The current state of South African wine is an amazing success story. The South African wine industry has made tremendous strides in the recent past, with wine lovers around the globe discovering the remarkable combination of world-class quality and amazing value. Unfortunately, there are storm clouds on the horizon that threaten to inject major uncertainty into the future of the South African wine industry.
The current state of South African wine is an amazing success story. The South African wine industry has made tremendous strides in the recent past, with wine lovers around the globe discovering the remarkable combination of world-class quality and amazing value. Since some early stumbles coming out of the economic isolation imposed by the world community due to the South African governments’ racially based discriminatory apartheid policy, they have leveraged their abundant natural advantages (winemaking tradition dating to the late 1600s, great grape growing weather, typically adequate water supplies, old vines, no mortgages and very low labor costs), made consistent investments in infrastructure, sought international cooperation, educated a new generation of winemakers and applied an unusual energy and vigor to claiming a spot on the world wine stage.
This has been a successful endeavor, as can be attested to by the ever-growing sales of South African wine internationally and here at The Wine Country, where there are many fans of such deliciously drinkable and affordable red wines as the full-bodied and smooth Indaba Mosaic Bordeaux-style red blend ($8.99), and the unique, BBQ-friendly, juicy and intense MAN Pinotage ($9.99). There are even more customers who have fallen in love with the oh-so-drinkable white wines from South Africa, such as the fruity, pure and easy-drinking Excelsior Chardonnay ($8.99), the crisp, clean and food-friendly Badenhorst The Curator White Blend ($8.99), the incredibly pure, intense, complex and balanced Badenhorst Secateurs Chenin Blanc ($13.99) and the remarkably well-made, minerally and pure De Wetshof Limestone Hill Chardonnay ($14.99).
I think that as Southern Californians, we embrace these wines because we are blessed with a similar climate and active outdoor lifestyle - like many wine drinking South Africans - and these wines are made for sunshine, the beach, the BBQ and easy-living.
Unfortunately, there are storm clouds on the horizon that threaten to inject major uncertainty into the future of the South African wine industry.
You may have heard about the crippling drought that is currently ravaging the Cape area of South Africa, which is where virtually all the wine in the country is produced and where irrigation of the vineyards is common. There has been a 50% reduction in water allocated to farms. This is affecting the grape growers in the warmer, thirstier regions, like Robertson, where most of the production is for bulk wine. This is leading to a shake out of the less profitable growers and vintners, which will strengthen the South African wine industry long term. Most of these winemakers at risk of going under are bulk producers, and, luckily, we don’t carry that type of wine here at The Wine Country. Production is down overall, and prices will be rising, though probably not until next year.
The more worrisome problem potentially facing the wine industry in South Africa is political and could cause major disruption to the status quo.
The South African Parliament has passed a resolution to amend their constitution to allow expropriation of land without compensation. There will not be a final decision until August of this year, and a hard-to-achieve two-thirds vote is necessary, but, there is a very real possibility this could come to pass. If it does pass, depending on how the redistribution of land is accomplished, it could change the South African wine industry in unforeseeable and game-changing ways. The obvious effect would potentially be in the vineyards.
In general, a cloud has been cast over the entire agricultural sector, which obviously includes the wine industry. In the short term, the uncertainty is causing currency fluctuations and lending insecurity that are very worrying to the South African wine industry. There is a wait and see attitude.
All we can do as consumers is hope for the best and enjoy the South African wine already in the warehouses and in production.
So, in other words, get them while you can. I’ll be pouring at least 10 white and red wines on Saturday May 26th from 1pm to 4pm. No reservations needed - $25 – gourmet cheese, paté, salami and fresh bread, too. Come out and taste the amazing quality, unique terroir and remarkable value of these modern South African wines and share in the most compelling, evolving success story in the world of wine.