Simon Hartley is the charismatic co-founder of local delivery company Wumdrop. Considering we entrust them with our Cape Town deliveries, we thought it apt to ply Simon with wine and get to know him a little better.
We’re at the Wumdrop HQ in Buitengracht Street, Cape Town. After a quick tour we get right down to business. For first time readers this is our chance to rock up at someone’s work and ask them life’s deepest (and wine related) questions. We provide the wine, they provide the insight.
David: We’ve only brought white wine – nice and fruity like you. (Pours the first wine.)
Simon: Ha. What is that?
Lisa: It’s a Croatian wine. From Croatia.
Simon: Cool, that helps.
Dave: As you can tell we are the experts
Simon: So it’s not Croatian wine from Milnerton?
Dave: One of the things that happens at the wine bar is we befriend a lot of people who love wine and love sharing it, so this is from a friend, Andrew, who just came back from London and brought this back for us.
Simon: It would definitely compliment any meal.
Dave: It’s a Malvasia.
Simon: Oh, is that how you pronounce it?
D: It’s a nice fresh wine, perfect for the first drink of the day.
We all cheers, cheers, cheers.
L: Do you like wine?
S: I like wine so much!
L: What is your preference? Hopefully white, considering that’s all there is today.
S: That wine was drier than I expected, when you said fruity I set up for a punch in the mouth
(Does the punch in mouth action with sound effects quite aptly). This is fruit dressed up as Sauvignon.
D: Tell us about how you got into wine?
S: So – and this is my evolution with tasty things – I grew up in Durban where there is no taste, generally, and the first beer I ever drank (and did so for a while) was Millers. And when people say it tastes like water, it really does.
D: That’s why people drink it.
S: But then I started drinking real beer – I don’t mean in the Cape Town sense, I mean in the not Millers sense, I decided that beer was bad for you. Also, once I got over the fact I was 18, I started drinking red wine – I hated it at first, it was terrible.
D: Do you remember the first time you did that?
S: It was at the Kersney Greyhound Club and it was a glass of Chateau Libertas.
D: That’s a good one to start with; it’s an iconic South African wine.
S: At the time it tasted like someone had mixed marmite with something astringent and put it through a sieve with chalk – ultimately not a very enjoyable experience.
D: Greyhound Club… Why does Kersney have a club devoted to dogs or long distance busses?
S: Because most of the people who arrive are dogs on long distance busses.
D: Good answer.
S: (Laughing) But jokes aside, is Chateau Libertas a good wine?
D: It’s a good start. In the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s, there wasn’t much wine being made, but Chateau Libertas was one of the flagship brands and it was good. I’ve drunk a late 60’s Chateau and it was good.
S: But is wine that old still ok to drink?
We go on about how good the ’66 Cabernet is and the aging potential of some wines, proving that life does get more fun with age. We move onto the the Delheim Gewürztraminer 2014, a delicious wine made from grapes with a naturally high sugar content.
S: No but seriously, what does an old wine like that taste like? Is it super smooth or…
D: It’s super smooth because the harder, rougher edges have been softened by time. That’s what happens with wine. Think of gravity: everything binds together then falls, so with all the sediment sinking to the bottom you’re left with the light, soft fruit. But it needs to be stored correctly, if it’s not stored correctly – it won’t be good.
Sidenote: store your wine correctly!
S: I’d just like to reiterate that I wasn’t saying Chateau Libertas is crap, I’m saying my first experience was…
L: Well it’s an acquired taste so no one is judging you for having an average first experience.
S: But I persisted – because I didn’t want to drink beer. I’m so glad I did.
The conversation lures to how it’s perfectly natural to start drinking sweet ciders and sweet wine before getting into the nitty gritty of ‘real’ beer and wine. It’s not uncommon to go through a sweet drink phase, nor is it uncommon to go through a weak coffee phase. Simon mentions something about smelling dandelion in his coffee – we nod curiously.
S: The first time I was struck by the fact that wine had flavour – apart from it just being astringent – was when I had a glass of Diemersfontein Coffee Pinotage. I couldn’t believe I was tasting flavours aside from… grapes. That lead me to look out for the flavours in other wines.
D: But that’s the value of those sort of wines. They’re not great wines, but they have a useful place in the market.
L: Also, once you’re suggested what flavours you’re supposed to be tasting, it’s easier to pick them up.
S: And it’s fun to get into it. Enjoying good wine doesn’t necessarily have to be poncey. Like, I’m not making fun of anyone from Joburg for being say, a tyre connoisseur.
At this point we’re drinking The Foundry Roussanne 2013, a more rare varietal made from Meerlust winemaker Chris Williams. A lively, fruity wine.
L: So how did you end up in Cape Town?
S: Having switched degrees from law to media I needed to repeat a year at UCT (with minimum classes). It was basically a year off. That was my year of wine discovery.
L: Oh, what year was that?!
Simon and Lisa hijack the wine conversation for the usual oh-we-actually-studied-together banter, ‘When did you graduate? What were your courses…?’ Dave nods and listens. In true Cape Town style, everybody knows everybody. We have hardly had a chance to talk about Wumdrop, the dynamic courier company that Simon founded with Roy Borole. But if you want to find out more about that, you can catch them sipping wine at Publik wine bar most Friday’s. Or just read about their simple, reliable service at wumdrop.com.
(Thanks for the chat, Simon!)