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In accordance with the icy weather, I made yet another casserole – a Beef Stifado, which is a Greek casserole made with beef shin, pickling onions and red wine.

I went to my local supermarket for the ingredients, including the wine, which I would use for both the cooking and to accompany the meal.

I decided to opt for a budget wine – something really ‘bargain basement’ – as spending in our household has been spiralling out of control ever since I began studying and writing about wine. I scoured the lower-priced shelves for something really cheap but drinkable. Coming from elsewhere in the wine section, I heard a little whisper: “Psst, pick me”. I glanced in the direction of the sound and spotted a bottle of Neethlingshof Shiraz.

It is possible I noticed the Neethlingshof wine because Stellenbosch Kloof has recently been deemed South Africa’s finest winegrowing area, and this is where Neethlingshof is located. The area produced most of the top performing wines at the 7th annual Novare SA Terroir Wine Awards 2012. The competition recognises wines that most express the quality and distinctiveness of a specific vineyard, ward or district, in other words wines with a ‘sense of place’, or wines that most reflect their terroir. From Stellenbosch Kloof, Neethlingshof and Jordan Estate were the main contributors to the selection of wines that secured the award.

I put the subject out of my mind, looked back to the shelf I was busy with and continued with my search. I felt a small tugging on my sleeve. “Pick me, pick me!”. I continued with my search. I felt another little tugging on my sleeve. “You can taste my terroir” it whispered.

I glanced down. It danced a little jig.

I sighed. It mouthed a kiss at me and winked.

Exasperated, I prepared to look away, and what did the little trollop do but flash its label at me.

The label displayed a hand drawn illustration. Now I am a big sucker for hand drawn illustrations (think Cederberg, think Darling Cellars etc.), and frequently pick one wine over another for just such a reason. In this case the drawing was of the fir-tree-lined avenue leading into the Neethlingshof estate.

I realised that the battle was lost, and collected up two bottles of Neethlingshof Shiraz. It was not especially expensive, but cost more than I had planned to spend.

It turned out to be a good choice. It went extremely well with the casserole, and to me, far outshone its modest Platter rating. Only once I had added it to the casserole did I look at the label where I read “goes well with Mediterranean stews”.

I got the distinct impression that I was not in control of events that day. Things had assumed a life of their own.

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