SOUTH AFRICA: Industry seeks winners as new wineries battle crowded market

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Cape Wine Master Sue van Wyk takes a look at the anomaly which sees a South African landscape awash with evermore wineries and wines against the backdrop of under-investment and oversupply.

It is with morbid fascination that one reads about all the new wine cellars which have sprung up like proverbial mushrooms in the Cape's wine producing districts these past 12 months when, on the other hand, a string of wine farms are having to be auctioned in nearly all grape-growing areas.

This growth in the wine industry is reflected in the newly released 2001 Platter South African Wine Guide which lists 40 new producers and 30 new ranges from established cellars. Yet, a mere three weeks earlier, the Chairman of the KWV Group announced that the local wine industry was "on its knees" due to a surplus, particularly of white wine.

"Some producers are selling wine at R3.75 a liter - less than a liter of soft drink which costs R5.75!"

Some producers are selling wine at R3.75 a liter - less than a liter of soft drink which costs R5.75! The further decline in the demand for brandy has obviously aggravated this sorry state of affairs. But it is not all doom and gloom. KWV has shown good export growth, particularly in the East where its competitors are affected by a decline in the demand for wine. KWV International experienced an upswing in interest and it has formed a full subsidiary La Concorde Wijne and opened a new office in the Netherlands.

The new wineries are mainly located in Stellenbosch, Paarl, Wellington and Tulbagh, whilst interesting developments are underway in the Hemel-en-Aarde and Tradouw valleys, and on the West Coast around Elim, Philadelphia and Riebeek Kasteel. Even Constantia, viticulturally constrained by urban creep, can boast a new winery.

A few of the new kids on the block have grabbed attention with their first releases, notably Tulbagh's Rijk's Private Cellar and Riebeek Kasteel's Kloovenburg. The former caused a stir when at Veritas 2000 (The SA industry's bottled Wine Show) its 2000 Sauvignon Blanc was the sole recipient of a Double Gold Award in this category. To show its mettle the wine was also awarded a Gold Medal a few weeks later by an international jury at the 2000 Michelangelo International Wine Awards. At the same competition, Kloovenburg's maiden 1998 Shiraz scored Gold as did its Shiraz 1999.

That Wellington's Siyabonga is a cellar to watch was confirmed when The Times's Jane McQuitty recently announced her 100 best wines under £5 for 2000. Not only was Siyabonga's Carnaby Liggle (a Cinsaut/Zinfandel/Shiraz blend) voted the best red wine but it also took overall honors! This wine is produced from 50% bought-in grapes whilst they await the maturity of their premier vineyards.

These are some of the success stories and there will be others amongst the newly established cellars. But all is not that well in the Cape and it will be interesting to see who makes it and who does not!

Companies: KWV Ltd

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