The Happiest Place on Earth is wherever there is braai

Finding South African wine at Disney

In South African Wine
on 22 Nov 2013

Disney World is a surprisingly fun place to be a wine drinker. While the up-charges at restaurants are almost always jaw-dropping, if you’ve saved up for the trip and you’re willing to splurge here and there, the wine lists and even some of the wine shops offer an interesting selection of world wines. I was excited to find Black Pearl’s Oro at the resort bar near where my family and I were staying, but that pleasure paled in comparison to my reaction when I first spotted the wine list at Jiko Restaurant.

Jiko meal Vilafonte series m

The “heart of Africa” stuff and some of the Animal Kingdom ambiance is certainly an American characterization of Africa that doesn’t always sit well with me, but the menu at Jiko is hard to complain about: bobotie, wild boar, vetkoek, pap and chakalaka, and other South African staples are on offer, and the food is spectacular. It’s a good thing, too, because my family was in a wine-tasting mood––not that I gave them much say in the matter.

Jiko’s wine list includes reserve showstoppers from Kanonkop to Ken Forrester, value-driven red blends, and everything in between, and because many wines are offered by the glass, you don’t have to commit. My family, wonderful people that they are, indulged my enthusiasm by letting me order two rounds of wines for them to accompany our family-style selection of appetizers and entrees. This meant we got to try, and swap, Thelema chardonnay, Glen Carlou chardonnay, Raats Family chenin blanc, Warwick Professor Black sauvignon blanc, Jardin merlot, Rudi Schultz syrah, Kanonkop pinotage, and finally, the Vilafonte 2007 series m.

All were stunning. My dad, a red drinker, loved the rich leesy character of the Glen Carlou, while my sister enjoyed her glass of Raats chenin with samosas. My mom, ever the pinotage lover, was happy with a glass of Kanonkop’s finest, and I loved the delicate, sesame/umami Thelema chard and the minty, peppery Jardin merlot, which was gorgeous with lamb. The night ended with a glass of series m, which is just beginning to sing like a choir tuning up; the excellent vintage shows through in its powerful structure, cocoa and blackberry plushness, and almost cobalt-blue sensory envelopment. I can’t wait to taste this vintage again in a couple of years.

Julia Burke is a wine educator and writer.