It looks like 2024 will be one of the most exciting years in wine, with environmental, social and technological changes catalysing big shifts across the local vino landscape.
I believe that one of the biggest shifts we can expect to see this year is that wine consumers are increasingly prioritising both quality and value.
Ostentatious displays of wealth and prestige are becoming scorned — no doubt driven by a growing sense of community and kinship with those who are suffering the world over. As a result, there’s increased demand for quality wines by smaller producers — but at great value. In terms of bubbly, for example, consumers are learning what constitutes real quality, and are moving away from commercial producers such as Moet, favouring grower Champagnes and SA’s own fantastic MCCs.
We’re also returning to the values of traditional winemaking — with an emphasis on terroir — while consumers look for sustainability and social responsibility. They want to know what the producer of their chosen bottle stands for.
Green light on light red
Traditionally, red wine was seen as the beverage of choice for cooler weather (and for heavier foods), while white wine was the go-to for summer. That archaic notion is now firmly in the past, as refreshing, light red styles become more prevalent.
Internationally, the popularity of varietals like Gamay Noir and Grenache has grown, thanks to the rise of territories such as Beaujolais and the Rhone Valley in France, while red burgundy (pinot noir) remains perpetually in demand.
Locally, we’ve seen a simultaneous rise in the demand for lighter red styles such as Cinsault and SA’s own pinotage, a crossing of cinsault and pinot noir grapes. These styles are best served chilled and are really refreshing in the warmer months. They’re convivial and incredibly versatile in terms of food pairing, working well with a wide variety of dishes — from vegetarian to fish, chicken and even lamb.
Radford Dale Imports also recently hosted a Beaujolais tasting at Culture Wine Bar, which was one of our best-attended tastings to date. Two of Beaujolais’ top winemakers flew in to present the tasting, reflecting the growing interest of SA as a fine wine destination.
The ultimate red grape for serving chilled is gamay, which is passionately championed in SA by our friends at Radford Dale, who were also the first to plant gamay in the Cape for more than two decades.
It’s definitely the light red’s time to shine.
The era of anything goes
Today’s SA winemakers have more opportunity to travel, and thus greater exposure to different winemaking techniques around the world. They’re bolder, braver and open to experimenting with different styles and varietals. Thanks to this “new generation” winemaker, we’re seeing some really interesting grape crossbreeds and non-traditional matches, such as chardonnay grapes added to Beaujolais (traditionally purely gamay noir).
The rise of the global wine drinker — but local remains lekker!
Winemakers are not the only ones benefiting from this growing global exposure — wine drinkers are too. Consumers are travelling to some of the world’s best winemaking regions (luxury travel company Virtuoso recently found that there was a 70% increase in people booking food- and wine-focused trips) and want to experience back home the same wines they enjoyed on holiday.
As a result, expect to see a greater focus on international wines on local wine lists, with far more choice across the board.
But it’s not a matter of turning up our noses at local wines in favour of international; South Africans are loyal to local producers — we know how good we have it here. It’s not either-or; it’s a case of giving South Africans more access and choice, so they can put one of the country’s best wines on a table alongside a comparable French vintage, providing them with the opportunity to see just how well SA wines stack up against the world’s best.
• Matt Manning is owner at Culture Wine Bar and Culture at TimeOut Market Cape Town