“As it finds itself today, I predict that we have reached the most exciting period yet. An age so exhilarating that the energy driving it is almost tangible – we have arrived at the era of change!” – Megan van der Merwe (finalist of the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition).
Judging at the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition was my early Christmas gift. It was a refreshing and inspiring experience to read new perspectives and to appreciate a contagious enthusiasm for ancient soil, sunshine and Cinsaut.
In a piece titled “Pieces of the Puzzle”, winner Malu Lambrechts highlighted the use of technologies such as digital terroir modelling via precision viticulture to support site-specific wine production. The momentous impact that technology should have on viticulture in particular should by no means be underestimated and the marriage of tradition and tech may just become an increasingly pertinent sweet spot. This holds true particularly for South Africa, which is already balancing between the old and new wine worlds.
The winner of the Du Toitskloof Wine Writer of the Year competition, Joanne Gibson, wrote with her sci-fi pen, presenting a Cape Wine 2035 opening address. “SmartSip sensorial downloads” may sound ridiculous today, but sensorial research itself was an unusual notion a decade ago, so who knows!
Both winning pieces strongly emphasise the value of authentically South African products, instead of wannabe wines. This growing trend is also being noticed and appreciated globally. Kanonkop’s Abrie Beeslaar was announced Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine & Spirit Competition, a title he had previously won in 2008, as did his predecessor Beyers Truter in 1991 – all with Pinotage.
Abrie highlighted the need to promote premium South African wines – a theme that was also emphasised at the respective Shiraz SA and Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group technical workshops. At the latter, Spar consultant Tinus van Niekerk even said that ‘value for money’ – viewed by many as South Africa’s unique selling point – actually just means ‘discounted’.
At the Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair, Jim Gordon, the editor of Vines & Wines – a Californian wine industry publication – remarked that wines priced above $10 are booming in America, while the sales of products below that price point are in decline. Could that be the reason for South Africa’s limited success in the States?
I had the privilege of visiting China and Hong Kong at the end of 2015. The global wine world is looking East and South Africa is no exception. When it comes to a rapidly changing world, few regions can compare to China in particular. I can imagine that an opening address for ProWine China or the Hong Kong Wine and Spirits Fair would be even more radical in 2035!
Change is also an important theme for WineLand Media and our masthead has undergone a serious upgrade for the first time in 16 years. WineLand magazine will celebrate its 85th anniversary this year and is geared to – along with the wine industry – remain relevant and exciting. Let us know what you think!