In her latest online column, self-professed cellar rat Catea Sinclair reflects on how Covid-19 — in very short space of time — has turned the South African wine industry entirely on its head. But Catea spots a faint glimmer of hope on the horizon. She explains:
One thing is sure: this year looks completely different to what any of us had expected. With the South African wine industry turned entirely on its head, it is only natural to imagine what the future will bring. And if I think about the new generation taking their first tentative steps into a quite lacklustre South African wine industry now, I truly see a world of potential.
Today’s youth have a firmer grasp of the world around them than the generations before, with a more definite idea of who they are and what they want to achieve, no doubt primarily due to the expanse of information and communication they so eagerly lap up. Which is the right way to go about it – the higher they fly, the greater we as an industry become. If you think that all of this seems awfully familiar, you are right. We have all been feeling the cogs slowly shifting as wine consumption trends evolved. Wine has gone from what once could have been considered intimidating and almost exclusive, to something more approachable and accessible. This was done by tweaking winemaking styles, incredible marketing campaigns (think rosé) and alternative packaging. Words like “biodynamic” and “organic” have also been spotted on labels, and if you get your fining right, you will be blessed by the vegan gods.
So far, we’ve spent most of the time exploring how the youth have disrupted life as we know it already. But what really interests me as I began thinking about this was ‘who we will be to each other.’ Any linearity we believed we had in the world has left us with the outbreak of Covid-19, so innovation and creativity is the way forward. It is evident by the calibre of youth in the South African wine industry that investment in the young bloods should be a priority – we are only skimming the surface of the talent in our industry. This investment is win-win, as it will not only give budding wine professionals the means to advance their own lives, but also the lives of future generations. They do not have the expectations of families resting on their shoulders or the jaded seen-it-all attitude that we tend (and rightly deserve) to develop as we get older. They want to disrupt and take on new challenges, and by all means, we should let them.
As an industry, we focus heavily on sustainable development across the board. And to look ahead these days, we need to have an eye for the unanticipated. So let’s pretend for a moment that I have a crystal ball. I am willing to venture out and predict that the South African wine industry’s future is bright. It will be dynamic and at the forefront of many exciting collaborations, and we can expect many rapid changes. To achieve this, though, will only be possible if we do decide to invest in the upcoming generation. Now, this doesn’t always have to be by financial means. If you have a skill, teach that to someone. Expose them to the industry and connect them with people. And I urge you to watch this space, they might show you a thing or two.