Introducing “Wine of the Week” AKA Thirsty Thursday

South African Winelands

Who doesn’t get thirsty on Thursdays? You’ve managed to crawl through the majority of the work week, nailed the meetings you were dreading, and survived the voluminous injection of caffeine into your bloodstream. The weekend is so close you can practically smell your sleep-soaked pyjamas and boozy breath!  Surely we’ve earned ourselves a glass of wine (or three)?

In the immortal words of Barack Obama: YES WE CAN!

Look no further for recommendations! Every week, I showcase a wine I’m absolutely loving, which may come with a little history/science lesson on the cultivar (grape varietal) used to make it, depending on my mood. I will be posting these on my Facebook page, Wander Woman Thea and on my Instagram account (@wander_woman_thea) so go ahead and like or follow. Let’s be friends!

I’ll also chat a little about the nose (aromas) and flavour profile of the wines, which may sound enormously pretentious to those of you who are yet to discover the wonderful world of wine, but isn’t, I assure you.

I know, I know… The first time I heard someone describe a wine as smelling of “green peppers, grapefruit, and pencil shavings” I mirthfully snorted in their face. You’re joking, right?

“Apparently not,” said their withering stare.

Here’s the simple logic behind the nose of the wine and I’m using the example of green peppers here. The chemical that causes a green pepper to smell the way it does – a sort of savoury, herbaceous, and vegetal smell – is called methoxypyrazine. That very same chemical compound is found in wine, particularly in the cultivars originating from the Bordeaux region of France: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, and so on.

So while there is obviously no green pepper in your wine, you can detect this aroma because the wine contains methoxypyrazine. The same applies for a spectrum of other fruits, vegetables, substances, and inanimate objects. The chemicals or, in the case of fruits, sweet-smelling esters that give them their trademark smell are present in wine to varying degrees. This is what you’re smelling.

It takes time and repeated wine swilling, sniffing, and quaffing to begin to identify these aromas. With practice, your brain will tie up its hair, slap on a pair of reading glasses, and start cataloging these smells, building a useful library, which you can draw upon to sound really smart the next time you go wine tasting with friends.

With that brief lesson out of the way, I have but one final side note for you before I proceed to tell you about the absolutely lip-smacking, eye-closing, panty-dropping wine I’ve discovered.

Opinions are like a**holes

The selection I make each week is entirely my own and is most often based upon (1) my personal tastes, (2) the wine region I’m currently exploring, and (3) the wine I think is best suited to the season. With that said, I will do my best to present a fair variety of both red and white wines of various cultivars and blends.

You should also know that I live in South Africa so most of my recommendations will come from here. South Africa is one of the oldest “New World” winemaking regions in the world and a progenitor of wines that can and do compete with the most internationally recognised and acclaimed vintners out there. In other words, if you love wine, you’ve got to add South Africa, and particularly Cape Town, to your bucket list. The wine here is phenomenal.

Here are my weekly selections thus far:

Idiom Zinfandel (Primitivo) 2014

Wine of the Week 1

From the foothills of Sir Lowry’s Pass in the Helderberg valley comes a Zinfandel of such sexy, sultry delight, my relationship with it feels personal. This red wine bursts with ripe fruits and berries, is velvety in delivery, and has an incredible nose of fynbos and eucalyptus. Actually, this characteristic is present in most of Idiom’s wines and is a testament to the intimate relationship between the vines and a terroir dominated by fynbos and stands of Eucalyptus trees.

What I absolutely love about this Zinfandel is its exceptionally perfumed nose. If a sun-beaten bush of fynbos bonked a cherry tree and they made a baby, this is what that offspring hybrid fruit/flower would smell like. On the palate, these fynbossy, almost minty aromas unfurl into a beautiful, silky red wine that’s perfect on a cool spring evening and, in my opinion, with or without food.

Zinfandel is a moderate tannin, high acid red cultivar that’s mistakenly believed by many to originate from the United States. In fact, DNA fingerprinting has confirmed that Zinfandel is an ancient Croatian cultivar that is genetically identical to Primitivo, an Italian cultivar.

Excelsior Evanthuis Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Wine of the week

Named after a race horse reared on the estate, the Excelsior “Evanthuis” Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is a wine of exceptional weight and character. A deep inky red in colour, this wine, which hails from the Robertson Wine Valley (an approximate 2 hours’ drive from Cape Town) is big and seductive with syrupy black currants and violets on the nose, and dense fruit flavours supported by a strong tannic backbone. In other words, it’s bloody delicious and since we’re still waiting for the weather to get the memo that spring has arrived here in the Cape, it’s perfect to enjoy right now!

