September is a notoriously busy time for the UK wine trade as buyers, merchants, and restaurants all hit the ground running from their summer holidays. Things will really get going on September 3 with the third New Wave tasting to celebrate the best, dynamic and exciting wine talent in South Africa. Once again five of the UK’s most interesting importers have come together to host one of the most popular tastings of the year. Here Richard Kelley MW of Dreyfus Ashby explains why he is involved and what we can expect.
The New Wave tasting will once again showcase the best young and breakthrough talent in the burgeoning South African wine scene.
After its breakthrough year in 2015 the New Wave South African tasting is going back to its roots. No, not Swatland, but Soho and to its original venue, Phonica Records. Once again the five original importers have come together to get the show back on the road. Namely Swig; Dreyfus Ashby; Indigo Wine; New Generation Wines; and Fields Morris & Verdin. Here’s Dreyfus Ashby’s owner Richard Shelley MW to explain why it is so keen to be involved again.
Why are you back with what will be the third New Wave tasting?
The current dynamism happening in the Cape wine scene justifies a ‘third wave’. As Pliny the Elder once said: ‘ex Africa semper aliquid novi’. ‘Out of Africa, always something new’.
What have you learnt from the past events?
That five like-minded friendly competitor importers can achieve more collectively that large generic tastings can.
What can we expect different from this year’s event overall?
More of the same. More new faces to discover, more great wines and a chance to experience some proper South African pad-kos, supplied by celebrity chef, Bertus Basson.
Can you talk us through your own South African portfolio and how that has grown?
Our South African portfolio was already mature even before the ‘first wave’. The country represents half of our business. With 25 years experience of living and working in the Cape, my role has always been to seek out and bring new talent to the market. It’s hard to believe, but Eben Sadie was new talent 20 years ago…
What highlights in terms of producers and winemakers will you have at the tasting?
I think it would be unfair to pick out any one of the 18 producers we represent who are attending New Wave. I will, however, make a strategic mention for the ‘newbies’ who have only been making wine only for a year or two and shouldn’t be overlooked by attendees.
Guillaume Nell, Lysa Wines. He will be there pouring a 2019 Stellenbosch Verdelho of which only 600 bottles are coming to the UK. Then there is 21 one year old Sam Lambson who is still studying at Stellenbosch University, but made his first wine in the experimental cellar there last year. It’s a cool-climate Syrah from Elim which reminds me of Boekenhoutskloof Syrah 1997. Only one pallet is coming to the UK.
And we also have Joan Heatlie who was, until recently, the assistant to the Mullineux’s. She has just made a couple of barrels of Grenache Blanc which are worthy of anyone’s attention.
How do you see the overall South African wine scene. What is standing out for you?
Full of camaraderie and the New Wave scene is proof of this. In terms of wines, South Africa is carving out its own identity with its Cape white blends, invariably built on a core of old vine Chenin.
What should buyers an sommeliers be focusing their attention on?
Seeking out the said wines. Those with personality and a sense of place. These are wines that through every price point, deliver great value to the consumer.
What are the biggest challenges with South African wine in UK premium on-trade?
This is the most competitive and comprehensive wine market in the world. Like Australia and New Zealand did in the 1990s and 2000s, South Africa needs to make itself the ‘go-to’ part of the wine list and have a better by the glass representation that expands beyond industrial Chenin and old-fashioned Pinotage.
How is business in general across your South African portfolio?
We are fortunate to have some of the best new names from the Cape on our books, making us something of a destination for merchants who take South Africa seriously. I’d like to think that we don’t so much sell wine as allocate it.
What are the biggest challengesi and how are you getting over them?
Not having enough of the most sought-after wines to keep customers happy but equally, if there was too much available, they wouldn’t be desirable. A first world problem.
Anything else you want to say?
Bring on the Third Wave…
- You can keep up to date with the latest news about the New Wave event on Twitter at @NewWaveSA2019 and Instagram on newwavesouthafrica and at #newwaveSA.
- The Buyer will be featuring the other importers taking part and some of their South African winemakers taking part in the tasting over the coming weeks.
- You can also find out what is happening across the country as part of Wines of South Africa’s South African Wine Festival 2019 that is happening in the first week of September.
- That will include a special restaurant “safari” on September 2 that The Buyer is holding in partnership with Wines of South Africa where we will be taking a group of wine buyers, sommeliers and wine merchants on a tour of different restaurants where we will be meeting South African producers along the way, and tasting their wines paired with food from that restaurant’s menu.