Monday, January 27, 2020

Take Away from the VINPRO Information Day

I first attended this information day many years ago when it was still hosted in the Lord Charles Hotel, Somerset West. It has very quickly grown to an annual event with an attendance warranting a much bigger venue. The past couple of years it is held at the CTICC with around 800 people from across all platforms of the Wine Industry.  A big attribute for the growth in the number of attendees must be the wonderful selection of speakers that VINPRO are able to invite. I remember one of my favorite speakers in the past was Harald Pakendorf, Political Analyst & Author, who through his very quirky way of portraying his message had listeners in stitches. It was like a stand-up comedian show for the most part, whilst being very serious about the state of our country. Another one was Max du Preez, but there has been some really insightful segments over the years, doesn’t matter what part of the industry you are interested in.

What was my take away from the 2020 version?

According to figures the real explosion of plantings started mid 90’s to early 2000’s and we all know what glut of especially Red Wine that caused mid 2000’s onwards. It went from 80000ha to well over 100 000ha and in the past number of years with uprooting decreased it with projected figures of 80000ha in 2024. Is this not maybe a good thing? Should SA not rather have 80 000 – 90 000ha of healthy vineyards planted in the rights areas? 

Should our focus be to compete with the big volume players of the world i.e France, Italy, Spain etc. whilst we don’t have the vineyard coverage to OR rather lower production but with focused plantings making sure we can increase our quality? I am a firm believer that “Less is more” for many things and in this case I would venture that way as well. If we can produce 700 million liters of great quality wine consistently and change the perception of Brand SA then we can manage price points better & adapt our price increases better across the board. However herein lies the biggest challenge…CHANGE PERCEPTION…all of the above will only be a dream if we cannot do that. We need to create a demand for South African Wine otherwise we will only make up the numbers, which in an extremely over-traded market worldwide will not be enough to keep producers in business.

So here are my thoughts – appreciate that this need substance & content to drive it:

1.       Create Demand
2.       Produce Less
3.       Produce Better
4.       Positive Price Point Management

I must say that a big reason for my attendance was listening to Andreas Clarke from Wines of Australia. Watching the video of Adelaide Hills and the damage of the recent fires definitely brought a lump to my throat, I won’t lie. The visual impact was huge on everyone in the room, but the resilience of the people there are so close to what we know as South Africans as well. We can and should learn a lot from the Aussies, just look at the success of all their sport teams consistently across all forms. So you have to trust that whatever they do they do it properly!

To be honest what he showed us in terms of their events, collaboration and marketing in their select markets was great, but nothing new and the only big difference between WOA and WOSA…the big old MARKETING BUDGET / FUNDING!!! One can only imagine what we could achieve if our industry had even a quarter of the budget to work with to those of other countries. However, this cannot be an excuse, we need to work clever, collaborate more and start speaking with the same voice rather than see our wine neighbour as competition or enemy!

We have everything that the market is asking & looking for: Personalities, Stories, diverse offering and much more. This need to be put into action but most importantly it has to be done properly, professionally and focused on the right target markets! We cannot afford to just do the dynamite approach. I believe that the success in changing people’s perceptions lies with us changing, influencing & convincing the Trade from top to bottom. Let’s work with and through them to change the minds & preconceived ideas of the consumer. They deal with them on a daily basis through their wine shops, restaurants, bars etc. With the limited budget that WOSA has including the money each producer allocates to their brand annually should be used with greater effect.

I don't believe that the future for SA Wine is selling sub $10 bottles of the USA our sweet spot should be between $20 - $30 on shelf! We can support this with consistent quality, A&P budgets and in the end still make good money.  

So let’s take a quick step back, gather ourselves & use this downturn of production, economy & emotions and see the opportunity that comes with it. The South African Wine Industry has a wonderful opportunity to carve out a legacy for ourselves in the global market, but no one is going to ask us. We need to go tell them!!!

Good Luck to all the Winemakers & Producers with Harvest 2020. 

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Cape Site Specific Wines - Who, Why and more...

This concept has been a dream of mine for at least the past eight years. I have had many discussions with industry colleagues, local trade, agents around the world about this. It stems from working for a family estate for seven years, knowing how tough it is to sustain and grow a family business. That passion and drive is shared with my friends who either started their own business or took over their family estate.  