The cultivar itself requires little introduction. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the world’s most widely recognized red wine grape varieties. And if you thought that Napa Valley was the only region that did a good job of producing “big Cabs” think again. Our warm climate combined with the tender, loving maritime sea breezes that flow off of the Atlantic Ocean create red wines of enormous flavour, elegance, and structure.

La Bri Barrel Select Chardonnay 2016

I began my career as a professional wine drinker with a heavy preference for dry red wines. It was only with my first sip of an obnoxiously wooded Chardonnay (rich, buttery, caramel flavours) that my eyes were opened to the possibility that, hey, I could actually like this stuff! And so I began trying every wooded Chardonnay I could get my paws on. My initial obsession with heavily wooded white wines has calmed down and now I seem to have achieved equilibrium, which explains why La Bri’s Barrel Select Chardonnay 2016 makes my heart quiver.

Chardonnay from Franschhoek South Africa

This rich and rounded Chardonnay from Franschhoek (South Africa) has been crafted from grapes growing on La Bri Wine Estate’s oldest vines, which were planted in 1991, making them older than Justin Bieber. Genteel, gracious, and multi-award-winning, this fabulous Chardonnay boasts flavours of oatmeal and shortbread with a vivacious undercurrent of tangerine. It’s absolutely delicious and well-suited to any weather.

Say hello to the other side

Here in South Africa, one of the most popular white wines is Sauvignon Blanc, which, unfortunately, the public seems to enjoy extremely young. Mere months after the year’s harvest has been pressed, fermented, and bottled,  the young Sauvignon Blancs are whisked to market and sold for a trifling R30 to R80 ($2 to $5).

Marketers describe them as “zesty, fresh, tart”.

I describe them as pissy.

In fairness, not all young Sauvignon Blancs will turn your face inside out, but when you consider what a bit of age does to these wines, it’s a travesty to consume them so young. Why not wait for them to age a little? You know:  open their eyes, develop a bit of character, and sprout a pair of boobs?

The saturation of bottle store shelves and restaurant menus with young wines is precisely why I felt an aversion to white wines for so long. It was thanks to an accidental tasting of a super rich, opulent, and golden Chardonnay that I actually stopped to take stock of “the other side”. In that moment, I realised that, hey, not all white wine has to taste like your flat mate forgot to tell you that he’s been storing clean pee in the refrigerator in case of a surprise drug test at work. In fact, the world of white wine is enormously diverse and bursting with fruit, fabulous flavours, and a damn good time!

So, if you align yourself with any side of the red wine / white wine divide, I urge you to try a beautiful Chardonnay like La Bri’s Barrel Select 2016 and let it open your eyes to the other side [*insert Adele soundtrack here*]. For red wine lover’s, it’ll open your eyes to the world of white wine and for white wine lovers, it’ll open your eyes to wines that aren’t super fresh, young, and pissy.

Get with it!

Funny thirsty Thursday picture

Today’s Thursday, which means that I shall be publishing another “Wine of the  Week” post. If you haven’t already done so, get your butts on Facebook and give my page a like (Wander Woman Thea) or follow me on Instagram (@wander_woman_thea) to see what indulgent tipple this week brings. I’m all about sharing the love so drop me a message if you want me to follow you back, especially if you’re as passionate about food, travel, and wine as I am.

Let me know what wine you’re drinking today!


How to Have an Intellectual Conversation

What do politics, sports, and religion have in common? Aside from being extremely lucrative career paths for men, they are totally taboo conversational topics and you never discuss them. Ever.

Why do you think this is so?

Because conversations about topics that tend to polarise people in a powerful way always end in fights: Catholics versus Protestants, Man United Football Club versus Liverpool, Democrats versus Republicans, etc. In the case of sports, these rivalries often end in bar fights; in politics, to endless bickering and dick waving; and in religion, to war. So we just avoid them in our day-to-day conversations. It’s better that way.

Or is it?

Let’s be clear right off the bat: This is not about what qualifies as an intellectual topic of conversation. I’m not going to sit here and list off all the interesting and worldly things you should be talking about with your mates or about how to sound really smart to the lady or guy you’re on a date with. Rather, this is about the package those topics come in: the words, logic, and language you use to discuss, dissect, refute, and embrace new ideas.

That’s the key, really…new ideas.

dog at computer with glasses

Nowadays, too many people refuse to allow new ideas to percolate into their atmosphere. How the heck are we ever going to expand our mental horizons and learn about all the amazing things happening outside our bubble if we constantly keep our opinions to ourselves and refuse to listen to those of others? It’s through intellectual debate that we at least learn to appreciate how people other than ourselves think and rationalise.

