“Where there’s smoke,” Dolf Hershowitz said sitting down heavily on the bar-stool, “there’s a burning piece of Cape fynbos.”
Dolf and Colonel Zaccharias Snodgrass had just returned to Vermaaklikheid from the smouldering fleshpots of Cape Town, joining the rest of us at our rightful place in the Coop Tavern on the banks of the Duiwenhoks River. It was good to see the two old boys, even if Dolf still had a piece of ash on his forehead and the remnants of a half-eaten Bo-Kaap samoosa in his shirt pocket.
“That, Dolf, will be the last time I accept an invitation to visit the City in your company,” the Colonel said. “I thought I was going there for some rest and relaxation, and possibly to find the romance and passion of a lost youth. But the only old flame I saw was the one threatening to burn down my god-son’s house on the hills above Constantia.”
Stienie Greyling looked up from his newspaper. “Like my neighbour’s wife used to say: is that smoke I smell or are you just over here to borrow the lawnmower?”
Dolf sneered. “Not much to laugh about that burning mountain we saw,” he said opening the box he had brought with him. “The flames were as high as a Frans Steyn tackle. And even from where I was standing on Ou Kaapse Weg I could feel the fire was as hot as the Widow Nothnagel’s melktert.”
Despite the gripping account of a burning mountain, we were interested in the box Dolf was handling. And to our relief he pulled out a bottle of wine from it. This was a welcome change: Last time he went to Cape Town he bought each of us a bag of waterblommetjies and a Helen Zille tea-mug.
“Now that’s a sight for sore eyes,” Tielman Kempen said, walking over to the bar to assist in the unpacking of the range of beauties from Du Toitskloof Wines our Dolf had procured. “I see, Dolf, you and the Colonel were in such a hurry to leave the fires of Cape Town that you had to take the road through the Du Toitskloof tunnel.”
The Colonel nodded. “A man’s throat becomes awfully dry while one is telling the firefighters how to whack the flames, especially while you are running down-hill at the same time,” he said. “Du Toitskloof and its wines were needed to regain composure and physical excellence.”
Five glasses appeared. And Dolf began splashing wine of a reddish-purple hue into each of them.
“Du Toitskloof Shiraz,” said Dolf, “this is the best souvenir I could bring.”
Tielman nodded as he took a glass and sniffed. “I see what you mean. While the wine is brimming with fruit and hints of spice, there is delectable smokiness to be had in the aroma,” Tielman enthused, stopping to take a sip. Before continuing, “And on the mid-palate, the Du Toitskloof shows typical Shiraz notes of prune, white pepper and charcuterie.”
Stienie swallowed a mouthful of wine and nodded. “Heavens, Tielman, this wine-bug is biting you deep. Or are you training for this year’s Du Toitskloof SA Wine Writer Competition?”
“In association with Standard Bank,” the Colonel said, irritated. “The bearded, long-haired fellow from Du Toitskloof who made the last delivery kept stressing the important role of Standard Bank in creating a local culture of wine writing.”
Dolf raised his glass of Du Toitskloof Shiraz. “I’ll drink to that,” he said with a twinkle. “Tielman is our man, and a dead ringer to win that writing competition. With the inspiration we fellows give him, he only has to enter to win.” He smiled at Stienie. “And seeing we are splitting the winnings five-ways, I’ll be able to take the Widow Nothnagel with me during my next visit to Cape Town.”
We all had our own thoughts. If the Widow ever joined Dolf, it will not only be the fynbos that will burn.