While doing some exhaustive research so as to be of service to the informed readers of this publication, it was quite amazing to see how little has been written, spoken and sung about South African Merlot wine. There are reams of missives on Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc and little-known, trendy bottles made from weird grapes like Verdelho and Palomino, but the Merlot voices are largely silent.
No wood, no good. This phrase was not coined by Elizabeth Taylor or Lady Gaga, rather by the late Graham Beck who abruptly dismissed any Chardonnay that had avoided some face-time with a maturation barrel.
An increase in sand mining in the Paardeberg area, Swartland, might have a detrimental effect on wine tourism and South Africa’s reputation as a producer of top quality wines.
It is the newest gig in town, shake an old oak tree in the winelands and nine so-called social media experts fall out of it, each claiming to drive your winery or brand into the stratosphere. No, these folk aren’t all created equal. This is my check-list when deciding on one to use:
Merlot outsells all other single red wine varieties in South Africa, yet it is given a wide berth by the pundits. For popularity among the general public and commercial success are not deemed being critically hip, nor trendy. To misquote the late great Yogi Berra: who wants to encourage people to drink something everybody else is drinking?
Anton Smuts from Robertson is the new chairman of VinPro, the organisation representing South Africa’s wine producers. WineGoggle went to have a drink and a chat with the new guy in the familiar old hot-seat.
Let’s not beat about the bush, it is about survival. And the only way the South African wine industry is going to survive is by once and for all finding ways to unlock value.
I’ve always dreamt of a tall, gangly blonde looking down at me and utterings words to the tune of “oh, just eat it like a mielie”. But this she did, smiling before turning around to head for the kitchen leaving me with a still heart and a deep-fried pig’s tail in my hand.
The most important cog in the wheel of wine, is that consumer-thing. This sentient being is more difficult to read than a short-term insurance contract written in Urdu and its whims, wants and tastes are about as predictable as the outcome of a debate on fee-structures on the UCT campus.
Media Release on Nedbank VinPro Information Day
The South African wine industry is going through some tough times, but sustainable growth is on the cards. What’s needed is a clear game plan, a stronger domestic market focus, ingenious marketing and a collective drive towards higher price points.
De Wetshof Estate in Robertson welcomed a new winemaker at the beginning of the year with Danie Morkel joining the team of this premier wine farm known for its range of site-specific Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and other wines. A BSc graduate in Oenology and Viticulture from the University of Stellenbosch, Danie also holds an MBA from the same institution and has extensive wine-making experience in South Africa, France and Australia.
He has previously worked for, among others, Nederburg as assistant white wine maker as well as at Delheim and Helderberg Winery in Stellenbosch. In France Danie spent the 2003 season at Domaine du Vieux Telegraphe in the Rhône while also notching up experience at Tatachilla Winery in McLaren Vale and Cape Jaffa Wines, both in South Australia.
Danie says that the opportunity to work at De Wetshof is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “The estate’s reputation extends to all corners of the wine world, and nobody talks seriously about South African Chardonnay without mentioning De Wetshof and the De Wet family,” he says.
“I am a fervent follower of the ethos of vineyard-specific wine-making, and am extremely excited to be involved with an established team in creating De Wetshof’s range of individual terroir-driven wines.”
Hitting the ground running and getting into the 2017 harvest, Danie has had time to gain a few lasting impressions.
“The way the De Wet family work together for their brand underscores the important role family wine farms can play,” he says. “The other thing about De Wetshof is that everything on the farm has been thought through: from the way the vines are planted, trellised and wired to general cellar layout and equipment. It is a meticulous operation from vineyard to the very last steps of bottling and it is a privilege to join this team.”
When not in the cellar, Danie can be found as close to the sea as possible with surfing and fishing his two pursuits of choice.
“Now that I am close to the south Cape coast, hopefully my fishing will provide enough kabeljou or yellow-tail to complement the fantastic Chardonnays from my new employer,” he says.