This brings to mind a fairly relevant anecdote:

Many years ago, a weedy looking fellow sidled up to me on a Sydney-bound train. There were dozens of other seats available in the cabin but he chose my personal space instead and, planting his derriere in the seat directly opposite me, said: “Have you found Jesus?” My brain twitched to life. I’d heard about people like this and I’d always wanted to engage one in an intellectual battle. Since he had approached me completely unsolicited on the subject, I felt I didn’t have to censor my argument; I wasn’t talking to a dear friend whose feelings I actually cared about. The gloves were off. Let’s go!

This loyal disciple of Jesus began explaining how, in five simple steps, I could atone for all my sins and earn my place in heaven. Within the first few minutes of this business pitch / religious monologue, my brain, at first eager to engage in battle, began drifting off and instead treated me to a playback reel of the previous night’s iniquities involving a medium rare steak, two bottles of Australian craft beer, and a very beautiful woman.

The question here isn’t why I only had two beers, it’s why I would waste my time talking to a person who obviously wasn’t going to change his mind about what he believed. What’s the point of such a conversation? It’s only going to steer us towards certain social disharmony and possibly disaster.

The answer to this, my friends, is two-fold: (1) I was bored and had nothing better to do, and (2) because having conversations with people isn’t about changing their minds, it’s about expanding your own. The tendency of human beings to force our opinions and worldviews onto others really cripples our ability to have intellectual conversations and debates with each other. We’re so focused on the end goal – on converting another’s opinions to our own – that we neglect to begin these conversations in the first place. Why bother? It’s only going to end in an argument.

Bollocks, I say!

In the case of the guy on the train, there was no middle ground to be reached and once we’d established that I was going to burn in eternal hellfire for being a lady who likes the ladies, he moved on to the next sucker on the train. However, I stand by my point: I believe that we need to have intellectual debates, no matter how inflammatory, risqué, or controversial the topic. We need to learn how to handle a difference of opinion, lifestyle, culture, and worldview because we’re always going to rub shoulders with people who are different to ourselves. It’s through these eye-opening conversations that we learn to respect these differences, rather than fear them. And when we remove that virulent fear, we eliminate the prejudice that people of different ethnicities, religions, cultures, and agendas are not the same as us and are therefore to be avoided.

Issues of race are huge here in South Africa, given our tumultuous history of racial discrimination and segregation. And we live in such a guilt-stricken society that, as a white person, I’m just one poorly chosen word away from being strung up by my intestines for being racist. As such, many white people avoid conversations about race and culture, when, I believe, they are pivotal to bringing about the empathy we all need to get along better.

We – everyone – should be able to talk about race, culture, language, and ethnicity as a way to broaden our understanding of each other. The problem is, there is a pervasive misconception that talking about these things shines an unwanted spotlight on them and when you do that you’re being racist.

To compound the problem, most people simply don’t know how to conduct themselves in an intellectual debate. What begins as a civil conversation can end up in nuclear fallout faster than you can say “white privilege” and this is yet another reason why we all avoid discussing these topics.

No longer!

Stop walking around on eggshells and start learning about the peoples, societies, and cultures that colour this beautiful world we live in. Engage in captivating conversation and debate with anyone and everyone, whether it’s about sports, race, religion, culture, politics, or sex. But, before you do, you’ve got to learn the rules of engagement and learn them well. With great knowledge comes the responsibility to conduct yourself respectfully and in a mature, intellectual manner.

Rule # 1: stop trying to take over the world

Dr Evil finger in mouth

Acknowledge and respect that there is, and probably will remain, a difference of opinion or worldview after your conversation. You are not Adolf Hitler on a conquest to take over the western world, nor are you going to score points for converting people to your beliefs (even if you are a Jehovah Witness).

What you need to accept is that you’re entering into this conversation to expand your understanding and appreciation for those outside of your belief system. Whether you’re talking about sports, politics, religion, sex, or a myriad of other controversial topics, you’re doing it to become a more empathetic human being. If this is not the final prize for both people engaged in a debate and if you can see that your opponent is unwilling to parry, then bow out with grace. They’ll be far more frustrated by your disinterest in engaging them than by any volley of intellectual missiles you can send their way.

Rule # 2: mind your f***ing words, G** damn it!


