Having recently flown half-way around the world – literally – it was astounding to see the presence of one specific South African wine label at every stop. From Cape Town International, the frenetic bazaar-like space of Dubai Airport all the way to Auckland, New Zealand a bottle bearing a white label with the words The Chocolate Block was encountered in nearly every wine store.
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2015 has become the first South African wine to receive 100pts in the annual report on the South African wine industry by respected British wine judge, journalist and critic Tim Atkin MW. For his seventh South African report, which has just been released, Atkin tasted 1 986 wines from throughout the country, with Kanonkop’s iconic Bordeaux-style blend achieving the highest score.
The animal is there, the question being what are you going to do about it? At a monumental Pinotage tasting held in the Braemar domain of Anthony and Olive Hamilton Russell, a gathering of wine-makers, insightful marketers and lonely scribes assessed a line-up of wines drawn from a broad spectrum. Some familiar Pinotages were allowed in among a collection dominated by offerings from cooler and far-flung regions, signed-off by wine-makers who might be termed as being non-traditionally associated with South Africa’s home-grown red grape.
Quietly, the new category of Super Pinotages is causing a ripple through the incoming tide of things offered by Brand South Africa. Not everyone – present company excluded – is convinced that Pinotage can bear the torch as the nation’s grape: that sought-after focused ray of light, in clarity unmatched by any wine country, that cuts through the wad of global vinous offerings and makes universal consumers sit up and say, “Oh, that is South Africa in a glass, and we all like it. What a great piece of the wine world that neck of the woods must be.”
‘Tis the season to be Jolly for South African wine.
1. Abrie Beeslaar from Kanonkop was named International Winemaker of the Year at the IWSC in London – for the third time. Not only does this confirm Abrie’s undeniable talents as a great winemaker, but also recognises the world-class status of South Africa’s wines, and specifically Kanonkop. On the other hand, having been handed this recognition so many times, it is unfortunate the country is still struggling to claim an image of premier quality deserving high prices.
The one thing I dread about attending any formal wine industry discussion is that corny cliché of “South African wines are too cheap” and producers must therefore simply go ahead and raise their prices. Just like those who encourage the eradication of “boring commercial” grape varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon and propose replacing them with trendy Trousseau, Cinsault and Verdelho, the urge to raise price is usually made by folk without any real economic dependence on or general clue of the business side of the wine industry.
There’s been a lot of talk about the recorking of old South African wines currently being undertaken by Joaquim Sá of Amorim Cork, but for me the real revelation was the contents of those bottles. It was, indeed, rivetingly exciting watching Jean Vincent Ridon, a world-leader in cork-extraction, prying open the dust-covered antiquities with surgical-like precision and refined expertise.
I was wondering when someone in South Africa was going to do the recorking of older vintages, as the case is in Europe, Australia and America. Kanonkop the first, and not the last. Check out their press-release:
In a bid to assist loyal customers to enjoy and keep its premier wines for longer, Kanonkop Wine Estate has introduced a recorking service for owners of older vintages. The first Kanonkop Recorking Clinic is to be held in Johannesburg on 12 October, and 22 November on Kanonkop Estate where proprietor Johann Krige and cellarmaster Abrie Beeslaar will personally oversee the recorking of bottles dating back to the 2005 vintage and older.
Cape Town might be synonymous with the growing of wine grapes and drinking of the fermented juice since 1659, but the city had to wait until this year to get its own demarcated wine district. In May the South African wine authorities accepted a proposal from the wine areas of Constantia and Durbanville, both a one-winged seagull’s fly from the City Centre, to establish a Wine of Origin Cape Town district. This means that the wine folk of Constantia and Durbanville will be able to officially use the name of the Mother City on their wine bottles.
Going through the reading matter about Cape Town’s new wine district, I was surprised at how relatively simple it all sounded. Producers from Constantia and Durbanville get an idea. Apply to the Wine and Spirits Board’s Demarcation Committee to check out the possibility of creating a district based on the regional, geographic similarities between Constantia and Durbanville. Committee approves it after detailed research. The new district gets advertised for objections. None. And hey presto, Wine of Origin Cape Town is born.