A recent New York Times article headline declared: “eating something really good has a humbling effect.”
South Africa has been alive with possibility since the dawn of democracy. The lifting of trade restrictions and sanctions post 1990 had twofold repercussions.
Firstly, international brands entered the local market and vied for the affections of South Africa’s wine-loving public. Secondly, South African wine found its way back onto the vast seas that brought it home in the 1600’s in a bold attempt to find its way into international homes and cellars.
The entry of international wine varietals and brands into local homes in 1994 encouraged South African winemakers to travel to international markets and gumboot dance tannin-for-tannin with their counterparts abroad.
As a result, over 420 million litres of South African wine was exported in 2015.
In order to play on the same field as competing emerging market producers – such as Argentian Malbec and Australian Riesling – South Africa’s winemakers have had to find their own flair.
Respected connoisseurs like Will Lyons and Tim Atkins have labelled wines grown, harvested and bottled in South Africa ‘great value’, and the quality of local libations is near impossible to question.
South African winemakers field a star team on a deep bench, however, at the current exchange rate and trade price, the high quality export product continues to be perceived as cheap and cheerful to the Northern hemisphere.
Analjit Singh, the founder Chairman of Max India Limited and the Chairman of the Leeu Collection and Mullineux Wines imparted: “we cannot do everything well, so we have to focus on what we do best.”
The South African wine industry’s growth in contribution to the country’s GDP has been over 10% annually since 2003. In an attempt to do its best, the South African wine industry has often overachieved.
The industry has successfully seduced gourmands, created over 300 000 jobs and has consistently won international prizes during blind tastings. The effect of the South African wine industry’s sublime and consistent growth has been humbling to spectate.
The long walk to international relevance has been a tightrope of nervous steps.
From the pioneering attempts of individual winemakers, to the collective contributions of regions and organisations – South Africa is walking into a fierce new era in global wine.
At the 2016 unveiling of Prescient’s Cabernet Sauvignon Report, Wine Mag’s Jacqueline Lahoud proferred: “it’s an exciting time to be in wine right now.”
Chardonnay pioneer, Peter Finlayson achieved an award-winning 90 points in the 2016 Wine Mag Prescient Chardonnay for Bouchard Finlayson’s Missionvale 2014.
South African wine has leaned on both the wisdom of experience as well as the rambunctious nature of youth.
The Cape Wine Makers Guild raised over R1,2 million in their 2016 auction for the Protegee Program. Funds raised go towards the training and education of young winemakers, who are often from previously underprivileged backgrounds. Praisy Dhlamini, who currently firsts as the assistant red winemaker at Zonnebloem graduated at Elsenburg before working under the tutelage of some of the Guild’s esteemed members.
South African wines are making inroads both in Africa and abroad. Emerging winemaker Duncan Savage revealed his prowess in Savage Red, a namesake that wowed and wooed many a Londoner at the 2016 Intrepid wine show. Young Winemaker, Natasha Boks was among the winemaking team that won Nederburg the coveted Platter’s 2017 ‘Winery of the Year’. Their counterpart, Francois Haasbroek’s sublime wine was recently enjoyed at a dinner attended by some of Ghana and Nigeria’s most influential bloggers and media personalities at a private dinner at The Saxon Hotel in Johannesburg.
Hartenberg, a South African marvel manned by winemaker Carl Schultz produces export-quality Shiraz that is warmly welcomed into homes and restaurants throughout Europe. In 1987, proprietor, Ken McKenzie’s vision was to produce exceptional red wines at Hartenberg and his humble vision has been achieved by replanting to specific sites of premium varietals, developing the farm’s production facilities, and uplifting the farm’s employees through knowledge and skills.
Bosman Family wines, produced in Wellington as well as the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley encapsulate the intrepid heart of South African Wines. Many of the 260 workers at Bosman are 5th generation families who have an endearing passion for South African wine. 26% of the business is owned by the Adama Workers Trust, which consists of these workers.
South African wines are more than merely cheap and cheerful South Africa is Africa’s provocative vineyard, and the world is our oyster.