Runner-up SA Young Wine Writers Competition – DAISY KNOWLESDecember 4, 2014
New veritas young wine writer to take industry by stormMarch 10, 2015
The South African Wine Industry after 20 years of Democracy: An Overview of What Happened and with Special Reference to how we can Kick Start the Stagnant Local Market.
In recent times, 20 years of democracy has been synonymous with a now famous phrase “A Good Story to tell” and one would not be doing the wine industry justice by not associating it with this phrase. The wine Industry has a good Story to tell, we have covered strides in our fledgling democracy that a lot of countries have not been able to achieve in such a short period of time.
We owe this to a rare strand of DNA that runs through every South African to a concept that our late President Dr. Nelson Mandela stood for, that of being a Rainbow Nation. We have seen women take their place in what was once a male dominated industry. From Norma Ratcliffe, First Lady of South African wine to Ntsiki Biyela being the first black lady winemaker to win Gold at Michelangelo international Awards in 2006. From Natashia Williams and Unathi Matshongo at Nederburg to Kiara Scott, a final year cellar-technology student at Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute who can’t wait to join this vibrant industry.
Transformation has taken centre stage in the industry where farmworkers have turned to co-owners of farms. Not only as a form of redress for previous government’s actions, but rather as a mechanism to sustain the wine industry. We have also seen a rise in intake of general workers into AgriSETA and SKOP courses offered by EKOV. The Western Cape Government Department of Agriculture has thrown its weight with the annual Burgundy Exchange Programme which has exposed workers to the French wine industry in a fully funded excursion.
This surely is a good story to tell, but why are our local wine sales not reflecting on this story. With online shopping as “the thing” to do, we see the middle class spending most of their time shopping online. Even big retail stores, that stock most of our wine have taken the route of delivering basic groceries to online buyers. Is the wine industry still rooted in its traditional clientele and not taking advantage of the e-generation? With the current Twitter, Facebook and Instagram generation, I feel it is a viable thing to do.
This takes me back to 2012 as a winemaker intern at Groot Constantia, on our Gugulethu Wine Festival stand, serving one of the festival goers with our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc. I explained in depth the winemaking process and the aromatics of the wine. After “nosing” and tasting the wine he exclaimed “This is a lovely Shiraz, I think I must get a case of this”. For the first time in 5 years, I had a brief flashback of a 20 year old Sandile Mkhwanazi. In a class of 28 students mostly exposed to the wine industry, going on about asparagus, green cut grass and tropical aromas through a tasting session at University.
Maybe I also tasted “Shiraz” instead of Sauvignon Blanc that day, just maybe. At least I got to rectify this guy’s mistake but this means the wine industry has to still cover the basics of wine education. We are in the most fortunate position of having the most diverse population in the world. If Proudly South African is a huge brand, why is Pinotage a South African cultivar not a trending subject on Twitter and Facebook?
Winemaking is like playing rugby. The viticulture actions relate to the scrums, rucks, mauls and the line-outs. A try is scored once good quality grapes are delivered to the cellar, and then it is up to the winemaker to make the conversion and ensure maximum points by making a good wine. The South African Wine Industry is probably winning the game, but winning this game with a bonus try would make it even better, and that will come if we educate locals about our wine.
Why must we buy Moet & Chardon, when Graham Beck’s Cuvee Clive is in the same class for a third of the price? Why Veuve Clicqout when Villiera Brut or Simonsig Kaapse Vonkel is as great? The French educate and convince the world that they are the best. We have world class winemaker’s and maybe it’s time we play a role in educating our people about the product and convince them why they should drink our wine. In the words of Leonardo Da Vinci “The discovery of a good wine is increasingly better for mankind than the discovery of a new star”. South Africans have to go through a journey of discovering good wine, drink good wine, not labels and maybe our local wine sales will not be driven by logic but rather emotions as that is a universal language.