Natural Causes

Also on the positive, Liam Steevenson MW, chief executive of Global Wine Solutions, who was a multiple retailer buyer and is an international wine judge, educator and consultant, tells DI: “I think South Africa is the most exciting New World country. It is the land of the brave. The concept of ‘cellar share’, where people can make some wines and just rent some space, was invented in South Africa. It has gone from being the land of cooperatives, to vineyards owned by wealthy people, to a hipster, funky generation of winemakers. Good cooperatives have acres of space.”

Thompson adds: “There are many opportunities for South Africa in the major export markets and the younger generation of winemakers coming to the fore are innovating and building on the foundations laid by the older generation. Sales of our wines at premium prices are growing in established markets such as the UK and also in developing markets such as the US and China.

Distell is South Africa’s largest wine and spirits producer. General manager for premium wines Naas Erasmus says: “The greatest challenge for our industry is the financial sustainability of our growers. Grape and wine prices for the majority of what is produced in South Africa are simply too low. We have made major improvements in quality, now we need to convince markets that our wines are worth more. Our workers and growers deserve better.

“South Africa cannot yet hang its hat on a success story such as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, Argentinian Malbec, Australian Shiraz and Chardonnay and Chilean Cabernet. Our best opportunity probably sits in Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc,” adds Erasmus.

Wine Intelligence communications manager James Wainscott says: “Like a lot of wine-producing countries, SA wine imports have taken a hit in the short term but look pretty stable in the long-term. SA had a 7% decline in 2015-16 which can mostly be attributed to consumers going for Chilean, Kiwi and Argentinian wine instead

“South Africa performs largely in line with the other top markets at converting awareness into consumption. Tracking data shows a stable proportion of regular wine drinkers who drink wines from SA from 2013 to 2016.”

Oldenburg Vineyard is in the premium wine-producing region of Stellenbosch. Managing director Judi Dyer tells DI: “I think the perception of quality in South Africa has changed exponentially over the past 10-15 years.

“We have such diversity when it comes to terroir. The Western Cape has the ability to produce styles that can rival anywhere in the world. We do not have to specialise. We have all the climatic ranges – warm, cool, dry, hot –all sorts.

“South Africa has been growing vines and making wine for more than 300 years. It is older than certain areas of Bordeaux. So, winemaking is part of the country’s DNA,” says Dyer.


Bouchard Finlayson’s Peter Finlayson says: “Without side-tracking the super quality of SA wines I believe our delivery on wine tourism and the beauty of our wine lands have global star quality value. The real life experience of visiting the Cape is certainly first prize in making an impact.”