Ahead of the New Wave tasting on October 11, that will once again shine the spotlight on some of the stars of the pioneering South African wine scene, we start the first in a series of articles featuring some of the winemakers involved but also the specialist importers that have come together to make the tasting possible. First out of the blocks is John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters Wines in the Western Cape.
Following the enormous success of the first New Wave tasting in 2015 the wine importers behind the event have pooled resources again to show how far the South African wine scene has developed over the last 24 months. John Seccombe of Thorne & Daughters Wines explains why he will be there with his importer Dreyfus Ashby.
Everything about the first New Wave tasting was different. From the fact it was held within the confines of an indie record shop in Soho, to the fact this was one of the first events put together by specialist importers working together for the common good. But most of all it featured most of the new, exciting and, yes, new wave winemakers that have turned the South African wine scene on its head over the last five years.
For those who were there it was a landmark event. Wine writer Jamie Goode, of wineanorak.com summed up the mood perfectly when he wrote: “In a decade’s time we’ll look back and say: ‘I was there.’ For this is when South African fine wine came of age.”
Tim Atkin MW, who has established himself as one of the world’s most authoritative figures on South Africa with his annual reports on the country and its wines, said the inaugural New Wave tasting was “proof that South Africa is currently the most exciting wine-producing country on the planet”.
The second New Wave tasting will see even more producers travel to the UK to personally show their wines. Thanks to the efforts of their importers and distributors and the founders of the New Wave tasting: Swig, Dreyfus Ashby, Indigo Wine, New Generation Wines and Fields Morris & Verdin.
Over the coming weeks The Buyer will be talking to each of the importers involved and some of their winemakers to better understand how they see South African wines developing and what opportunities there are for UK wine buyers and sommeliers to put them on their lists.
John Seccombe of Thorne and Daughters Wines
Why are you involved in the New Wave tasting – what are you particularly hoping to achieve?
It’s by far the best platform for South African wine that we have been involved with since we started. And it’s organised by a super cool group of people.
How do you look back on the first New Wave tasting in 2015?
It was a total game-changer. Both for us and I think for the perception within the trade of what South Africa is capable of.
How do you see the overall South African wine industry – what advances have been made?
I think the overall quality of wines being produced has gone up dramatically. All over the industry I get the sense that winemakers are paying a lot more respect to their terroir and producing more interesting wines.
There seems to be a camaraderie amongst winemakers in South Africa, is it something you feel aware of and do you think it’s played a part in your own development?
Without a doubt. I don’t think you can name another country or region where there’s such a good vibe between the producers. It’s definitely provided us an amazing platform to get our wines out of the starting blocks.
Who have been your greatest influences in South African wine?
I think the group of friends that I work with in the Overberg (Marelise Niemann from Momento, Peter-Allan Finlayson from Crystallum and Chris Alheit from Alheit Vineyards have helped the most lately in getting our wines to where they are now. They’ve provided amazing practical and creative support that’s really allowed us to find our own path. And the Cravens. Great people producing magic wines.
Have there been significant developments for you in the last two years?
I think we’ve continued to build on what we’ve started in 2013 and the wines and brand have gone from strength to strength. So I can’t point to any significant turning points since the last New Wave tasting (which was a turning point in itself).
What challenges do you think there are for the South African wine industry?
The South African wine industry needs to become more profitable. We need to be able to invest in our vineyards and people to get to the next level.
How important is the UK market for South Africa compared to other markets around the world?
The UK market is very important to us both in terms of the amount of wine we sell and how the UK press drives perceptions all over the world. We’ve now got 12 different export markets, which we have built up in a very short time. The Swartland “Phenomenon”, and the surge in the number of independent producers producing terroir focused wines has made South Africa one of the most exciting wine destinations in the world. All of this interest in South Africa has made it relatively easy to find importers willing to take us on.
Give us your elevator pitch why a buyer should come and taste your wines at the tasting?
I’ll be standing next to Sebastian Beaumont and his magnificent Hope Marguerite, so you may as well taste Thorne and Daughters while you’re there.
If you’ve previously spent time in the UK what is your:
Favourite British dish
Bacon butty and a pint of bitter. Can’t wait.
Favourite restaurant and why
I haven’t had a chance to do much fine-dining in London recently, but we had an awesome meal at the Harwood Arms a couple of years back. Amazing, fresh British ingredients and fantastic service. Basically anyone celebrating the produce you get in the UK is good in my book. There’s such a phenomenal level of unique eating experiences to be had in London that it’s hard to pin one down.
Best place for a drink.
Finally had the chance to visit Sager and Wilde on one of my trips and that was really good. Basically anywhere that can pull a good pint of bitter. Having spent a lot of time in Sussex, I miss being able to get a pint of Harvey’s Sussex Best. I will also be doing some wine shopping, but that is for take-home drinking.
Best thing to do as a tourist in London?
Walk along the Thames.
Best place to go to meet another South African in London?
At the New Wave tasting. But seriously I never suffer from home-sickness there, so I tend to want to soak up London when I’m there.
- The 2017 New Wave Tasting will be held on Wednesday 11th October at Village Underground, 54 Holywell lane, Shoreditch, EC2A 3PQ from 10am until 6pm. To register to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org or complete the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM
- You can keep up to date with the latest news about the New Wave event at #ridethesecondwave #newwaveSA.