We’ve barely begun with the new year and ripples of excitement and optimism are being felt towards the future of South African wine. Among countless predictions, these caught my eye:
New Intelligence at Platter’s
The 2024 Platter’s Guide to South African Wine is for the first time published with the use of computer-programmed artificial intelligence (AI). Eschewing the need for actual tasters and writers of tasting notes, each wine will be judged by AI, with Platter’s publishers merely having to insert the name and vintage of a certain wine, plus the name of a wine judge. AI will then use the internet universe to generate a star-rating for the wine in question based on ratings and accolades already accrued by that wine and stored in the cyber-world, accompanied by the stylistic tone of the wine judge wishing to be attached to said Platter’s-rating.
For example, AI was asked to write an appraisal of Kanonkop Pinotage 2001, as judged by esteemed Platter’s taster Angela Lloyd. The result:
The Kanonkop Pinotage is a beautifully crafted wine with an intense bouquet of dark fruit and hints of smoke. On the palate, it is full-bodied with a rich, velvety texture and a long, satisfying finish. The flavours are a balance of ripe black cherry and plum, with subtle notes of vanilla and spice. The tannins are firm yet elegant, making this wine a perfect pairing for grilled meats or hearty stews.
Police Minister Champions Cape Wine
Newly converted wine aficionado Bheki Cele, who also swans as South African Minister of Police, bans the practice of restaurants charging wineries listing-fees for having their wines listed at restaurants. Having completed his Introduction to South African Wine module at the Cape Wine Academy and becoming enthralled with all aspects of wine, Cele turns into a crusader for the splendours of his country’s vinous offering.
Besides banning restaurants from charging listing-fees to wine producers, Cele takes charge of a government campaign to ensure that wine is seen as a symbol of responsible alcohol consumption, unlike beer, spirits and cider.
This sees Cele pushing through a new bill in parliament limiting patrons of taverns, bar and restaurants to a maximum of three beers or ciders per visit, or two single tots of spirits. For the rest, customers are legally allowed to purchase and consume as much wine as he or she wants, provided the wine is sold in a glass bottle and has the relevant grape cultivars, or blend of cultivars, displayed on the label. As a result of this proactive furthering of the interests of Cape wine, Cele is unanimously announced as the South African Wine Legend of the Year at the annual industry event held at Groot Constantia, becoming the first Zulu to receive this illustrious award.
Now a wine expert himself, Cele goes on to captain the South African Wine Tasting team at the annual International Challenge held in Bordeaux, taking the South Africans to victory by blindly and correctly spotting a Cyprian Cabernet Franc in a line-up of Scandinavian Merlot wines.
Pinotage and the Royal
South African Pinotage goes stratospheric after the second memoir written by Prince Harry, called Me, Me and I, details him seducing Meghan Markle in the Botswana bush while sharing a bottle of Pinotage and two sticks of organic biltong in a tent next to the Okavango swamps. In a remarkably frank account of their tryst – prior to marrying – Harry writes that “my senses were being wakened and sent into new levels of awareness, of being alive, and I knew Meghan’s were too. The gruff vocal groans of the hippopotamus, that scent of sun-soaked marshland and the cool coaxing breeze of night air, I felt renewed, virginal and alert and knew I had to take her. Now. Meghan looked at me, her lips wet with Pinotage she had just sipped, of which I was jealous as I wish she was sipping me, and I had never wanted to be a glass of Pinotage so much in my life.”
With sales of Me, Me and I doubling those of Prince Harry’s 2023 book Spare and the aforementioned romantic scene repeated throughout the international media, Pinotage becomes the most talked-about wine in the world, with demand surpassing supply threefold.
As a result, Prince Harry is made a member of the South African Pinotage Association and sees Pinotage pioneer Beyers Truter releasing a single-vineyard wine in the Prince’s honour called ‘Roes is Koning’.
Winning with Dark Wines
South Africa leads with a new wine style that takes the world by storm. Known as Dark Wines, these are wines produced without the use of electricity at any stage of the production process and, as many things in history have done, show that adversity can lead to invention.
The Dark Wine category began with copious cuts in South Africa’s electricity supply affecting winemakers during the harvest season of 2023. Wineries not having access to generators were forced to crush grapes manually, pump juice by hand and seek innovative ways of cooling juice and young wine without any mechanical intervention.
This resulted in wines of notable points of differentiation in flavour profiles, one critic writing that “these are wines with a sense of authenticity, a visceral purity in their showing the consummation of the ancient relationship between the sweat, toil and dreams of humans and the grapes growing on the earth-gripped vines”.
The advent of Dark Wines sends ripples through the global wine industry as these products find tremendous favour from climate activists, fans of goth-music and Pink Floyd groupies who this year celebrate the 50th anniversary of their seminal album Darkside of the Moon.
No darkness in the future, though, which is brighter than DayGlo….Roll on 2023.
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