Don’t swear, don’t insult, don’t undermine, and don’t make disparaging comments about your opponent’s beliefs or opinions. An intellectual debate is one that is free of hurtful, inflammatory language. It’s about using words to communicate ideas. If you find yourself getting frustrated, it can only be for one of three reasons:

ONE: You’re failing to articulate your ideas, which means you need to do a little more introspection. You need to excavate the layers of your worldview, scrutinize its various dinosaur bones and then put it all back together in a coherent order. It’s only once you deeply understand your own worldview that you can defend and substantiate it in a battle of the intellects. If you’re flummoxed by vocabulary – or your lack thereof – read more or else you handicap yourself with a deficient verbal artillery.

TWO: Your opponent is breaking Rule # 2 of having an intellectual conversation and is fighting ugly. If this is the case, point wildly over his or her shoulder and scream, “Oh my God, is that Lady Gaga?” and then run for the hills.

THREE: You’re being “that guy”. Stop it immediately and go home.

Rule # 3: acknowledge your opponent’s point

The reason arguments often end in wrathful yelling is because one person is convinced that the other isn’t listening to them or acknowledging their point of view. It doesn’t matter whether you strictly agree with your opponent or not, even if that opponent is your girlfriend, what matters is that you show them the respect of listening to and acknowledging their point.

There is but one caveat to this whole business: you’ve got to mean it. A debate can only progress if you and your opponent are constantly building upon and fleshing out your arguments. You’ve got to listen to what they say and if you disagree, say so and say why. If your opponent doesn’t feel like you’ve heard their point, they’re going to reiterate it again and again, possibly getting louder and more high-pitched with each repetition. If you sense this frustration, don’t hesitate to say, “I’ve heard you, I understand what you’re saying, and I agree to a certain extent, etc.”

Then you throw down your “BUT” harder than Nicki Minaj in her Anaconda music video.

Just remember, having a debate is not about winning. Unless, of course, you’re actually participating in some kind of competition, defending a client in court, are a politician with an agenda, or your boyfriend is being an ass again. However, if you’re engaging someone in a debate for the sake of having an interesting and thrilling conversation, stop obsessing about winning and focus on the next point.

Rule # 4: allow yourself to be educated

10 out of 10 rating.jpg

In many places, debate is regarded as sport. Some people manage to craft lucrative careers out of being professional debaters. These people usually end up in politics or courtrooms, as I previously stated. In your case, you’re utilising debate to expand your mental horizons, enjoy the thrill of intellectual stimulation, and possibly even establish a meaningful connection with the person you’re talking to. Don’t turn your conversation into a roaring soliloquy, a one-sided litany, or brain-numbing monologue. Listen to what your opponent has to say and if they reveal information you’ve never considered before, allow yourself to discovery and be educated.

I often step back from the throes of debate and exclaim, “Oh wow, I never considered that before” or “You know what? You’re right.” It’s no deceptive ploy, either. I mean it and it has a wonderful calming effect on my opponent who realizes that I’m not actually at war with them. It’ll mean a lot to your opponent if they feel they’ve actually taught you something and they’ll be far more likely to listen to what you have to say if they feel listened to.

Rule # 5: be dexterous and parry with your partner

funny sword fight.jpg

Repeating the same point of view over and over again will not increase your chances of being heard. If your opponent doesn’t yield to your reasoning, try a different tack and approach the debate from a different angle, using different reasoning. Be dexterous and think on your feet. Through all of this, however, you’ve got to establish the root of the disagreement and if there is no common ground to be found – as will frequently be the case – move on. Agree to disagree or if that fails, order another drink and be on your merry way.

I once locked swords with a man, let’s call him John, over issues of sexuality. John masqueraded as devoutly Christian and his tired point was that being gay is against God’s will. It didn’t take me long to realise we would never get anywhere with any kind of debate. John didn’t feel strongly about homosexuality because of his faith; his feelings were motivated by personal prejudice and bigotry. And so, I pivoted my point to highlight that fact. After all, if he cared that much about sinning, he wouldn’t have been pounding back tequila at a seedy bar and hitting shamelessly on women. His solid gold retort perfectly highlighted my point: “Being gay is disgusting.”

Thereafter, I would have sooner shared genitals with a 15th Century bar wench than the table I was sitting at with that vapid twit, so I wandered off to the bar and ordered a cranberry and vodka. I then kissed a girl and liked it.

So you see, try to change your footing and if there is no common ground to be found, agree to disagree and move on.

Rule # 6: realize when to quit

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I had to walk away from my debate with John because I realised it was time to quit. And I’ll tell you this: it is exceptionally difficult to find people who will entertain a roaring debate without wanting to garrote you at its crescendo. The people who are smart, objective, and confident enough in their opinions to do so are very few and far between, so if you sense the conversation going south (and not in a sexy way), back off. If your opponent starts getting sensitive, uncomfortable, or even aggressive, change the subject or walk away. Realise when to quit and be civilised and conciliatory about it.

