It’s not just an age-old property adage, it’s what makes fine wine so fine. Where a wine comes from, where the vines are grown, what kind of soil its roots dig deep into… all these factors bear hugely on the final outcome of a wine.
In places like France, famed wine locations like Bordeaux and Champagne are so well known that they have become synonymous with certain styles of wine, now emulated the world-over. Still, no wines grown outside of these regions may be labelled as Champagne or Bordeaux.
In the Cape, the requirements and legislation regarding the labelling for site specific wines has been broad and rather vague. Yet with our rich heritage and diversity of sites, it’s crucial we celebrate and highlight them better as we seek to establish our position amongst the world’s best.
With all this mind, I was excited to find myself at the Vergelegen Cellar this past month as some of South Africa’s top wine producers teamed up to showcase their Cape Vintner Classification (CVC) accredited Site Specific Wines.
Although I didn’t get close to tasting all 50 of their best site specific wines showcased, I was once again struck by the depth of quality in our country’s wine. And of the beauty of heritage and commitment it takes to produce these kinds of wines.
You see, over the past few years, there has been a trend toward independent winemakers unhitching themselves from just one wine estate and instead becoming travelling curators – selecting grapes from a wide range of places in order to create their particular wine of choice. Although this has been an exciting development and led to some outstanding wines, there is undoubtedly still a place for the resident artists… for the winemakers and estates that year in and year out stick to the same patch of earth - for better or for worse – creating wines that put the timeless ‘sense of place’ above the transient personalities who make them.
Under the Chairmanship of Neil Ellis, the CVC hopes to further build South Africa’s reputation as a producer of these kinds of world-class, site-specific wines.
There are currently 22 accredited members and a further 8 in the pipeline, with each one committing to adhere to a comprehensive set of standards and independent audits. All wines bearing the CVC label must possess a level of quality, consistancy and sense of place (originating from vineyards in the specified site regions).
Why go to all this trouble you may ask? All so that when you pick up a bottle bearing the CVC label, you’ll be able to better appreciate the Cape’s distinctive sites, whilst also differentiating between wines grown from one single site as opposed to grapes being bought from an assortment of places, and blended together later.
So here’s to embracing the new waves in wine, whilst still honouring the timeless places and traditions from whence they came.