After multiple meetings and talks a couple of us came together and decided that Cape Wine could be and should be the launch of something. Cape Site Specific was born with Wilhelm Pienaar (Hermanuspietersfontein), Johann Fourie (Benguela Cove Estate) and myself. I am the only NON-Winemaker, so therefore I am the manager/convenor to drive the project and share information amongst the group.   

So why, who and what exactly is Cape Site Specific? In short from our website :

“A collaboration of like-minded producers who share a common vision of creating wines from specific vineyard sites across the Cape Winelands. The focus is on crafting wines which reveal the typicity of each site, rather than the simple manufacturing of commercial styles. The wines are produced exclusively from:

   • Single Vineyards – Max 6 hectares
   • Estates
   • Ward specific sites”

We are NOT another forum, board, association or group trying to swim upstream. In fact it is the total opposite as we see CSS as a platform for like-minded producers to work together. 

The group consist of a really good mix of producers ranging from new & small to family estates spanning multiple generations. This also allows us to have a very diverse offering in CSS.

A few of us do not have an active operational Cellar Door or own their own vineyards, but their focus and philosophy aligns with all of us.

Quality is non-negotiable, but we embrace different styles rather than conform to it. We believe that the producer next to me has to present their wines with their integrity & honesty intact. The end goal is to showcase the differences and diversity of our wines rather than a style. 


Absolutely! Cape Wine will only be the launch of the platform. There are many producers who will definitely add value and speaks the same language as we do. We will take stock after Cape Wine and plan the next steps from there. Unfortunately the stand size doesn’t allow for more producers at Cape Wine, but we are definitely keen to grow. Our statement is clear:

"If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together” - African Proverb


I have been asked this question so many times in the past fifteen odd years. My simple answer is:
If you don’t think your consumer cares, well then I think you are targeting the wrong market. The industry have been hiding behind this ‘who cares’ tag for too long. It is time that we start educating the right market about who and what South African Wine is.
The term “lack-of-confidence” have been mentioned for years.

Individual confidence can be seen as arrogance, collective confidence is BELIEF.

A big goal for CSS is educating, informing and changing perceptions without competing with one another. Finding synergy in the whole value chain of your product i.e who is your importer, who is their market, how are they perceived as supplier in their market. Who are the other producers in their portfolio, not just from South Africa but from other countries. Are we all complimenting each other or competing directly? You should ask that same question about our local market. We want to grow our business’ collectively through sharing information, contacts and markets. An agent with a group of like-minded producers in his portfolio has a lot more content and tools to sell South African Wines than a mix match of various brands. We want to change this and go around the world together!

Regionality in South Africa is very important and we need more regional identity growth & confirmation. You can read more here:

We all have our own USP’s but together the stories just get better and better!


12 – 14 September:         Cape Wine @ Cape Town International Convention Centre
                                         Book your tasting slot with any of our producers during this time

13 September:                  Cape Site Specific Wines in the Speakers Corner @ 11h00

15 September:                  Luncheon @ Overgaauw Estate, Stellenbosch 11h00 – 15h00
                                         30 Pax - please send booking request to

The luncheon at Overgaauw Estate on Saturday 15 September is open to the Trade & Media who would like to meet, interact and enjoy our wines in a relaxed yet typical South African style. It is important for us to build relationships on a personal level whilst tasting the wines and learning more about each other. Hopefully after a busy formal week of meetings and tasting you would be keen to enjoy a fun relaxed day with a ‘home cooked’ meal and some epic wines and conversation!

Please visit our website and follow our social media platforms to learn more about us and staying in touch. If you are planning to attend Cape Wine, be sure to set up a meeting with the producers of interest to you or just pop in. 
It would be wonderful if you can join us on Saturday 15 September as well!

We are excited and look forward to take the first steps at Cape Wine 2018! 

Friday, December 22, 2017

2018 - The Year of The Cape!

As another year winds down I thought I would also attempt to shed some light and thoughts on the year ahead. Most winemakers, marketers and growers are enjoying a deserved break before the harvest season and I am sure each one of them are a bit nervous but excited at the same time. Nervous because of the very dry conditions their vineyards have experienced and what the crop would be. Excited in the hope that the quality will be very high and give them the opportunity to create one of the better vintages!

