“South Africa isn’t quite the Wild West, but there’s a frontier spirit to its wine industry, as well as a sense of camaraderie that’s reminiscent of what Australia had in the 1980s.” Tim Atkin, South Africa 2017 Special Report.
The word ‘frontier’ refers to a transitional space, involving pioneers and explorers. A land of opportunity, and in most cases the promise of great riches. It is interesting to note Atkin’s optimism given the serious issues we face: ongoing drought, resulting low yields, general economic and political instability (an understatement to be sure) and the dubious profitability of our international quality wines. This year however Atkin has awarded stellar ratings to a growing list of producers and defends his position thus: “Inevitably, I will be accused of indulging in score inflation, not least by local wine writers. All I can say in reply is that I fervently believe that South Africa is improving with every vintage (even tricky ones like 2016) and that the wines merit my plaudits.”
It makes sense to us however, given our front row seat. It’s simple really. There are a number of factors working to our advantage, despite the obvious difficulties. We have a grand variety of soil and terroir, allowing us to plant and grow a number of grape varieties successfully. We have no red tape with regard to planting restrictions as they do in the Old World, and are therefore free to experiment and explore. This exploration has resulted in an ever-expanding list of wine regions and sub-regions, including areas like: Ceres Plateau, Citrusdal Mountain, Elim, Greyton, Malgas, Montagu, Oudshoorn, Outeniqua (Khoi meaning ‘The land of milk and honey’), Rawsonville, Slanghoek and even the Eastern Free State Highlands. Our winemakers are young with the majority of them aged between 20 and 30 years and the energy that implies. Many of these ‘young-guns’ also come from winemaking dynasties which inform their winemaking style; Atkin interestingly lists the great number of father-son/daughter winemaking ‘teams’ that exist in the industry today, their success, to a man, make the case against co-incidence.
South Africa has been a transitional space for many years, we the people have come to accept this state of flux, afterall we are a proud, vigorous bunch to be sure. Atkin quotes Abrie Beeslaar of Kanonkop on 2016 as ”the toughest year of the last decade”, which to us merely pinpoints the reason behind all these stellar wines. You see, the more you struggle, the more you LEARN, you learn to hunker down, make alternate plans, study your vines, find alternate irrigation methods, you get SMART. With that we invite you to find out HOW smart, by sampling our collection of Mr. Atkin’s highly rated wines here: