Administrative Mess with SA Wine Regions

Old habits die hard. And if they don’t want to, best one puts them out of their misery with a quick, decisive whack to the head.

A whole thesis of moaning and ridiculing can be committed on the way in which the relevant authorities have carved-up South Africa’s wine regions and decided which parcels of land are designated under various official banners. Some of these will confuse a fourth-grade geography pupil, but it is what it is.

However, when strong regional brands are concerned and where South African wine ridicules itself in the eyes of anybody interested in our country’s wine – locally as well as internationally – the dimmer side of wine officialdom has to be noted.

Recently my indicators were switched on by a very nifty infographic from the Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group. This communication indicated that Stellenbosch has the most turf under Sauvignon Blanc vineyards, some 27%. Of course, my bull-shit detector went on immediately. Stellenbosch produces fine Sauvignon Blanc, but stating the region being the country’s most heavily populated in terms of this variety’s vines is a bit of a stretch.

A quick look down the infographic indicated where the misinformation lies, a bit of inconceivable stupidity I thought the industry had gotten rid of with together with KWV quotas, grey shoes at wine shows and the infamous dop system. For in terms of wine production districts, the wine bodies still corral Stellenbosch together with Durbanville and Constantia.

Far-fetched as it may sound, the South African Wine Industry Systems (Sawis) lists the country’s wine producing areas as follows: Northern Cape, Olifant’s River, Swartland, Little Karoo, Paarl, Robertson, Stellenbosch, Worcester, Breedekloof and Cape South Coast. Obviously one can pick this apart, such as there being no Franschhoek -this falls under Paarl.

But it is the appearance of Stellenbosch officially representing Durbanville and Contantia that underscores this ludicrous system to the fullest. Constantia is, arguably, South Africa’s most famous regional brand name, with Durbanville itself being an established power-house in terms of area under vine and wine quality. So, to have these two regions disappear under the very individual Stellenbosch umbrella, probably for ease of administration and because this is how the KWV once wanted the landscape to look, is a jarring error and an embarrassment.

Take that aforementioned infographic from the Sauvignon Blanc producers, which has probably been viewed around the world by those interested in South Africa wine. The information presented there is faulty and incorrect, and further hazes the understanding of the Cape winelands at the very time the industry is trying to have the country seen as a patchwork of terroir individuality.

I know for a fact that this situation has been queried with Sawis and Vinpro, the producers organisation. Yet to date no attempts have been made by the authorities to address these stark and glaring misrepresentations.

If I had a hammer……

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2 thoughts on “Administrative Mess with SA Wine Regions

  1. Hi Emile, As you know, I hold you in very high respect. Just one comment – people like the late Godfrey de Bruyn – work very hard and diligently to create our Wine of Origin System. Just ask your Mother. Our wine industry was a totally different kettle of fish in those days. We should award some today’s excellence on those days. The Industry Leaders (despite any weaknesses) created and established what is today’s successes. Sure, there were many weaknesses, BUT, they also establish what was to become today’s achievements. I DO NOT want to be negative. I think you wrote an excellent article. I just wanted to weep in my glass of MCC (thanks to Achim and family) for days long gone and their achievements. Thanks for your contribution to our beloved wines and its people.

  2. ps. Dis so koud en nat in die Kaap, dat jy maar ‘n bottle van Ann de Doorn se Dubbel Goud (Veritas) moet oopmaak.
    Seënwense van huis-tot-huis. Johann

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