From a market point of view I am hopeful that 2018 will be “The Year of The Cape”. We have experienced amazing press from across the globe, a new lease on life for Chenin Blanc & Pinotage, wonderful opportunities for smaller, niche producers and the list goes on. But then again there has been very good press for a long time. Very often we read and hear from various markets that South Africa’s time is around the corner, just to be disappointed that it hasn’t happened. Maybe our expectations are too high, maybe it is just not our time yet OR maybe it is time that we go out there in full force creating that demand.

The world wine market opened for us 25+ years ago. In terms of family that is one generation and business has changed drastically in the past 25 years. What has happened is that many of our brands, big & small, have been positioned by people who are most probably retired now. Current Winemakers & Managers of Family properties inherited importers, structures, markets etc. This alone is a huge challenge for a winery and something that I encounter quite often when talking to industry colleagues. So my two cents and thoughts are:

Take time to step back and review your business model, specifically your export markets. For years SA wineries have been so grateful and happy to HAVE an Importer that they very rarely review the status and synergy. Every couple of years any business need to reset and review their model making sure they are on the right track and don’t fall behind in their market space. In basic terms, make sure that your Importer supplies the market that you want to reach. If your aim is to grow big retail business but your importer focus on HORECA and select wine shops then it is not a good fit, and Vice Versa!

PEOPLE BUY FROM PEOPLE: I will always stand by this doesn’t matter what you sell: insurance, cars, wine…Your importer and their staff is an extension of your business. There has to be a solid relationship and friendship for both businesses to grow. Make sure that as both your businesses evolve and change that it keeps the common thread built on your relationship & mutual respect. All of the above also accounts for your local representation of course.
I believe that our pricing structures in the export market have suffered because of the above or lack thereof. Our relationships & understanding of each other’s business models are not good enough to enforce increases and changes. We have to stop being just grateful and sell our stories & quality to support the price points and positioning.

DON’T BE SCARED OF CHANGE: Every year that you don’t take out a bad vineyard sets you back at least three to five years if not more. As with your commercial side you need to review your production and how effective or ineffective it is. There are many producers who have hectares and hectares of unproductive vineyards which should be pulled out, but the hurdle is the cost of replanting. Don’t worry about that cost now, plan for it properly and make sure that when you can replant your business can support it. For very year that you don’t do anything in your production chain you are taking a step back. The same accounts for people that you do business with. If something doesn’t work then look for solutions and make those changes.  Don’t be scared to cull wines from your range that isn’t profitable enough. It can be those supposed “cash cow, volume” wines that causes your business the worst headaches when it comes to CASH FLOW. The golden term for every business!

I learnt something very important from my barrel cooperage, Tonnellerie Baron, in Bordeaux. Lionel Kreff the Sales Director shared a very true statement with me a while ago. We as barrel coopers are there to look after, cherish and protect the wines that growers work so hard for every vintage. If we do not keep our end of the bargain in creating safe and enhancing vessels to their wines, then we are destroying their hard work. This is the total opposite of SYNERGY! If you feel that people working with your wines, whether it is on the farm or out selling, are not enhancing or protecting it then change it!

WORK TOGETHER MORE OFTEN: I do believe that there is already a very good support system in the industry of producers helping and supporting one another. Of course when the going gets tough there is always a scenario of helping yourself before someone else. But in the bigger picture it is becoming more and more important. The more of us who speak the same language (not Afrikaans or English), confidently promote and sell our products and help open doors for each other, the better for the holistic industry. This ‘new’ generation has a very important role to play in changing the industry for the better in totality!

Next year will be a testing one for the world wine market. However, I believe it is the year for the Cape to rise and stake down our claim! It needs to start with each one of us reviewing and analysing our own businesses to make sure whether we are on the right track. Whether we as individuals are custodians of Wines of South Africa or out there for ourselves! We cannot keep waiting for anything to happen we need to go get it! The resources, forums, support, stories and quality is there for us to use.


Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone, may you have a Blessed time with Family & Friends and come back rejuvenated and ready for 2018! 

Friday, October 27, 2017

Violence has come to the Cape Winelands!!

If this comes across as being a bit emotional, well yes it is, what has happened the past week should be the last straw!

