After selling other people’s poison, David Cope and Simon Wibberly decided to make their own. Meet the punk winemakers.

It was while working behind the bar at Constantia Uitsig restaurant that David Cope developed his keen interest in fermented grape juice. This led to two years of drinking wine in New York City, cutting his corporate teeth at Distell and his own specialist PR company. Then, finally, after six years in the business, Cope decided to get his hands dirty. With a little help from his friend.

Simon Wibberly had worked as a chef in Colorado, spent time in London’s hospitality industry, lived with a wine maker in Tuscany, and partnered in a little beer venture called &Union.

Now the wine industry is pretty saturated, it doesn’t need new labels, but that said, even in the busiest market there’s always room for something different. Owl & Vine is that something different.

“Simon and I are like ‘cellar rats’”, says Cope. “For our first wine, the Hedonist, we went to Lammershoek in the Swartland, where we tried to make ourselves useful in the cellar during harvest. Everything is done manually there, and with minimal intervention.”

Fancy wineries have automated pumps and conveyor belts. Dave and Simon tip buckets, offload grapes with spades and even do a spot of foot pressing, too.

After tasting, the pair took a portion of wine for their own five-barrel blend, which they then took to another friend’s winery in Stellenbosch and bottled, labeled and stored it there. Alphabetical followed the same process, except that it included wine from Stellenbosch in order to create a different flavour profile.

“We started with a vision of pouring and drinking our own wine,” says Simon. “It took shape with design and we then had to fill these bottles so scouring the winelands in search of unique characters was in order. From there it was a lot of bumping heads and great advice from the old dogs in the trade.”

Fair enough, so then how about passing on some of that information to our readers who would like to

dominate the wine list?

Wine is made from grapes. Grapes are farmed by farmers. Farmers don’t have fast cars and art galleries… Support the small guys!

Warm wine is shit. No matter if it’s red or white. White should be cold. Red should be also, just not as much. This whole “red wine at room temperature” thing is the worst thing anyone ever said. Red wine tastes better chilled. Put your next bottle of red wine in the fridge for 20minutes before drinking. See what difference it makes.

Order something you don’t know. Like Alphabetical. Or The Hedonist.

Best Value for money local wine is Tassenberg. You never know what you’re going to get. Often it’s bad. But it’s so damned cheap, put it aside and open another. By the time you come back to it after some more wine, it’ll taste better!

On the pricey end, Crystallum “Peter Max” Pinot Noir. It’s not cheap, but even at R180 a bottle it is great value, especially when compared with a foreign wine of the same quality.

Ask the sommelier/manager or whoever put it together to recommend something. Why are people so scared to ask? Otherwise, look at pricing. Restaurant markups are seldom less than 100%. So if it’s R50 on the list, it probably costs R25 at a wine shop. Would you want to drink that with a meal some chef spent hours making? Nope. Rather spend a bit more.

Read a Q&A interview with irreverent wine blogger,Harry Haddon