UK wine judge and writer Jancis Robinson spent most of this past week in the Cape Winelands, after a seven-year absence. She spoke kindly about our industry, and offered insights into the UK and USA markets. She wrote from Delaire Graff, where she had attended a Chenin Blanc tasting and stayed over: ‘South African wine is in full ferment. It deserves far more international attention than it is currently getting‘!
* SA wine estates should target UK restaurants, which have far more reasonable mark-ups. Young British people spend their money on food and wine, not being able to afford to buy property. ‘They are discerning and want something with a story, something different and unconventional’.
* Sommeliers are becoming more influential in the UK and USA, and will be decision-makers about the wines which are listed in retaurants.
* UK supermarkets have squeezed margins and prices, generating minimal profit from wine estates. The trend is to specialist wine shops and online wine services. The UK retail trade ‘just don’t really seem to get South African wines’.
* Restaurant and wine suppliers should work together, in that reasonable wine-by-the glass prices could generate good profit.
* South Africa should focus on its wine diversity and not just promote its indigenous cultivars, such as Pinotage. She praised the Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Semillon.
* Bottle closures are unimportant in the UK, screwcaps on bottles being acceptable if the wine is good. In the USA cork is still favoured.
* In the UK market consumers are buying wines in Tetrapak or plastic packs, even Prosecco. This is not a trend in the USA.
* The Swartland wine estates have made an important impact in the past 7 years
* The UK restaurant High Timber, owned by Gary and Kathy Jordan, almost only stocks South African wines, and is creating good exposure for the brands stocked.
* UK wine judge Greg Sherwood comes to our Winelands regularly, and regularly hosts tastings of our top wines in London.
Christian Eedes, Editor of winemag.co.za, provided a summary of Ms Robinson’s talk about international wine trends at the VinPro Information Day, attended by 860 delegates (she donated her speaker fee to the Pinotage Youth Development Academy, which she also visited):
* Wine drinkers are less influenced by point scoring of wines.
* ‘…lighter, fresher and had less oak‘ and ‘indigenous varieties‘ are on trend
* Soil type is important, and the Mullineuxs were praised for highlighting the soil type on their labels. ‘Minerality‘ is a contentious topic.
* She praised our Chenin Blanc, and how they reflect where they come from. Cinsaut and Grenache also have a good future.
* Origin of the grapes is more important than the cellar in which the wine is made.
* Alcohol levels should be reduced, she challenged viticulturists.
* The use of bigger and older oak, concrete and amphorae barrels is on trend.
* Natural wines are a ‘big fad‘, but must taste good.
* Bottle-fermented sparkling wines are challenging Champagne in the UK, and Cava and Prosecco are taking off.
* She was puzzled about how little impact South African wines have made in the USA, compared to the UK market. She warned: ‘Do not under estimate China’.