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  • Swig’s Imogen Taylor on re-inventing New Wave South Africa

    The impact of the first New Wave South African wine tasting two years ago was so big we are still talking about it now. Which although highly rewarding for the producers and importers behind the initial event does make re-inventing it for a second time, in a way, even more of a pressure. Imogen Taylor of Swig, one of the founding importers explains what we can expect to see second time round.

    The impact of the first New Wave South African wine tasting two years ago was so big we are still talking about it now. Which although highly rewarding for the producers and importers behind the initial event does make re-inventing it for a second time, in a way, even more of a pressure. Imogen Taylor of Swig, one of the founding importers explains what we can expect to see second time round.

    mm By September 12, 2017
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    Following the success of the first New Wave tasting its founders, including specialist importers, Swig, will be hoping its second album, as it were, is also a best seller.

    Why do you think South Africa is so exciting as a wine producing country? 

    Several factors really. I have to start with the immensely talented trailblazers who laid the still relatively recent foundations to what’s happening now. The sharing of their skills, knowledge and their commitment can’t be underestimated. I’ve got to give a mention to the remarkable old vines (plus the people working so hard to keep them in the ground.) The garagiste movement has come along nicely, and there’s a lot of time for the “back to basics” winemaking as well which I applaud. 

    We’re generous souls here at SWiG, and on the whole, we like to share. With New Wave, it was our opportunity to shout from the rooftops about the incredible talent, characters and wines we’d been enjoying for years before. 

    What particular regions or styles of wine do you think are particularly important or developing the best?

    Get ahead with South Africa by checking out the Breedekloof region
    Get ahead with South Africa by checking out the Breedekloof region

    I’m delighted to see what’s coming through from areas like the Breedekloof. For years, it was known as “the other side of the mountain” – very much so a derogatory term. I’ve tasted some impressive things from this “not so happening area.”  For style, the preference for brightness and freshness in reds seems to be continuing and South African Cinsault ticks that box very nicely.

    Do you think there has been a tangible increase with on-trade listings of premium South African wine?

    100%. They’re getting more of a look in than ever before. It’s so exciting to see these wines on the lists at Michelin star restaurants and top places around the country. And they damn well deserve to be, the wines are outstanding.

    Which sort of wines, styles, regions and price points do you see working best for the on-trade? 

    The best way to know South African wines is to go out and seek out its terroir-driven wines
    The best way to know South African wines is to go out and seek out its terroir-driven wines

    I’m going to drop the T-bomb. Terroir focused, honest wines. Price point – being able to get the wines on by the glass and get more people drinking wines from South Africa is still a pretty high priority I’d say. It’s great to see it losing it’s poor reputation of burnt rubber, dusty reds. About time too. 

    Would you say ultra premium South African  wines are now sitting more comfortably on wine lists than when you first began importing them?

    Unquestionably. It’s where we first made an impact in the trade and what we became known for.

    Any advice on how sommeliers and restaurants can make the most of their South African wine list?

    Invest in the wines. Get to know the stories, the old vines, the farmers, the winemakers and the region. I pull out wines at tastings from regions that are barely known for wine and aren’t always featured on maps of the wine regions of South Africa.

    Swig's Imogen Taylor is proud to see how far South Africa has come in a reasonably short period of time in the premium on-trade
    Swig’s Imogen Taylor is proud to see how far South Africa has come in a reasonably short period of time in the premium on-trade

    This is the second New Wave tasting. Why are you doing it again and what can we expect?

    I think all of us would agree that the overall reaction and success of the 2015 event was huge – a big collective wow all round. I don’t think there was ever any choice than for it to happen again given its buzz and success. Two years seemed a good break – enough time for us to mentally prepare ourselves for round II, and enough time for more talent to emerge. We can expect New Wave to showcase much of this exciting development, with many new faces, and for the first time, a “Green Shoots” free pour table of some of the Cape’s young guns.

    What brings you and the other importers together to host the tasting? 

    Our exceptional good looks and witty chat. Our producers aren’t too bad either.

    Do you think these sort of supplier driven tastings are what the trade is looking for?  

    For sure. Every time I look at the trade calendar, it gets busier and busier. It’s hard to keep up and sift through to find the good events to go to. The impact we have as a collective makes a big difference.

    Anything specifically to look for at the New Wave tasting?

    new-wave-logo

    There’s a blind tasting competition going on with an incredible prize up for grabs. I’m gutted not to be able to take part.

    How has 2017 been for you so far – highs and challenges?

    I think it’s likely to say challenges remain very much so the same for all of us. But we’re still here, ploughing away! On a serious note, the development of the trade side has been great. Although SWiG has been around for a while, we’re still a relative newbie to the world of trade.

    How do you see the year ahead?  

    Exciting. There’s a lot of changes coming soon for SWiG. Watch this space.

    What do you see as the big opportunities for the premium on-trade in the year ahead?

    Looking beyond London – I think everyone gets blinkered at times. Beyond that, ask me again once this tasting is out the way!

    The New Wave tasting is all about South Africa, so what is your?

    Favourite dish or food in South Africa? 

    I’m a bit of a carnivore really so some decent meat cooked on the braai keeps me pretty happy.

    Favourite restaurant?

    la-tete-south-africa

    I loved La Tete when I last went. With the sea and mountains, South Africa is spoilt with access to such a variety of fantastic fresh produce. There’s a building list of places I’m keen to visit!

    Best thing to do as a tourist 

    Hire a sturdy car and cram in as much exploring interspersed with plenty of decent food and drink as possible – you’re so spoilt for choice. The coast up by the Mozambique border is also magical.

    Favourite place for a sundowner

    Keermont's hideaway...
    Keermont’s hideaway…

    Wow, there’s so many and it makes me feel terribly guilty choosing one. I think I’d have to say Keermont estate up the Blaauwklippen Road. Honestly don’t know how Alex ever leaves that place.

    • The Buyer will be featuring other South African winemakers and their UK importers and what to expect at the tasting over the coming weeks. 
    • You can also find out what is happening across the country at Wine of South Africa’s Intrepid tasting taking place on September 13 at London’s Olympia. Register and details here.  

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