It is generally accepted that the finest Rhodesian wine is her export quality poetry, pros & songs. It is also generally accepted that the finest African tigers thrived within her borders. With thanks to Alf ..
Wine maker supreme?
UDI (rough translation – DIY)
During the days of UDI in Rhodesia, when we were placed under sanctions by the United Nations, there were no wine imports into Rhodesia. The planting of grapes and the making of wine was only begun much later on. Wine, in its infancy in Salisbury, was used as an engine de-greasing agent and powerful drain cleaner, a by-product of Jeyes Fluid. It was certainly not made for human consumption; one could mix it with turpentine or diesel to make it more palatable; but this of course depended upon one’s individual palate.
Greatstuff not Grapestuff (but close enough)
Always looking for a way to make a quick buck, I started making wine after leaving school and joining the Post Office as a technician. A trip to the Salisbury library produced a fine book written by a Mrs Hutchinson on the art of making wine. With the same surname as mine, I took this as an omen of great things to come.
My first wine was made from mulberries; and my mother, bless her soul, could never get the stains out of my clothes. I then progressed to potato, turnip, carrot and most other vegetable wines. Practice makes perfect they say, and my skills at wine making increased to such a high standard that I could sell my wines commercially. Although highly illegal, I worked at night in my outside fermenting shed,keeping my secret from my young police friends.
At the time I lived with my folks in Athlone and there was a very large African compound not too far from us, so my ‘shebeen’ was easily accessible to all, and the cash started rolling in. All my wines were bottled in green Champagne bottles which the local dump yielded up in vast quantities; Rhodesians were not into the recycling era yet in those bygone days.
Like all great entrepreneurs at the tender age of 18, I had to expand my clandestine business.This I did by manufacturing distilled alcohol. The dumps had given me my bottles, now it was the source of my distillation plant. The distillation condenser I fashioned out of fluorescent tubing which I cleaned out with a suitable round bottle brush. My schooling at Churchill had not been an entire waste of time as I had learned how to melt glass and fashion it in the science lab…A small spirit lamp aided by the air from a straw in my mouth gave me sufficient heat to build a still that any moonshiner would have been proud of.
A gallon of wine yielded up to approximately one pint of drinkable alcohol. It was only when I triple distilled it that I produced the next best thing to aviation spirits. From potatoes I produced a very pleasant vodka; juniper berries gave me a passable gin if taken with tonic and a slice of lemon. Brandy I made from burning sugar in my mother’s kitchen, which yielded the correct colour but a taste unlike any brandy I had tasted… but mixed with Coke who cared!
Recork (err, recap)
- My number one best seller was ‘witblits’; possibly why I am bald today and have very few chest hairs.
- My wife’s great pal (and now mine too) Izzy Myles, who is a fabulous artist in her own right, designed and printed the labels for the wine.
What more can I say… Cheers!
Note: I believe that Alf’s wine is almost as legendary as African Tigers. While the wine cellars might have run dry, here is guide to finding tigers in the region. If you’d rather sample the wine, checkout Alf’s books.
Note 2: Silly headings are mine. I’m not as clever as Alf & my WordPress guide said I needed to beak up the text.
© Alf Hutchison Author of “Sounds of Distant Drums” and “Echoes of the African Soul”
An Addition to this tale .. There is an expansion on Rhodesian Wine ..
I only tell true stories….
The other day on Face book we were talking about making wines, and distilling wines to make alcohol, the key ingredient of Hooligan juice.
I had for years made large quantities of wine in a shed which I had built on my folk’s property in Ferguson Ave Athlone. In those days it was ‘in the bush’; so we seldom, if ever, saw the presence of the local BSAP constabulary from Eastlea.
My select clientele were farm labourers from William’s farm not too far distant from us … Tembo our trusted gardener would give me the ‘secret’ tap on my bedroom window at night after lights out. I would immediately climb out of my window and make my way to the shed, to serve my connoisseur clientele waiting with bottles, pots and even calabashes eagerly awaiting their very affordable nectar of the gods.
I was then asked to make something stronger, like their infamous ‘Skokiaan’, which entailed my having to construct a still. The still consisted of a number of long Neon tubes which I managed to cut precisely with a glass cutter, and cleaned the poisonous white powder out with a bottle brush and hose pipe. Smaller glass tubing, and a few rubber bungs, and I was in the fermenting business.
100 proof alcohol for those who do not know is 50% alcohol and 50% water, absolute alcohol is extremely difficult to achieve and about 95% alcohol by volume is regarded as 200 proof; It can be lethal. I once witnessed a young man in Beira at the Estoril, climb on top of a table with a bottle of brandy, being egged on by his mates to “Drink it down , down ,down” …he was stone dead when he hit the floor having got only part way through his act of bravado.
As my distilling skills increased, and the money started rolling in (as my customer base broadened to include the Witbltz drinkers fraternity) I purchased thermometers to be more precise, and I would triple distil the alcohol to laboratory standards. I used a tall liqueur glass as my ‘Litmus’ test to check the meniscus level of my brew. I was amazed that this small glass would not hold the liquid which would rise up the walls of the glass and spill over the edge and run down the outside of the glass at almost 200 proof. Why had we not done these interesting things at school in our science lessons??? School was such a waste of good time.
I attended the engagement party of a school friend together with my girlfriend Lesley (Later to become my long-suffering wife). At the party was another Churchill school pupil, from our year who had joined the BSAP; he was one of those people who knew everything and mocked me when I took the quarter jack bottle out of my back pocket and poured my last drink using the small screw on lid as a tot measure; Lesley was almost wasted after having only two caps full the entire night; and I was feeling rather tipsy having had about six. The bravado speech from this idiot, and the mocking carried on relentlessly. Lesley was getting very embarrassed so we left.
As we left the party he was at the front door with half a brandy and coke in his hand and I magnanimously gave him the quarter jack, which was still three-quarters full. He took it and mockingly poured the entire contents into his glass taking a big swig, and continuing his diatribe of what constituted a man and his drinking prowess.
I have no idea what happened to him that night and neither have I ever heard his name mentioned ever again….neither was he at the wedding.
Alf Hutchison …Author “Echoes of the African Soul”
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