Some predictions for 2008.
The rapid rise of rosé continues. After landmark wines like Lanzerac Rosé slaked thirsts for decades and then bombed out dramatically, rosé is now back and it seems to be getting bigger by the month. Perhaps most of the output goes to the UK shelves where this category has remained a favourite, but there is also a sense that we’re realising the joys of a pink wine, especially when not made too sweet. Some winning examples I’ve tasted include Beyerskloof, De Grendel, Jordan and De Morgenzon – and if you want something with a little more sweetness at a really friendly price, try Darling Cellars “Zantsi” Natural Sweet Rosé. It’s been known to convert non-rosé drinkers, especially when served over ice at the poolside.
The slow rise of the screwcap continues. Although it patently is the better closure in many technical respects (a lower “failure” rate, less spoilage through “corked” wine, easier to get to your wine), it still suffers from an image problem. It’s going to be a while before the majority our better wines are closed under screwcap, if ever. It is true that many very good Sauvignon Blancs are now bottled this way, but as many, and then some, are not. And once you leave the fresh white wine realm, it remains the entry level wines that get the screwcap treatment, keeping its image pretty low. Add to this that there is growing evidence that screwcaps may actually be a worse proposition for the environment than cork, and this closure may never realise its potential. Being a metal and plastics item, its manufacture is raw material and energy intensive, plus it’s not bio-degradable like cork, which is also a naturally “manufactured” – and renewable – product.
The moderate wine prices continue. Sin taxes aside, wine in South Africa remains a very cheap pleasure in world terms. It’s quite a feat to find a half-decent bottle of wine at $10 in the USA – and at a basic exchange rate exercise, you have to admit that there is a good choice if you want to spend R68 to R70. South Africa is still under pressure to move the volume of wine that’s produced (largely due to our moribund local consumption) so there is pressure to keep the prices moderate. And more good news is that the relatively strong position that the Rand holds means that imported wine is again worth a look-see, which is wonderful for comparative purposes. The grass is certainly not always greener, nor the vine more voluptuous, on the other side.
Our “new” regions continue to impress. Look out for whites from the West Coast (the Olifants River region and Lambert’s Bay) as well as Elim on the other coast – and keep particularly close watch on the wines coming out of the Voor Paardeberg.