 2020

One of the aspects of the MW program I was most excited about was learning more about the parts of the wine world I’ve totally missed or neglected. I’ll be honest, though; it’s already brought plenty of opportunities to delve once again into my big passion, South African wine, and I’m not sorry about it.


I joined the Cape Ardor club awhile back to stay in the loop, and after a particularly tough mock exam on white wines I cracked this open, needing a cuddle. This Rhone/Douro blend comes from one of my favorite names in South African wine, De Trafford, and comprises Syrah, Mourvedre, Touriga Nacional and Trincadeira. Its WO is Malgas, an appellation on the Breede River that reminded David and Rita Trafford of Portugal when they spent holiday there.

De Trafford was just down the road from Blauuwklippen back in Stellensboch all those years ago, and I fell in love with their wines in 2010. How could I not love such a great producer doing one of my favorite grapes—one that doesn’t get enough respect—in South Africa? Ever since I’ve been thrilled at every (rare) occasion that I’ve seen their wines in the US. To be able to enjoy this here and now is a gift I don’t take for granted, especially in Portland (long on local, and I’m not complaining, but short on… just about everything else). Anyway, it’s hauntingly beautiful, and being too worn out to post a bunch of notes I say just go and get it before the price shoots up.

The last couple of weeks since vacation (post on that incoming) have been the pretty hardcore work/study/sleep combination you’d expect. As the general MW guidance rolls in gradually, with more structured tips and a slew of new contacts with whom to share insecurity, I’m feeling appreciative of all the effort the IMW is making to make us all feel included during the pandemic. Hey, I was able to do a mock exam tonight with truly blind wines bottled and overnighted from IMW (and received by my pal Shauna—thanks lady—while I was out of town). But I suspect I speak for more than just myself when I say I have felt a lot of imposter syndrome. Everyone else is so accomplished and knows so much! And only like 10% of us will make it through!

Those are tough thoughts and there’s a lot wrapped up in them (is this really a good investment? What does COVID mean for the wine industry? How many people will I disappoint if I don’t succeed?) and if I spent time on them I’d probably talk myself out of this whole thing. But I’m here, and I’m not too proud to take a page out the script of a movie I loved back in high school (when we all become experts on self-doubt). Whenever you get lonely, you just go to the record store and visit your friends.

I have a lot of record-store “friends.” But when I think about this line I think about South African wine.

Julia Burke is a wine educator and writer.