After a week in South Africa as a guest of Cape Wine 2018, Michelin star chef and roving editor for The Buyer, Roger Jones, sums up the week of events. Having been heavily involved in selling and promoting South African wines for a number of years, Jones still firmly believes that the increase in customer awareness, quality sourced, and consumer expectation is at an all-time high for South African wines and growing faster than many in the on-trade can keep up with.
The ethos of producing world class wines and selling them at great prices is spreading out from the Swartland.
It seemed that the whole of the UK wine trade and press were in South Africa last week and if they were not, they had published their own reports to tie in with Cape Wine 2018 (e.g. Neal Martin for Vinous and Jancis Robinson in the Financial Times).
Cape Wine is hosted every three years, however, just as important as the goings on at the Convention Centre, there was a week of events and festival to showcase South Africa wines based in numerous venues around Cape Town, Stellenbosch and further afield; many were invite only and in great demand – with some of the hottest tickets showcasing world class wines including historic aged vintages.
Whilst I never mark scores for The Buyer, the ‘golden boys’ of the press and trade (Jamie Goode, Neal Martin, Greg Sherwood MW and Tim Atkin MW were showering them with scores averaging 95, with Tim even handing out a 100 score.
On the Saturday afternoon after the South Africans had beaten the All Blacks in Wellington, Tim launched his South African Top List where he not only marks wineries into the classic French system (First Growth etc.) but also gives them the 100 score classification. Here he showcased all of the wines he awarded 95 points plus to, handed out numerous awards and got together the finest winemakers in South Africa to pour their often rare but superb wines at the luxurious Delaire Graff Estate in Stellenbosch.
There were rumblings by some during the course of Cape Wine that the South African wine industry is struggling, this being down to the Rand and the poor price received not only by grape growers but the low price paid for South African wines in general. I have been heavily involved in selling and promoting South African wines for over five years (due to great Cape diplomats like Richard Kelley and Greg Sherwood) and can only say that the increase in awareness, quality sourced, and consumer expectation is at an all-time high, and growing faster than some of us can keep up with.
We have only seen a glimpse of what South Africa can produce and prices for the top wines are shooting up, with examples like Tokara Telos selling retail in South Africa at over £200, the stunning Cabernet Franc called the. which is a collaboration between Niels Verburg and Brian Smith going at over £250; and even in England we have already seen some Chenin Blancs getting to the £60 plus mark such as Ken Forrester’s Dirty Little Secret.
Swartland with superstars like Eben Sadie, David and Nadia, Chris and Andrea Mullineaux, Adi Badenhorst showcased to the rest of South Africa how to achieve great prices from producing world class wines many years ago and the ethos is spreading. They also produce wines that are more food friendly, more focused, linear and have great purity. Anyone who invested in these wines six or seven years ago will be doing very well now.
Restaurants that do not list South African wines and especially premium are missing out on not only a profitable return but also impressing their customers hugely. So, in conclusion, I see South Africa, just like they did with the All Blacks suddenly hitting the jackpot.