‘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.
2. The coming of Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon. This blue-blood wine region is Cabernet Sauvignon central, and despite the diversity of the regional offering the King of Red Grapes deserves to hog the limelight for Brand Stellenbosch. Meerlust, Kanonkop, Jordan, Simonsig, Kleine Zalze, Delaire Graff, Thelema – to name a few – all make fantastic wines that will intrigue the most discerning Cabernet Sauvignon aficionado. Collectively, and with the regional clout of Stellenbosch behind the movement, Stellenbosch Cabernet Sauvignon grouping has a real chance of garnering recognition for all concerned, including the greater South African wine industry.
3. Carina Gous takes-up the chairperson position at Wines of South Africa, and together with CEO Siobhan Thompson I don’t see two more competent people heading the generic marketing of Brand SA. Sure, challenges are huge – mainly due to the limited budget – but Gous and Thompson have years of commercial liquor industry experience counting for them. Both are exceptionally strong on research and strategy and superb managers who will no doubt see that their team delivers. And that team, by the way, includes South Africa’s exporting producers. There ain’t no free lunch, and while Wosa builds the foundations for delivering generic awareness, producers must pay for play.
4. South Africans are drinking more wine. Currently this is around 403m litres – five million litres more than 2016. While a lot of the growth is happening at the lower-end of natural sweet, box wines such as 4th Street and Delush, the marketing of these wines is focussed on the black market, and the black market alone. Even if this leads to a slight shift towards and appreciation of premium wine in this demographic, the impact on the industry could be significant. For this to happen, though, even premium producers are going to have to start following those entry level wines by focussing on the brand and the label instead of the current over-emphasis on intrinsic, i.e. terroir, grape variety, oenology, history and tradition.
5. Wine tourism is going through the roof. Over the past decade, South Africa has literally appeared from nowhere to become one of the leading destinations in the world for visitors wishing to experience the flavours, products, lifestyle, scenery, recreational offerings and gastronomic delights of a wine-making country. Of the R38bn the country’s wine industry contributes to the national GDP, over R6bn can be directly related to wine tourism. Fifteen years ago one would be lucky to find a Marie Biscuit and piece of processed cheddar cheese on a wine farm offering a limited tasting of wines. Today, many of South Africa’s leading and most creative restaurants are on wine farms where you can also get spa-treatments, enjoy horse-rides or cycle death-defying mountain ridges. Wine tourism is a success story, and South Africa is being seen as world-leader.
6. Wine of Origin Cape Town. One of the world’s great cities, leading tourist destination and recognised throughout the world. And now a wine region bearing the name of this iconic Cape Town brand. What is there not to like? Durbanville, Constantia, Philadelphia and Cape Peninsula can now bottle their wines under the WO Cape Town seal, thereby gaining riveting attraction from potential new customers who are really not that familiar with Paarl, Breedekloof and Franschhoek. Cape Town says it all, and delivers a stunning array of wine – the benefit lies not only for producers within the boundary, but for the South African industry as a whole.