The Buyer
Matt Smith on why South Africa is so important to FMV

Matt Smith on why South Africa is so important to FMV

It can be a daunting prospect putting on a trade tasting. It’s the ultimate test in how popular your wines really are and how much your customers want to spend time with you. So why do it yourself when you can spread the pain, and share the love with others. Which is what the New Wave South Africa tasting is all about. In fact it is has proven so popular that September 3 will be the third time the event has happened. To tell us what to expect we talk to one of the five specialist importers that have come together to host the event, Matt Smith, South African wine buyer at Fields Morris & Verdin.

Richard Siddle
9th August 2019by Richard Siddle
posted in People,People: Supplier,

September 3 will be a key date in the wine trade’s diary as it will be the day for the third New Wave South Africa wine tasting.

The famous five importers behind the New Wave South Africa tasting have succeeded in showing how competing importers can actually put their rivalries aside for the common good. Particularly when it comes to being able to showcase the best of what a particular wine producing country is able to do. So all credit must go to the collected talents at Swig, Dreyfus Ashby, Indigo Wine and Fields Morris & Verdin for coming together to pool their talents when it comes to South African wine.

As the clock ticks down to their next combined tasting on September 3 we ask Matt Smith, South African wine buyer for Fields Morris & Verdin(FMV) to share his thoughts on this dynamic country and what it has in store at the tasting.

This is the third event, why are you involved again?

FMV’s Matt Smith says the importer is now working with 12 South African producers such is the depth of talent there

The New Wave tasting is a brilliant, dynamic environment to show off market leading producers and great ideas. It reflects the ethos of our producers, as well as FMV’s own philosophy in terms of whom we are keen to champion and support. We’re also doing it again because it’s generally a whole lot of fun.

What have you learnt from the past events?

There continues to be a huge amount of interest from the trade in the new wave of South African winemaking. Everybody seems to delight in the colour and diversity on offer. What we are still learning, however, is how to connect this trade excitement better with consumers. There is still some way to go here.

What can we expect that will be different from this year’s event?

Stunning, individual and artisanal wines from brilliant, enthusiastic growers! That won’t have changed. We are likely to notice the continued effects of the drought. This has severely affected availability and the quantity of fine wine available from South Africa in many instances has significantly decreased. This is just one reason why we couldn’t show our wines from Eben Sadie this year – there is very little available.

Can you talk us through your own South African portfolio and how that has grown?

Bernhard Bredell of Scions of Sinai is new to the FMV stable this year

We now represent 12 brilliant producers from across the Cape. Six of these firmly sit in the ‘New Wave’ camp although I’d say the reality is much less defined with the sharing of ideas, regionality, varieties and winemaking styles all coming into play. In the last year or so we have added stellar producer Scions of Sinai from Stellenbosch – a winery founded in 2016 under by Bernhard Bredell, a young winemaker with big ideas and great passion for making wine in the (traditionally unfashionable) Lower Helderberg. He uses old bush vines grown on decomposed granite. We’ve also added the stunning range of cool climate Pinot Noirs and Chardonnay from Hannes and Nathalia Storm in the Hemel en Aarde.

What highlights and other producers will you have at the tasting?

Five of our South Africans will be joining us on the day, every one of them with something different to offer: Craven in Stellenbosch, Richard Kershaw MW and his wines from Elgin, Chris Mullineux, Mark Van Buuren, winemaker of the Cape of Good Hope wines at Anthonij Rupert, Hannes and Nathalia Storm from Hemel en Aarde.

In terms of cuvées we’re really excited to be showing the third release – or ‘third wave’ of the Leuu Passant wines from Andrea and Chris Mullineux – as well as their single terroir wines (Granite Chenin, Schist Syrah, Granite Syrah). We have a new Chenin from the Cape of Good Hope, a new Cabernet Sauvignon to show from Craven, and a pretty awesome orange wine – Señor Tallos to show from Bernie at Scions of Sinai.

Richard Kershaw MW will be showing his wines from Elgin at the New Wave tasting

How do you see the overall South African wine scene and what do you think buyers and sommeliers should be focusing in on?

We’re seeing some great results from a more hands-off approach to winemaking, allowing the fruit expressions to truly shine. In addition to this, lots of great examples of regional vineyard expression are coming through – meaning South Africa’s huge diversity in range is coming through.

What are the biggest opportunities?

Regionality is a huge opportunity for discovery. In the on-trade there is certainly an appetite to explore. Previous New Waves have tended to focus on the Swartland, but other areas are now coming into the limelight offering cooler climates and more indigenous grape, making South Africa all the more exciting. It’s a relaxed, collegiate scene too. The winemakers are pretty much all mates and share their ideas together which makes for an overall scene rich in regional diversity.

What are the biggest challenges with South African wine in the UK and premium on-trade?

Availability is certainly a challenge after the terrible drought, which means we have to provide a much more targeted offering of our wines to customers. These are fine wines and whilst still offering great value, the price points clearly reflect the craftsmanship. This puts these wines in a competitive premium category where it can be a challenge to convince consumers to venture off the beaten track.

The Cravens: Mick and Jeanine Craven will be over for the New Wave tasting

How is business in general across all your portfolios?

The fine wine market is buoyant. London still remains competitive and challenging, but what we are seeing, however, is there is continued interest in fine wine outside of London and our regional team is thriving. Those regional opportunities are quite exciting.

What are the biggest challenges and how are you getting over them?

Our biggest challenges remain in being able to service customers from the soil upwards in a sustainable, profitable way without compromising on service or logistics. Company-wide we’re developing new initiatives to better deliver this.

  • You can taste FMV’s South African range at the 2019 New Wave Tasting which is going to be held on September 3 at Phonica Records (Vinyl Factory), 51 Poland Street, London W1F 7BE from 10am until 6pm. To register to attend please click here.

  • 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.