In South Africa, lighter reds like cinsault and cabernet franc are on the rise.
In South Africa, lighter reds like cinsault and cabernet franc are on the rise.
Image: 123RF / stokkete

Predicting drinking trends is a little like predicting weather patterns … it’s a swirling blend of science, trend-spotting and experience. With his finger on various pulses and in countless barrels across the Cape – here are Wade Bales’ predictions on five emerging developments set to shake up 2019 …


With escalating global temperatures, we’ve seen a parallel rise in the public’s general awareness and concern for the environment. Never before in modern history have so many consumers set such high ethical standards for the products and brands they choose to support. Indeed, a recent study in the UK found there had been a 350% increase in people choosing to become vegetarians over the past three years alone and, if my local deli is anything to go by, this is a trend I don’t see slowing down anytime soon.

Although wine lovers the world over can breathe a sigh of relief that wine is definitely vegan, not all wines leave an equal impact on their environment. Those producers who appreciate this, and increasingly move toward a biodynamic or sustainable and environmentally-gentle mode of winemaking, will be richly rewarded. Never more so than in 2019 and beyond.


Around the world, lighter styles of wine are on the rise and South Africa is no exception. Fewer people are looking for over-extracted, blockbuster wines and more and more are opting for fresh, uncomplicated styles made with less wood and loaded with fruit and well-balanced acidity.

This trend towards lighter wine styles extends to wines lighter in alcohol. Along with a heightened awareness of the environment, the growing millennial market is opting for lower-alcohol wines to ensure they can enjoy a couple of glasses over a meal without feeling it the next day.  

Da Luca Sparkling Rose.
Da Luca Sparkling Rose.
Image: Supplied

Lower-alcohol, lighter wines, such as Da Luca Sparkling Rosé at 11%, are a great place to start if you’re wanting to jump on board. 


These days, the difference between Old and New World wines has far less to do with quality, than with quantity and perception. Of course, the great European regions that have dominated centuries of winemaking aren’t going anywhere, but, with an increase in wine drinkers globally, these wines are no longer the only game in town. Add to this the fact that many “New World” producers have been growing and perfecting the art of winemaking in their regions for decades, and even centuries in the case of the Cape, and you realise the new kids on the block aren’t that new anymore!

With acclaimed wine critic Tim Atkin crowning our very own Kanonkop’s Paul Sauer with a perfect score in his 2018 report, it’s clear South Africa’s time to shine on the international wine scene has truly arrived. Coupled with our favourable exchange rate, our wines offer incredible value for discerning wine drinkers the world over. This year, I expect international demand to soar like never before – particularly those wines that take pride in showcasing their unique sense of place.


Back home on the ground, local consumers are venturing further from the safe shores of sauvignon blanc and shiraz and exploring new cultivars. We’re spoilt for choice in this regard, with a veritable treasure chest of single-varietal blocks and new cultivars cropping up all the time.

The big international trends at the moment include prosecco and rosé. In South Africa, lighter reds like cinsault and cabernet franc are also on the rise. If you’re keen to give this trend a try, I’d start with Bosman Twyfeling Cinsaut 2016 and Wade Bales Winemaker Reserve Johan Malan Cabernet Franc 2017 (Simonsig).


South Africa is bursting with a new crop of craft whisky distillers and brewers of everything from botanical gins to high-end teas. It was only a matter of time before these creative savants got inspired by the lush vineyards on our doorstep. From Aegir Brewery’s “Ode to The Harvest” series (using a variety of wine grapes blended with hops and aged in oak wine barrels for a full year), to whisky and gin made with wine grapes instead of more traditional bases, there has been a proliferation in wine-inspired hybrids that I don’t see abating.

Wrapping up all these trends, 2019 is the year environmentally-conscious, lighter wines with roots proudly in SA, and branches that extend into a myriad interesting hybrids and revived classics, take the world by storm.

What a year it’s set to be!

- Wade Bales is the Founder of Wade Bales Fine Wines & Spirits:

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