The Western Cape is one of the most important wine producing regions in the world, but ironically Cape Town is a little short on good wine venues that dedicate themselves to the craft of wine curation. Tucked away, over the road from St Stephen’s on Heritage Square, you will find a discrete wine chapel called Publik – a wine bar that’s doing just that.
We asked David Cope, Publik’s village vicar of wine, a few questions about his parish and the broader Cape Town movement towards quality food and drink.
What’s the idea behind Publik?
To have fun with wine! But seriously: to introduce wine lovers to the lesser known producers and varietals they wouldn’t usually try in a place they can enjoy these wines without any sort of wine snobbery.
What kind of wine am I likely to enjoy at Publik?
We look for wines that are made as naturally as possible and reflect the wine, not a winemaker’s treatment of it. This means natural fermentation, no added shit (winemakers add a lot of stuff they don’t tell you about) and with no/minimal use of new oak. Usually this means buying from smaller, independent producers.
Do you drink your own stock? What in particular?
Always! I wouldn’t sell anything I wouldn’t happily drink, but I have a soft spot for unusual varietals, so things like the Blackwater Carignan and Mount Abora ‘Saffraan’ Cinsault are favourites.
What is the most memorable South African wine you can remember?
I drank a bottle of 1984 Rustenberg Red a few years back that was pretty special. And any time I get to drink Vin de Constance is also a treat.
What can wine possibly learn from craft beer?
Just enjoy the stuff. You don’t need to describe a beer to enjoy it. Also, craft beer understands packaging is as important as product, that people want an easy connection and not a long historical story, and that like-minded producers should stick together and help each other. Craft beer is a movement, but wine has no comparative movement as yet.
What are the big trends in bars and restaurants and going out at night places?
I don’t get out as much now that I’m running my own spot! But a definite trend (in Cape Town) for artisan products, be it beer, wine or food, and supporting local producers.
What do you find exciting right now about South African wine?
The number of young winemakers embracing a natural, fresher, leaner style of wine rather than trying to make a local version of something foreign.
Other than Publik Wine Bar – what two other places should we be checking out right now that blow you away in Cape Town?
I’m a big fan of The House of Machines, specifically what they’re doing with their old-school style cocktails. And Hallelujah is pretty awesome as a food or drinks spot; the owner has a way with interiors like nobody else.
Publik is open Monday – Friday, 4pm – 10pm.
81 Church Street (btw Bree & Buitengracht), Cape Town, 8001 – over the road from St Stephen’s Church on Heritage Square.
In addition: Check out our wine reviews that we’re slowly building up.