As the clock ticks down to next month’s New Wave South African tasting, Ben Henshaw, founder of Indigo Wine, explains why he has become so involved in South African wine that he is even now making his own wine there with winemaker Johan ‘Stompie’ Mayer. You can taste their Mother Rock along with a host of leading, cutting edge winemakers at what promises to be one of the tasting highlights of the year.
The New Wave South Africa tasting is back after two years hoping to showcase and demonstrate the huge changes that have taken place in the country’s wines even in that short period of time thanks to Ben Henshaw’s Indigo Wine, along with fellow independent importers Swig, Dreyfus Ashby, New Generation Wines and Fields Morris & Verdin.
This is the second New Wave tasting. Why are you doing it again and what can we expect?
The wine scene in South Africa continues to move fast and we want to showcase that to the UK trade. There are so many young and exciting winemakers around and then you’ve got the so called ‘older’ guys like Eben (Sadie), Adi (Badenhorst) and the Mullineuxs still pushing things hard.
Why do you think South Africa is so exciting as a wine producing country?
South Africa has a wide variety of climates and soils and of course some lovely old vineyards. It also has plenty of talented and hard-working farmers and winemakers to back that up. After a couple of visits I loved South Africa and the wine scene there so much I started Mother Rock with my partner Johan ‘Stompie’ Meyer back in 2014. When the idea for New Wave came up I knew would be a fantastic tasting and also a chance to party in London with lots of friends. Win win….
Why are you working with the other suppliers to do this tasting? What brings you together?
We all focus on really good wine and pooling our resource means we can deliver an event that works well for all of us and also offers value for money.
Do you think these sort of supplier driven tastings are what the trade is looking for?
I guess this type of initiative started with The Bunch back in the day and then we were one of the founders of the Dirty Dozen seven years ago, an event that proves the concept. Since then we’ve had The Real Wine Fair, The Vaults Tasting and quite a few others. They seem to go down very well with the trade and have a less corporate feel than at traditional generic tastings.
What particular regions and styles of wine do you think are developing the best in South Africa?
Clearly Swartland is driving the artisan wine scene in South Africa, but there are good guys all over the Cape. Everyone knows about Chenin and white blends, but the reds are improving and you are now seeing some superb lighter style reds.
Do you think there has been a tangible increase with on-trade listings of premium South African wine?
Things are improving slowly but there is plenty of work still to be done. The value South Africa offers sometimes means that people only expect the wines further down the list so we need to show that value can be expressed at all price points.
Which sort of South African wines, styles, regions and price points do you see working best for on-trade?
There are plenty of Chenin and Chenin based wines that would work brilliantly by the glass. They are pretty versatile, particularly the drier, more mineral styles. Chardonnays from Elgin and Pinots from Hemel-en-Arde can also be world class and very food friendly.
Any advice on how sommeliers and restaurants can make the most of their South African wine list?
Just experiment and see what the customers like. There is so much out there to play with.
Anything specifically to look for at the New Wave tasting?
You’ve got to say ‘Hi’ to newcomer Ryan Mostert from Silverwis and Terracura one of the nicest and most passionate guys in the Cape wine scene. He is making a great range of wines from the pretty edgy to the (slightly) more classic. Pieter Walser of Blank Bottle is as much an artist as a winemaker and always worth visit. Otherwise tasting with the legend that is Eben Sadie must be a ‘not to be missed’. But if his table is too busy come and see our own legends: Donovan Rall of Rall Wines, Hannes Storm and Stompie
How has 2017 been for you so far – highs and challenges?
The Vinateros Spanish tasting back in February was clearly a big high for us with 50 of the very best growers in town. Currency and pricing remains the biggest challenge now and no doubt for next year as well.
New Wave tasting is all about South Africa, so what is your favourite…
Food or dish? I love seafood and on my last trip we bought some crayfish in Paternoster which were awesome. Stompie on the Braai is also a joy to behold.
Favourite restaurant I’ve had more meals at Mama Cucina’s than all other South African restaurants put together. Enough said
Best thing to do as a tourist? A drive down to Cape Point via the penguins at Simons Town.
Favourite place for a sundowner? I like a G&T at The Royal Hotel in Riebeek Kasteel.
- You can taste Indigo Wines range of South African wines and the producers they work with at the 2017 New Wave Tasting which is going to be held on Wednesday October 11 at Village Underground, 54 Holywell lane, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PQ from 10am until 6pm. To register to attend please email email@example.com or complete the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM
- You can keep up to date with the latest news about the New Wave event at #ridethesecondwave #newwaveSA.
- The Buyer will be featuring other South African winemakers and their UK importers and what to expect at the tasting over the coming days towards the tasting.