by Brian Mitchell
This coming week, I will be attending a Master Class and taking a competition test with Wines of South Africa (WOSA) for an opportunity to attend the 2019 Sommelier Cup. This is a global competition designed to promote awareness of South African wines through a series of classes, tests and Sommelier competitions.
The past several weeks have been spent reviewing the material and updating my online information about all things South Africa. I am posting links below that will give you access to some of the material I have accumulated over the years.
I first visited the Cape winelands in 2008, and have been a huge fan of the wines ever since. I find there are great values in the wines from area as many of the lower price points tend to offer quality beyond cost. Moving up the scale, you can source wines of world-class quality and with styles that are unique and interesting. There is an old adage that South Africa is the oldest New World and Newest Old World wine region. I think at this point most people really consider the Cape to be a New World region, primarily because the wine regions and especially the wine laws are not specific to the placing of variety to region and the added controls that we find in European wine regions. There is a definite connection though to the style of winemaking in South Africa to that of Europe.
The climate for the most part is Mediterranean in nature, so the grapes that do well in many areas of southern Europe work well in South Africa. There are also pockets of cooler areas - the proximity to the two oceans really drives a Maritime climate for the coastal areas - and so the cool climate grapes like Pinot Noir do particularly well in areas.
Additionally, many winemakers spend time working in European vineyards and wineries, further driving the connection to Old World style and techniques. But because of the embargoes on material and technology that lasted through much of the 20th Century, South Africa is actually a wine region that has progressed quickly with modern tech over the past 30 years. There was an influx of knowledge and equipment that spurned a change of style and quality, which was integral to the wines coming from the region in the 1990s. But over the past 10-15 years, since moving past that initial time, we have seen a maturity of thought and style in the industry that has pushed South Africa to one of the best regions for sourcing innovative and intriguing wines.
Take a listen to this interview with Eben Sadie to get an idea of exactly why we need to pay attention to the wines of South Africa. His life-view is focused and globally expressive. He has moved past the need to make wines to satisfy a consumer segment, and creates wines to express his region at its best - something you find in many European wine regions.
I have also added a ton of study cards to my Branscape collection, with a new deck specific to general South African wine study for those looking to advance their qualifications. Many of these questions are derived from the WOSA website, which is fairly comprehensive when it comes to full information about the wine and regions of the Cape. The website's info is a couple of years old, so the statistics need to be reviewed if you are testing, but most of it is close enough. I have supplemented with updated info where I can.
Here are the weblinks...
IDTT interview with Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines
CapeSomm / South African Study Deck on Brainscape
Wines of South Africa website/CapeSomm