I was born in 1980 and grew up in what you could probably call the rural Boland region of the Western Cape. To me that was probably in the middle of Apartheid and as i grew up you notice things, but don't know any better because that what was 'normal'. My father was a banker and in those days worked at Boland Bank so we moved around a bit between Hopefield, Piketberg, Clanwilliam and then settled in Robertson where i finished high school. My brother is three years older than me and my sister two years younger. My brother went to the army straight out of high school, something a lot of people found strange then, but he loved it and it was something he always wanted to do. He became a "parabat" in Bloemfontein and spent ten years in the army. If it wasn't for politics and affirmative action he would still have been there, but the army was no place for a white guy i guess. My sister had to study in-house with a Financial Firm because my parents couldn't afford two children at varsity. Something i still feel very guilty about till today because it wasn't the field she wanted to study, but i can proudly say she has made a huge success of that. She passed her B Accounting Degree Cum Laude two weeks after giving birth to her first child.

One thing i will never forget was when i had to take a letter home which my parents needed to sign to state that they don't mind if i compete in sport against players of colour. Yes, that happened and not for one second did they hesitate to say NO they don't mind. I was too crazy about anything to do with a round ball anyway. But on a serious note, i do believe that South Africans my age or similar has many similar stories to tell.

We were a lower to middle class family in South Africa. Growing up and living in these small towns many of my friends were farmers or worked in agriculture. Today i have many friends and colleagues in agriculture. So that is me in a very short ordinary South African like so many other!!

In the past couple of years i have been personally affected by the constant attack on farmers, not always murders but lies and making them scapegoats for things they didn't do. All of this politically driven and ignited!
Oom Johnny Burger, Rietvalley Estate, committed suicide not out of guilt but he was a depressed broken man targeted by politics with them wanting to make an example of him to the farmers. What happened to the Papenfus women who ignited this bullshit and created the nightmare??? For some time no one could find her and i bet you she is walking free having a cocktail or glass of South African wine in Hermanus or somewhere else. Why is no one hunting her???

We always hear about the farm murders in the Free State, Limpopo or areas very far from the Cape Winelands. Now it has come to us and as close as Stellenbosch with the murder of Joubert Conradie. Not too long ago there was the murder of Alberto Costa also in Stellenbosch.

This week it hit A LOT closer to home for me, but for the sake of privacy i cannot say who it was.  He was abducted in Ashton, a small town close to Robertson, by three men with knives thrown in the back of his car and driven to Cape Town. I cannot share too much information, the case has been reported to the police, but he miraculously escaped early Saturday morning. To see and hear an older man traumatized and broken, the same man who went to the Angola War when he was 18 and lost friends on the battlefield, saw and experienced things none of us should, is heartbreaking.

Have you seen the short video of wolves being reintroduces into Yellowstone National Park in the USA after 70 odd years and the impact it had, even changing the flow of rivers??? Watch it!!

The murder of farmers will have the same effect as when wolves were taken OUT of the Yellowstone Park, more closer to home, just look at Zimbabwe. I for one have always said that South Africa will not become the next Zimbabwe. Unfortunately what has happened recently is busy affecting my optimism. Violence in general is on the rise to the point where people will start taking the law into their own hands. My heart breaks every morning when i have to hear about another child killed by a stray bullet in Mannenberg or Grassy Park. Those poor parents who has to live with that but keep their heads down and work to earn a living as well.

This is not the South Africa my parents signed YES for, it is not the South Africa I love and wherever I travel invite foreigners to come visit. I don't have a tractor or a bakkie, but I am willing to join anyone who has space in theirs on Monday or whenever! If people can Toi Toi and break down the city for service delivery or student fees, then we must stop being too proud to stand up! Pride will not get us anywhere!!! Huge action needs to be taken and it has to happen very soon, we cannot sit back and keep talking about it around a braai. We are great at talking, but this needs to go over to action which doesn't mean violence. It means government and the world has to take notice!!

 I will be wearing Black on Monday!!!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Are Site Specific Wines the Best in the World?

I am not sure how many people have actually viewed this as a topic or important enough to discuss, but on a recent trip to the USA and Europe it has come up a few times. Working with Arendsig Single Vineyard Wines (Robertson) and Tonnellerie Baron (Bordeaux) from a producer side it has become a very important point to me as a USP. 

My initial response to the question, "Are Site Specific Wines the best in the World", would be NO. I don’t believe that Site Specific Wines should or will always be the best of its cultivar or blend. It goes a lot deeper and intricate than that. Quality is undeniable, but it is about the aura, track record and sense of place around the wine that counts.

