South African wine exports were down 23% for the year to December 2019, a decrease of 100m litres on 2018. Writing on Netwerk 24, Nellie Brand-Jonker says South Africa exported 319.8m litres of wine in 2019, the lowest volume of wine the country has exported in more than a decade. In 2018 wine exports dropped 6% over the previous year.
It didn’t take long for a bit of guilt-laden virtue-signalling to get a hold of certain sectors of the wine writing community. With climate change the overriding force in the determination of how we should conduct ourselves in the world – quite rightly so, I might add – certain wine commentators feel it their duty to vocally announce the new awe-inspiring role they are playing in the battle against elements perceived to be destroying the ecology of Planet Earth.
The crystal ball has been gazed into. My personal witch-doctor cast his impressive selection of dry mammal bones, the arrangement of their falling allowing vast insights both spiritual and practical. And hundreds of blogs, tweets and perceptively penned missives, anticipating what 2020 shall hold for the wine industry, have been read. Here’s what we are in for, amigos:
With my sherry consumption taking its annual steep upward-curve during the Season of Goodwill, I was reminded of the quaint story outlining the manner in which sherry-making began in South Africa. It involves a thing called flor and a handkerchief. And a Cape wine legend by the name of Charlie Niehaus, a brilliant oenologist known for his scientific approach to wine-making and the guy who also made Roodeberg for the KWV.
There were hundreds of bottles opened and drunk this year. Some were consumed in the company of bevies of energetic like-minded feasters on life. Other bottles were scrutinised in the company of true aficionados, anoraks and influential commentators upon whose every word of vinous intelligence I hung like an abalone to a piece of mossy rock.
In the co-operative wine cellar we trust. Or should trust. Co-operatives are the heartbeat of the South Africa wine industry, some would say the unsung heroes. They produce large volumes of wine, most are situated in locations deemed untrendy by commentators on matters vinous and do not have the sex appeal of single estates or irreverent fashionable brand of hot, hip and happening kind.
A visit to a seaside hotel to devour dead squid is a holistic experience affecting diverse senses of the physical and spiritual kind. Especially if said hotel is the famous Chapmans Peak one at the end of Hout Bay, a congenial building offering an atmosphere that is both cosy and airy. As well as having a tremendous view over the blue bay onto that vast tilted rock that looks like an Afro-Centric and bulkier version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
The wine industry tends to change trends and fashions about as regularly as a teenager revamps its Instagram profile, but this one isn’t going anywhere. It’s the one about the South African winelands’ old vine project, conserving decades-old vineyards sunk into the country’s ancient soils, often in far-flung places up on the West Coast and the Citrusdal Mountains. The story is of the vines and their evocative regional identity complemented by the intriguing profiles of the wines made from them; wines bottled and crafted by red-blooded South Africans wanting to express the land, its old vineyards and the provenance of the country’s vinous legacy in a bottle. And to pour it for the world with a straight backbone, rigid with pride.
Good content like this takes time and effort to create. But it is our pleasure, plus all the freebies and nice people we get to meet make up for it. Cheers!
Wine in a can is not a new thing, as anyone growing-up in Earl’s Court in the 1970’s can attest to – two-pint cans of rough Australian wine was all the rage, and you still had to puncture the pouring holes in yourself with one of those ubiquitous beer openers. Pull-open cans with tabs had yet to be invented, despite Mankind already having made it to the moon.
The trend did not last. Poor quality tin made the wine taste like sweaty pennies after a few months in tin. A lack of science in the wine-making process saw the stuff canned overly sulphured and as unstable as ’70s rock-groupie on bad acid.
With more wine competitions taking place than ever, opinions on the merits and value of these awards events have never been as divided. Danielle le Roux (photo) from the Institute of Cape Wine Masters and a winemaker with 20 years’ experience says that the positives outweigh the negatives.
Just when I think the debates surrounding wine awards, scores and competitions are reaching saturation point, the hyperbole intensifies. Especially in this era of constant digital communication on wine – which is mostly a positive – the talk on the nature and relevance of ratings and wine judging is more frenetic than ever.