Wine Tasting Dos and Don’ts: Lessons From Noble Vice

by | Nov 9, 2021 | Cape Town, Food and Drink, Western Cape | 13 comments

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I really enjoy wine tasting in South Africa. I’ve done a few media visits to various South African wine regions over the years, and recently I’ve made an effort to actually learn something about wine so I can figure out which wines I like best and not sound like a neophyte when talking/writing about them.

Glass of wine
Analyzing the color of my Rosé.

So when my friend Dee from the Good Holiday invited me to come to Noble Vice — a fancy wine and culinary festival, well known in wine circles but unknown to me — I was excited to check it out. This year’s Noble Vice fest took place at the Kaapzicht Wine Estate in Stellenbosch and featured 60 South African winemakers and six chefs over two days.

Noble Vice sign at Kaapzicht
Picturesque wine festival scenery.
Stuffed chicken at Noble Vice
I loved this stuffed exotic chicken at the entrance to the festival. (Update: It’s been suggested that the exotic chicken is probably a pheasant.)
Dee taking pics at Noble Vice
Dee doing her thing at the beginning of the festival.
Noble Vice dog
The Noble Vice dog.

Wine Tasting Don’ts

I should have done the math beforehand. 60 winemakers ÷ 2 days = 30 winemakers per day. 30 winemakers per day x 3 wines per winemaker (give or take) = a lot of wine tasting in a single day.

Also, I should have heeded the number-one rule of tasting wine: After sipping the wine and tasting it in your mouth, you spit it out. (There were discreet spitting bowls placed at every wine-tasting station specifically for this purpose, and the serious wine tasters were using them.)

But…ahem…at the risk of sounding super inappropriate: Swallowing is a lot more enjoyable than spitting.

Although I swallowed, I did try to sip only a little bit of each wine — savoring the taste, figuring out what I liked and didn’t like — and then pouring the rest into the bowl. Nonetheless, I ran out of stamina pretty quickly on the first day. I didn’t get drunk exactly, but I did get tired and cranky and sick of wine. A couple of hours in, I could barely differentiate a Chenin from a Cinsault.

Heather drinking wine
Here I am, in between sips and swallows, merrily enjoying the day in my 1980s-schoolteacher dress from Three Dogs Thrift. (Photo: Dee Lourens of The Good Holiday)
Heather at Noble Vice
I look happy but I’ve also got some crazy eyes going on. (Photo: @theGoodHoliday)
Heather and Tenille
With Dee’s friend Tenille, aka the @Braaidsmaid, my wine-tasting partner for much of Noble Vice. I’m not sure what we were doing in this photo. It was taken early in the day before we both fell into a semi-catatonic state. (Photo: @theGoodHoliday)

Tasting wine at an event like this is not an exercise to be undertaken lightly. You need to have a plan — a strategy, if you will — or by late afternoon you will find yourself dozing against a wine barrel in the corner. (I literally did this — thank goodness Dee didn’t take a picture.)

Wine Tasting Dos

I was better on the second day. I didn’t even think about trying to sample all the wines and I tasted very few red wines, which make me tired. I focused on bubbly, which makes me happy. I had more substantive conversations with the winemakers, who tend to be very interesting, entertaining people. (I particularly enjoyed talking to the women winemakers, of whom there were quite a few more on the second day than the first.) And I ate more food.

I still didn’t spit — I’m not sure I’ll ever do that. But I swallowed more intelligently.

Heather at Noble Vice, day two
Day two, looking a lot more serene and not even sipping or swallowing any wine. (Photo: @theGoodHoliday)

Winemakers at Noble Vice

I didn’t do a great job of taking photos at Noble Vice (see excuses above) but I did get a few, several of which feature my favorite winemakers from the festival.

David and Nadia wine
David and Nadia are a famous winemaking couple based in the Swartland. I didn’t get the chance to speak to them (their stall was extremely busy all day), but I tasted their Chenin Blanc and it was one of my favorites from the weekend.
Lukas van Loggerenberg talks to us about his Break a Leg Blanc de Noir Rosé, which was already one of my favorite wines before I arrived at Noble Vice.
Sebastian Beaumont of Beaumont Wines was kind enough give me a taste of his 2012 Hope Marguerite, an unusually old vintage for a white wine. It was delicious.
Jane with Dainty Bess MCC
I love really dry Cap Classique, and the Dainty Bess Pinot Noir was one of my favorite Cap Classique at Noble Vice. Cap Classique is the term for traditionally made sparkling wine in South Africa. (Although it’s made the same way champagne is made, MCC can’t be called champagne because it’s not from the Champagne region of France.) I also enjoyed chatting with Jane Ferreira-Eedes, who makes Dainty Bess as a side gig; like many boutique winemakers, she has another 9-5 job in the industry.
Hanneke serves pH wine
Hanneke Krüger pours us a taste of pH Palomino, a boutique white wine that she makes with her friend Pauline. Hanneke and Pauline also make a “Pet Nat” sparkling wine, which I had never heard of before Noble Vice. Pet Nat stands for Pétillant Naturel and is basically a more rustic, natural version of sparkling wine.
Kayleigh Hattingh of Rebel Rebel Wines. Like Hanneke, who makes her own wine on the side while working full time as a winemaker at Badenhorst Family Wines, Kayleigh makes Rebel Rebel while also working as a winemaker at Kaapzicht (the farm where Noble Vice was held). I loved the Rebel Rebel white, which is made with an unusual wine grape called Colombar. I also loved meeting all these women kicking ass in a male-dominated industry.

I left Noble Vice with some Rebel Rebel, some Dainty Bess, a bunch of new friends, and a lot more wine wisdom — a successful venture overall. I’m looking forward to using all my newfound knowledge at the next wine tasting event (after I’ve had the chance to dry out for a few weeks or months).

Cheers from Stellenbosch
Cheers from Stellenbosch.

Thanks to Noble Vice for my admission to the festival. And thanks to Dee for inviting me and for doing a fantastic edit on my photos.


  1. Albert

    Actually the thought of tasting 60 winemakers’ finest over 2 days is a pretty daunting prospect….whether spit or swallow. 🙂

    • 2summers

      It was very daunting. But looking back I realize I really learned a lot.

  2. Howard Shenker

    The term MCC is no longer used in SA.. Or shouldn’t be… It’s now called CC.. Cap Classique…

    • 2summers

      Oh, I didn’t know that! I will research this — thanks.

  3. Peggy Laws

    Wow! You need stamina for that but how wonderful to see so many world class South African wines. (PS: Love your Thrift dress!)

  4. David Bristow

    Proficiency in wine tasting, like all things noble in life, is attained only through diligent application.

    • 2summers

      I agree completely.

  5. AutumnAshbough

    My idea of good wine is a vintage that tastes like sparkling grape juice, but it was delightful to hear about your (mis)adventures. But wasn’t there supposed to be food as well?

    • 2summers

      There was food…I just found it hard to integrate into this post for some reason. It was really separate from the wine and there wasn’t a really good place to eat/photograph it. Wine was definitely the main event and the food was a bit of a sideshow.

  6. Nancy McDaniel

    I think the stuffed chicken is actually a pheasant. Ha. I can’t spit either; it seems such a waste of lovely wine. I love the thought of “swallowing intelligently”

    • 2summers

      A pheasant — of course! Why didn’t I think of that?

      “Intelligent” might be too strong a word but I did my best 🙂

  7. Rehoboth

    That’s nice. I agree too


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