Class dismissed: your take-home message

Most of the science-themed topics I cover in my book, Why? Because Science! aren’t exactly inflammatory and won’t get you withering looks from the person you’re trying to engage. Some of them, however, will. Scientology, religion, evolution, homosexuality, astrology, and the existence of a spiritual realm are all subjects that many people feel passionate about and as good as passion is in the bedroom, it too often trips up a civilised conversation, sending it south quicker than the Rand after President Jacob Zuma fires another finance minister. This is where tact and the afore-mentioned rules of intellectual debate should serve you well.

This doesn’t guarantee that your opponent will employ the same degree of diplomacy. In fact, in all likelihood, you’ll find it exceedingly difficult to find people willing to discuss such provocative and potentially incendiary subjects. However, the more you broach these subjects and the better you handle these conversations, the more willing people will become to engage in intellectual debate. Like a case of the clap in a fraternity house, this willingness can spread from one person to the next, infecting the world with a sharper appetite for debate, a higher threshold of tolerance, and a healthier sense of humour.

It’s in your power to combat ignorance. Do it responsibly, compassionately, and with sweeping conversations about the world in all its microscopic and macroscopic beauty.


If you enjoyed this read, you’ll love the book Why? Because Science! Now for only $3.41 on Amazon. Go and get you some!

Get the WBS Book FREE Today!

One does not simply give away free shit.png

From midnight Pacific Standard Time on December 4th to 8th, I’ll be running a free promotion for my book Why? Because Science! That means you can go to Amazon and download your electronic copy FOR FREE. Click on the following link if you wanna get you some:

Heck yeah, I want a free copy!

What’s the catch?

Whoever said the best things in life are free was onto something. But whereas love costs you your sanity, this book is completely free; no ifs or buts, no terms or conditions, and  no catch. Just download it, read it, and if you find yourself laughing, learning something, and falling in love with science just a little bit more then leave a review; maybe share the link to your Facebook page and convince your friends to do the same.

The aim of the promotion is to spread the word about Why? Because Science! and to show Amazon that this book deserves a spot near the top of its best-sellers list for books in the science category. With that kind of exposure I can fund my ambitions to take over the world, mooohahahahaha! Failing that, I can pay my Internet bill.

So, go forth and get your very own FREE copy of Why? Because Science! (the promotion will be running from today to Friday 8th December). And if you enjoy it, please let me (and the world) know all about it!

Happy reading!

‘Why? Because Science!’ – an interview with science author Thea Beckman

It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. People typically care only about advancing their own interests and kindness from strangers is an anomaly of such rarity that when it does happen we find ourselves searching for the T&Cs. This is one of those rare cases. A stranger living on the other side of the world stepped into my bubble and offered to do something truly great for me and this blog is it: my first ever interview as an author and as an anything, really.

Matthew Wright, you’ve done so much more for me than a girl could ever have hoped for and I sincerely appreciate it. Matthew has published an incredible number of books on New Zealand history and science and has officially moved from virtual acquaintance to role model. Thanks again for this and to the rest of you: enjoy!

Matthew Wright

Long-time readers of this blog know I’m a huge enthusiast for explaining science and a cheerleader for everybody on the same gig. Today I’m interviewing author and science writer Thea Beckman, who’s just released her first book – Why? Because Science!

Her blog of the same name is a wonderful blend of cool science and sharp humour (don’t drink coffee while reading. I regularly snorted mine).

Matthew: Hi Thea, I figured you’d write a full-length science book, sooner or later. Congratulations! You’ve subtitled it: ‘The little book of bedtime science that unravels life, the universe, and the occasional pair of underpants’. Sounds intriguing. Also a bit awkward if you’re wearing the underpants at the time and the loose thread got caught on something, and don’t notice until you’ve got 100 metres of cotton behind you. Actually that describes writing. Ahem. So tell me about the book – what science does…

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“Why? Because Science!” is LIVE!

Ladies and gentlemen, it gives me orgasmic pleasure to announce the grand arrival of my book, “Why? Because Science!” It drops TODAY on Amazon so click on the link below and get your electronic copy!

Why Because Science book

It would also be super awesome if you could help me promote this by sharing the link to your social media, recommending the book to friends, leaving a review on Amazon, and forcing it upon family members for Christmas. If this is going to be a success, I’m going to need all the help I can get from you, my blog family. And if you do help to promote the book on social media, please tag my Facebook page @whybecausescience in your comment, status, share, etc!

I’d really appreciate it. Happy reading, everyone!

Amazon: Why? Because Science book