European Pain, South African Gain?

It is tough to gloat off other producers’ misfortune. Being involved in the wine industry means the pain of poor harvests is understood and empathized with, to the utmost degree. Our season is still in its infancy in South Africa, while the northern hemisphere has run its course and harvest has concluded. However, this season is less than stellar for them.

On the back of a very hot and dry summer, many viticulture regions in Spain and Italy have seen significant losses due to the worst drought in 30 years. Much of the Mediterranean was also plagued by record-breaking wild-fires in the scorching summer of 2012. It is estimated that Italy has not seen such a dismal crop since 1950. It is indeed tragic for our European counterparts.

Decanter also reports that the wine glut is almost over. According to Rabobank in The Netherlands, the demand-supply gap, caused by good crops in the years preceding the economic downturn of 2008 and the subsequent drop in demand because of it, is close to being closed. Global inventories of wine are reported to be at the lowest levels last seen a decade ago.

This coupled with a poor Chilean harvest in 2011 and recent reports coming out of Adelaide, that the Barossa Valley has seen significant frost damage during October cold-snaps; this may herald the season of the South African producer.

The UK supermarket chain, Booths and their wine-buyer, Andy Green, have already told The Telegraph that wine is already being actively sought from countries like South Africa. On the back of all the aforementioned, wine from Europe is becoming more expensive and wine is generally in short-supply. Something we have not experienced since the late 1990’s and early 2000’s.

China’s increased consumption, the growth of non-traditional markets, like Africa, plus the recovery of the United States economy, is contributing towards closing this supply-demand gap. Experts, according to The Telegraph, agree that wine prices could rise by a further 10% this year in the UK.

Currently, our growing season in South Africa has barely begun. It is often difficult to predict crop-yields this early in the season. However, the weather conditions at this juncture seem to be playing along with the South African producers. We have seen a relatively cool, benign spring with moderate winds and light rainfall. Winter was unusually, more on the wetter side of the scale, meaning drought conditions this summer are highly unlikely. The El Niño Southern Oscillation, the weather phenomenon which drives El Niño (Pacific-warming) and La Niña (Pacific-cooling) weather events, is also in stasis. This means our Southern African weather patterns should remain close to normal into 2013.

All the above factors could mean 2013 may be the year for the South African producer. If all predictions hold up, the weather cooperates, local producers play their cards right and wine-demand is anything to go by, we could be in for a great year. Although this comes off the back of some dismal crop news from Europe and some hiccups with our southern counterparts, South Africa’s wine industry seems to be mooted to fill the gap. If we can do this in 2013, hopefully we can show off our quality and win over some permanent new clientele; Keep them buying South African wine, even when crops in the northern  hemisphere improve.

Fun Beyond the Boerewors Curtain

Revelry and great wine on DuToitskloof Wines’ front lawns.

Residents of Cape Town’s northern suburbs have had to contend with the moniker of living beyond the Boerewors Curtain for years. For a length of time, I’ve wondered exactly where this curtain is drawn spatially. I’ve hypothetically placed this metaphorical curtain at the N7, but geographic debates aside. Those who live beyond this curtain have one glaring positive; they’re so much closer to the bulk of the Cape Winelands.

If Durbanville residents are beyond the Boerewors Curtain, then surely when one goes through the tunnel near Paarl, you’re in the Offal Section? If the Cape is a giant butchery, are we the liver and kidneys and the Cape Town CBD the fillet mignon? If this is so, offal has never been this good…

Rawsonville and its associated Breedekloof Wine Route are about to pull out all the stops. The second weekend of October is time for any Cape resident or visitor to get out of their comfort zones and explore this ‘exotic side of the butchery.’ If there is any weekend when this lesser-known region shines and dons a cloak of excitement, entertainment and excellence, it is now. The Breedekloof Outdoor and Wine Festival is not to be missed, if finding quality and hidden-gems is your thing.

You may think venturing beyond the tunnel leaves you starved for amenities and options. This simply is not true, especially on this weekend. Many a visitor has commented on how this region’s scenery is awe-inspiring, out-competing most wine regions in shear mountainous beauty. Many also remark how wine quality and price-point leaves them dumbfounded. The genuineness of the valley’s residents, quaint eateries and personable accommodation and wineries leave our guests with lingering memories.

If you haven’t experienced the fun to be had, sipping some of the country’s best Sauvignon Blanc under towering mountains, embarking on outdoor activities next to crystal clear streams, rocking to live music amongst the vines or just traversing an excellent wine route with close friends, this is your weekend. Only R60 opens up the entire region’s wines to you, with festival passes valid from Friday to Sunday; however, if you want to experience the real fun, Saturday’s your day!

Wake up at a respectable hour this Saturday, put on your comfortable shoes, get your car keys and have your R60 at the ready. It’s only an hour’s drive from Cape Town CBD, or a quick-and-easy 45 minutes for those lucky enough to live beyond the Boerewors Curtain and come visit our section. I promise you, the wines, entertainment and hospitality will not disappoint. You’ll wonder why you never chose to day-trip to Rawsonville before!