Which goat moved my wine!

A small feature about the South Africa’s “Goats Do Roam”, a wine by Fairview, founded in 1693.

I like goats.  I am not sure of the exact reason why I like them but I am positive that my curious nature may be one of the reasons I do as goats tend to be curious themselves.  While I am not a mischievous as a goat, I can be stubborn when the need arises or when I need to get my own way.  I eat goat cheese.  I haven’t had goats milk but I am sure the product will be something I try in the near future.  As far as wine is concerned, a South African vino put out by vintner Charles Back and winemaker Anthony De Jager called Goats do Roam envelopes the curious past and present of the Fairview company, leaving the budding taster and wine connoisseur with a yearning for not only repeated consumption of the blended varietals that make up the spirited and vibrant wine but also sustains a penchant to understand the terroir and history of the team behind its bold taste.  This story takes a look at one aspect of the whole historical and modern paradigm that constitutes the makeup of the wine…goats!

Goats do roam label
Goats do Roam

With the lack of a budget to visit this pristine land, I relied on authenticated web sources and email interviews to help write this feature.

My first stop was the Fairview web site at www.fairview.co.za.

1699 is the year on record when the first wine was produced on a tract of land on the southwestern slopes of the Paarl Mountain, with Huguenot roots.  Back’s grandfather, Charles Back I, of Lithuania bought the farm from the Hugo family in 1937. A dairy goat herd was started by Back’s father, Cyril back in 1980, a business upon which Charles Back II took over and expanded.  The Fairview Goat Tower, built by Charles II, is a Portuguese inspiration that influenced his parents during their travels to that country.

According to the Fairview web site, there is a legend behind the story of Goats do Roam.  It, as do most legends, starts with an accident.  Allegedly, Charles Back’s youngest son, Jason had left a gate to the goat paddock unlocked allowing a herd to escape and roam free making their way into the vineyard to nibble away at some of the ripest fruit.  The legend goes that those same grapes upon which the goats showed no discernment were used in the making of the wine.  Lately, I have been consuming fine quantities of Goats do Roam red.  In addition to the shiraz-based blend, there is also Goats do Roam white, Goat-Roti, the GoatFather and Goats do Roma Rosé.

While the wine is called Goats do Roam, goats herded on nearby farmland serve a strategic purpose for the Back family, namely the production of goat milk to fuel cheese production.

Goats by nature are highly intelligent creatures.  The are inquisitive by nature and tend to flock together in loosely knit community groups.  Their gregarious nature suggests their highly social demeanour.  Attend any event where there are goats in a small paddock and you can see for yourself their convivial, outgoing, amiable and friendly personality.  I have often referred to goats as chummy.

On the farm, three types of goats, for which there are over a thousand, roam the fields: Saanen, Toggenbergs and Black Irish Alpines.  The Saanen are of Swiss origin.  Toggenbergs, or Toggs are named after the region in Switzerland.  Considered the oldest registered breed, these goats originated in Toggenberg valley in the Valley of Saint Gallen.

Saanen goats, of a white or cream-colour are by nature mild-mannered and calm.  It’s a goat that can adapt well to the hot summer climate in South Africa.

Toggenbergs are slightly high strung and whose colour ranges from fawn to chocolate.

Black Alpines have a wide temperament. Although known as a British product, Black Alpines, of black-and-white colour, have an unknown genetic origin. It is quite plausible that the genes of Anglo Nubian goats were introduced into the Toggenberg goats breed Black Alpine, which suggests that these goats had Swiss origins. Nubians have origins from the Middle East and North Africa. Nubians are a proud and graceful dairy goat.  Is the alleged connection between the gracefulness of the Nubian and the highly strung nature of the Toggenberg suggestive of the broad temperament of the Black Alpine?

The Goat Tower is a stone and cement mix with a winding wooden stairwell allowing goats to ascend and descend.  While only home to a few representative goats of the massive herd, imagine the Tower flanked by trees and and low-lying shrubs.  You stop to admire the verdant terrain only to look up and a Toggenberg goat is looking down at you from a perch on the tower, perhaps pondering what brand of wine you hold in your hand, as you ponder whether the goat would jump down into your arms, scuttle back down the ramp or just gaze back at you in a friendly staring contest.  I am not sure if you can visit the tower this close as I suggest but the imagination leaves opportunity to explore wide open.

So could the goats that roamed the vineyards when young Jason left the gate open to the paddock have been Toggenbergs or Black Alpines?  I would put forth that is was the Toggenbergs since the Black Alpines would allegedly have had some gracefulness in their demeanour, perhaps displaying cautionary discretion to eating its owners grapes, leaving the Toggenbergs to feast on the vines’ luscious grapes all to their own.  When you visit Fairview, perhaps ask Charles Back about which band of goats he believes ate his grapes that inspired a new brand of fine wine from the lush Paarl region of South Africa.

Although Toggenberg has a ring to it as a wine, I think Goats do Roam is both a neutral yet inspiring name for a rich blend of grapes yielding one of South Africa’s greatest wines from a vintner/winemaker who takes extreme care of his vineyard and goats with the aim to deliver quality wines to the world.

Wine Profile

Vintner: Charles Back
Winemaker: Anthony de Jager

Wine label: “Our goats do roam at Fairview! From their famous tower next to our tasting room and the Goatshed Restaurant, they have a view over the surrounding vineyards and the magnificent Paarl Valley.  These curious and mischievous animals not only provide joy to use and our visitors, but also produce high quality milk for our aware-winning cheeses.  Occasionally they jump the paddock and stray into the vineyards, sampling delicious bunches of grapes…just like our winemaking team who are constantly sampling from the vineyards of the Cape, in search of those special grapes for this full-flavoured blend.”

Grapes: 60% Shiraz, 14% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, 11% Petite Sirah, 2% Carignan and 2% Cinsault

All grapes are Fairtrade certified and sourced from Fairtrade producers.  Total 100% is what they claim.  Further details can be found at www.info.fairtrade.net.  Information also at info@fairview.co.za and www.fairview.co.za.

The wine is a product of South Africa of the Western Cape.

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