When you look at the Premium World Wine Market and divide it into Old & New World, what comes to mind when you hear: Napa Valley, Marlborough, Burgundy, Bordeaux? Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay & Pinot Noir, Bordeaux Blends.  All of these regions have set a benchmark for the world wine market to follow. South Africa doesn’t feature with any specific varietal although there has been a new resurgent push for Chenin Blanc and Pinotage.

There has been a constant benchmarking of New World Wines compared to that of Bordeaux & Burgundy specifically. The funny thing is that whilst we go out there and use their wines to show trade and wine consumers how good our wines are, the Old World just keep doing what they have done for centuries. Not that they can and should rest on their laurels, but the fact is that because of the strength of their appellations they just make the best wine that they can every vintage. To them the vintage is paramount in their pricing…not so much for the New World. 

Do they make the best wines in the world? It probably depends on what barometer you are using to measure it, but from an historical point they do. When you look at the high regard these vineyards and appellations have amongst winemakers around the world, then yes they do. Are there better wines grown and made outside of these historical regions? YES there are!

I have been part of tastings where SA Wines have gone up blind against the best of France, Italy, Spain etc, many times rated higher and many times not. The difference is that when you purchase top Bordeaux you are buying a piece of land & history knowing that the specific wine was made from a designated area and terroir which cannot be replicated. On top of that it comes with generations of knowledge passed down knowing how certain blocks/cultivars perform in certain soils & vintages on the property. Does it make these wines the best in the world and always top of the selection process in tastings? NO

The most exciting time for me at Arendsig Single Vineyard Wines is when Lourens and I taste the new vintages, freshly bottled or still in barrel. Thinking back at previous ones and if we have a bottle left taste it next to older vintages. Do we always think the new vintage is the best vintage, NO. What we are looking for is that fingerprint thread of each block coming through vintage in and vintage out! The ‘DNA’ of that block that has become the signature of the brand! Some vintages we bottle more, some a little less...volume is not ever a talking point, quality comes first! When you become greedy in bottling more rather than focusing on quality you lose the essence of your wines! 

On the Tonnellerie Baron ( )  barrel side I can definitely see a big move by producers to have more focus on what they produce, their oak-ageing regime and understanding of their vineyards! This is extremely exciting to see and for the past four years taste the wines from barrel and learning about the producer, their vineyards and brand vision first hand. We won’t necessarily see this immediately but over the next five to ten years which means we have a lot to look forward to on the Premium side of South African Wine. 

I have always said that South African Wine needs to create a better identity for ourselves and it has to start within each region, by each producer. Individually there are amazing stories and examples of how old estates, new independent wineries/winemakers and even corporate wine companies have reinvented themselves with great success. As a whole though there is still too much confusion, saying the one thing, doing the other. We must get this attitude out of our systems of not wishing good business and fortitude on our fellow industry colleagues and friends. There needs to be a system working from Top to bottom not the other way around to change the "value for money" tag. 

Let’s build our regions and create the following and awareness of them under the umbrella of South Africa. Then work on focussing on the sub-regions within the regions. If Stellenbosch is strong then Simonsberg, Helderberg etc will be strong. The same with all the other regions.  It is like Doc Craven said, when Maties is strong Springbok Rugby is strong J

We all want to sell our wines at higher prices in the export markets and should work towards the same common goal. To achieve this we need consistency in quality, specialty in our offering and belief in our wines, doesn’t matter from which region you are.
Site specific wines are not always the best in the world, but you would struggle to get any closer in experiencing a sense of place, passion and uniqueness in wine style! Last year I was very fortunate to meet the people from Tenuta delle Terre Nere from Mount Etna in Italy,  and tasted their wines (imported by ). Learning about the wines made from vineyards grown in the shadows of Mount Etna in ancient volcanic soils and tasting the wines was an absolute confirmation. I could experience the ‘sense of place’ with the sniff and taste of the wines, closing my eyes trying to imagine those vineyards and land. Was it the best wines I ever tasted, NO, but that’s not the point. It was worth every cent and to share it with people who love wine.

South Africa have these stories, sites, history, skills and everything that goes with it! The product is there and confirmed in the results we see internationally every year. Now it has to be backed up by the brand owners, marketers, winemakers and ambassadors going out into the World Wine Market!


Thursday, June 4, 2015

First Release of Transbottle in South Africa!!

