In the second of her explorations of the world's greatest wines, Fiona Sims samples the South African continent's abundant delights
Gearing up for the on-trade
Thanks to innovative initiatives, such as Wines of South Africa's (WOSA) Escape to the Cape, expect to see more South African wines appearing on wine lists over the coming year - albeit from a tiny base. South African wine currently has just a 6% share in the UK on-trade by volume and value. On-trade sales account for 12% of overall UK sales.
Escape to the Cape?
Sounds tempting. The plan is to invite a total of 100 key buyers and sommeliers over the next two years and show them what the country is capable of during a whistle-stop tour of its flourishing wine regions.
What WOSA says:
"We are keen to ensure that the image of South Africa wines continues to improve, so that we can appeal to customers looking to experiment beyond house wines," says WOSA UK market manager Jo Mason.
"South Africa's appeal lies in its variety and diversity, and to convey this effectively we need to encourage on-trade customers to feel confident trying a wine outside their traditional comfort zone.
"It's important to build awareness for the wines and their styles, in order to ensure that South Africa becomes a 'must list' for wine lists. This is particularly true in the case of pub and bar chains and independent gastropubs, where it hasn't happened yet."
You hear that, folks - now what does the industry think?
Graham Price is co-owner of 14-strong pub group Brunning & Price, based mostly in the north-west - and yes, he was a recent escapee. But he didn't quite get WOSA's "Variety is in our nature" biodiversity campaign, launched last October in London and flagged up again to the escapees.
"WOSA should be highlighting the country's regional differences, not blarney about flowers. I want to know that Robertson Chardonnay has a softer, more limey character - that would make it so much easier to sell it to the customer," he was heard to grumble good-naturedly at the end of the trip.
And don't get Price started on South Africa's more premium wines
"You have to be a real wine buff to know about the high-end South African wines in this country - that needs to change," urges Price. "We'll tiptoe into it, but customers are ready - if we get the wording right and the prices work."
What to buy?
You all know about Chenin Blanc, I'm sure - the Cape's most widely planted grape variety. OK, so it isn't usually a wine to write home about - unless it's made by the likes of Ken Forrester or Bruwer Raats.
But watch this space. "What we thought was a donkey has now turned into a thoroughbred," declares Raats.
Which is more than you can say for Pinotage, South Africa's speciality red grape
Actually, that's not fair - there are some delicious examples produced by clever folk such as Beyers Truter at Beyerskloof.
The country is hugely proud of Pinotage - a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut). More than a fifth of all the red wine vineyards in South Africa are planted with Pinotage - in my view, it just requires a more studied approach.
Its bright, juicy damson fruit with unashamed toasted marshmallow could go down rather well with pub customers.
TASTE OF SOUTH AFRICA
Five South African wines to blow your mind - and boost your list
2003 Synchronicity Meinert Wines, Stellenbosch
(£11.75, Great Western Wines, 01225 322800)
"A sexy, modern blend of Cabernet,
2005 Lourensford Viognier, Stellenbosch (£7.25, Hatch Mansfield, 01344 871800)
"Great value, ripe, waxy, aromatic, peachy
fruit - will fly
by the glass"
Raats Orginal Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch/Paarl
(£4.25, Orbital Wines 0207 802 5415)
"Zesty, ripe quince and baked apple - the wooded version is
2003 Luddite Shiraz, Bot River
(£14.95, Les Caves de Pyrene, 01483 538820)
"Ripe style, good concentration of intense, pure Syrah,
2006 Iona Sauvignon Blanc, Elgin
(£7.64, Enotria 0208 961 5161)
"Clean, crisp, classy, minerally Sauvignon
quoted are per bottle ex-VAT.
south african wine - did you know?
l World's ninth-biggest producer of wine
l Fifth position in UK wine retail in value
l UK is single biggest export destination
l Total share is 1,089,000 cases and growing at +8% MAT to July 2006
l Value is £160m and growing at +11% MAT to July 2006
Reader offer Your Chance to claim an Instant Wine Offer
The MA is giving its readers the chance to start offering wine with a special pack. Aimed at licensees exploring customer demand, the MA's Instant Wine Offer is a nine-litre mixed case of 48 single-serve 187.5ml bottles of the UK's best-selling brands.
Specialist supplier Reads World of Wine has put together a special Minicellar pack
exclusively for the MA at a special price of £45.99 for the first 100 readers who call,
offering a saving of 30%.
And the first five callers will receive their pack absolutely free.
As well as the wines, the pack contains a stand to merchandise the bottles on your bar.
The wines included in the pack are:
6 x Mateus Rosé
6 x Gallo Chardonnay
6 x Gallo Cabernet Sauvignon
6 x Paulita Sauvignon Blanc
6 x Paulita Cabernet Merlot
6 x Jacob's Creek Semillon Chardonnay
6 x Jacob's Creek Shiraz Cabernet
3 x JP Chenet Colombard Chardonnay
3 x JP Chenet Cabernet Syrah
To order your pack and be in with a chance of receiving one free call Reads World of Wine on 01628 418126, quoting the MA reader offer.