Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Cape Wine 2008

Though this view of the mountains of Stellenbosch might suggest that a visit to Cape Wine 2008 is idyllic, the reality is obviously very different! Believe me, days spent tasting wine and eating vast quantities of meat takes it toll...eventually.

This is my 4th visit to Cape Wine and this year promised a larger show with a more confident, mature industry ready to show that it can meet the very significant challenges that it faces on the export market. After a couple of days at the show and a further couple out with suppliers, it seems that, as ever, the picture in South Africa is mixed and there remains some work to do.

Our first day was spent with Bruwer Raats in the Polka Drei subregion of Stellenbosch. That many consumers are yet to work out where Stellenbosch is no obstacle to the many who are supportng further fragmentation into sub regions but though this move may be premature, there is no doubt that people like Bruwer Raats are the future of the industry.

Rather than taking a "scatter gun" approach to wine making, Bruwer takes a more focussed path and has become renowned for making just Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Franc from grapes grown on soil specific sites. His search for the sites that contain his ideal soil profile is exhausting and is paying dividends with precise, minerally, textured Chenin and bright, crunchy, fresh Cabernet Franc with terrific balance and drinkability.

The time spent at the show has been enlightening though there does not appear to have been the great leaps forward that perhaps have been seen in previous years. There is a continuing move to new, unique terroirs and overall handling of tannin and oak appears to hav improved. However, the continuing inability or seeming scientific research into what causes the dusty, rubbery character still to be found in many reds, is a a huge frustration and will keep the industry back from making the advances that many of its more ambitious winemakers deserve.

A couple more days to go on this trip and further visits to Stellenbosch await so perhaps the weather will improve - the winter here has been unusually long and harsh with snow on Table Mountain fairly recently - something that is almost unheard of.

More to follow.....

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