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South African wine trends

Geir Salvesen answers some questions about South African wines.

geir og trude portrett Geir.jpg


What are the latest trends in South Africa regarding wine making?  Can one see a movement towards any specific type of wine style?

Answer: There are in general two new trends. One is a diversification of cultivars. Wineries are planting and producing new and exciting varieties. The other is a more natural wine trend with less heavily oaked wines.

What are your thoughts when it comes to oak treatment. Is South Africa moving towards «lighter» wines?

Answer: Wine makers put more thought into the use of oak barrels these days. It does not necessarily mean that the wines themselves become much lighter, but they become cleaner and fruitier. And «clean» is a good word.

What are your thoughts regarding the new trend towards «natural/unsulphured» wines?

Answer: There is always room for experimenting with less sulphur and less interference in wine making. But I am against wines that are obviously hijacked by wine faults, like Brettanomyces and «mousy» smells. Some producers can achieve a more closer-to-the-grape wine with their actions. But clarity and cleanliness are still good words in my head.


What grapes do you think are the best suitable ones for South Africa? How has this scene changed over the last 10 years?

Answer: The best suitable cultivars are some that are here already. Like Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, some Sauvignon Blancs, but not all. Semillon. Grenache Blanc also. On the red side we have Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Grenache Noir and Pinot Noir. The major change has been the plantings of Pinot Noir in Hemel-en-Aarde. But more exciting will be new plantings of Assyrtiko (from Greece), Tempranillo and Nerello Mascalese.


In what way do you think South Africa has matured as a wine country over the past 10 years?

Answer: The evolution into better precision in the wines and a better understanding of the micro terroirs in the vineyards.


Can you see any new upcoming areas that are particularly interesting?

Answer: The extremities are interesting. In the east, Bot River and Hemel-en-Aarde, in the north Swartland and smaller areas within. The wines from Piekenierskloof and further up towards Clanwilliam and some isolated areas towards the coast, should also be mentioned. And there are some new and exciting wines coming from high altitudes in Northern Cape these days.


Regionality (terroir) is still a hot topic within the wine trade. Will we see more formations of wine makers/producers like the Swartland Independents, emerging in other parts of the winelands?

Answer: We have seen it already, out in Bot River with cooperation between several wine makers centered around Gabrielskloof. Such formations are especially beneficial if you have an unknown area and want to combine forces to do better pr, and also – hopefully – make better wines. There is still a lot to be learnt.


How will the use of smaller Wine of Origin look like in the future? Will we see less wines labelled «W.O. Western Cape» and more wines from smaller wards? What are the challenges with using wards as parts of the marketing?

Answer: If you just have a generic tasting cultivar, then W.O. should be sufficient. But if your terroir is special, wards would be better – but probably also more confusing for the normal consumer. Therein lies the biggest challenge.


Can you see an effect when it comes to foreign investments? Mullineux has Mr Singh as an investor). Can there be any downsides when it comes to international influence of this kind?

Answer: Most, if not all, of the international investments (Glenelly, as an example) have so far been beneficial. A lack of international interest would be more worrying.


We have seen many attemps to make big and expensive «Icon wines» lately, (Kanonkop, De Toren and so on.) Is this the way forward for South Africa?

Answer: All branches need some locomotives also with higher prices that follow higher quality. But Icon wines by themselves are not the way forward in general.


What is the biggest challenge when it comes to earning more money in the wine industry? How can we get the consumer to trade up when buying South African wine?

Answer: Two questions here. The biggest challenge is to produce better quality wine so that the quality in itself can persuade people to trade up. Internationally some of the wines from South Africa are now really being noticed and regarded as outstanding. Chenin from Paardeberg and Skurfkop, Semillon from Franschhoek, Cab. Sauv. And Cab. Franc from Stellenbosch. And the new wave of burgundy-look-a-likes from Hemel-en-Aarde.


How important is the message of sustainable and ethical wine making for a country like South Africa?

Answer: Very important, indeed. Especially the ethical side with low wages and the view on earlier slave like conditions for workers in some places.

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