My first shipment of the Transbottle 6 will arrive in South Africa this week! After quite some time crunching numbers and working with the company in France I decided to import my first pallet even though the weak Rand made it very tough. However, I believe that it is a product with great potential in South Africa and not necessarily limited to the wine trade alone.

Unit locked 
The Transbottle 6 is your wine suitcase to travel the world and take your favorite wines with you or bring some wines home from your trip. The unit is secured with a combination lock to make sure no one can get their hands on your wines. You can check it in with the rest of your luggage as well. The Transbottle system is developed to protect each bottle and make sure it can withhold any bumps and knocks. 
Unit checked in with Airline. 

View from the top showing each compartment with space for opener and business cards
For the Winemaker, Marketer and Sales Person:
It is a great tool to travel with new vintages, barrel/tank samples to prospective buyers or just to take older vintages with you for a vertical tasting with media and trade. So often we travel abroad and want to bring back wines to taste with colleagues and peers, but just don't have the space in your suitcase or for more than one bottle. 

Why go to a tasting with a cooler bag and a box? Chill your white wines individually with your red wine unaffected by it. One unit to carry around to meetings with potential restaurants, wine bars and shops to work with your wines/beers/spirits. 

For the wine lover:
Whether you are in the wine business or just a wine lover. This product will help you transport that amazing vintage wine you bought or aged for a special occasion. Maybe you like to take wines on your holidays or weekends away. This is perfect to make sure it arrives safely with you. 

You can even use it as a wine shelf 
The price per unit is R1400 ensuring your safe travels with Wine or Spirits.

To order your unit now please contact me directly on:

Tel: +27 82 4979 670

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Familiar versus Unfamiliar

A topic that I have discussed with a couple of people in the past came up again during the past week. Is it easier to score unfamiliar varieties higher than familiar ones?? The new wave of blends and lesser known varietal wines have changed the landscape of wine judging and scoring. So what do I perceive to be lesser known…basically everything that isn’t Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet, Pinotage Shiraz etc. Varieties that the general consumer is NOT familiar with.
Arendsig Inspirational Batch Grenache 2013 - 92 Points Tim Atkin South African Report
There is a hype surrounding Grenache (white and red) and other varieties, but luckily also Chenin Blanc and the various styles it can be made or blends with it as a component. Although this hype is driven by producers/independent winemakers and not yet fully grasped by the general consumer it has changed the dynamic of rating wines…at least from what I can see.

Star Hill Wild Yeast Chenin Blanc - Single Vineyard
Scoring Wines:
How good must a Sauvignon Blanc be to score higher than 90 points when there are so many in the category. In SA I think some very good ones go unnoticed because of quick vintage changes and the consumer demanding the freshest, newest vintage on shelf. I still think one of the best Sauvignon Blanc’s that I have ever tasted was the Suider-Terras 2013 from Bloemendal Estate in Durbanville (I do not work with them anymore, for reasons I do not want to elaborate on in this post). 
Even Tim Atkin scored it 94 Points in his South African Report when the wine was still very young and both Francois Haasbroek (Winemaker) and people in the know felt it will only get better with age. Unlike the Suider-Terras that has an amazing story and heritage behind it or Thys Louw with his various styles of Sauvignon Blanc, Cape Point who’s brand driver is Sauvignon Blanc…can you imagine how saturated the local media/judging palates must be of Sauvignon Blanc??

When the winemaker use Sauvignon Blanc in a blend with Semillon, Chenin Blanc or Viognier with a funky brand name then that wine gets more attention and a higher rating? In general I think so, because it is something different and not a wine you come across every day. White blends especially getting high acclaim in Platter 2015! 

Similarly we can use Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Pinotage as examples. There is a lot of negativity towards these varietals if you follow certain groups of people on Twitter, but they are the ones punting whatever is odd, different or lesser known.  

On Monday we hosted some wine media and trade at Journey’s End outside Somerset West to taste through some older and current vintages. After a sit down tasting of wines we moved outside for lunch and to taste through old vintages from the property. The wines date back to 2001 Journey’s End Kumala Cabernet Sauvignon and 2002 Journeys End Kumala Chardonnay (which was a standout wine on the day). Having the likes of Christian Eedes and James Pietersen there as Wine Critics and Judges was very interesting comparing it to what the trade guests thought of the wines. There were definitely two schools and feedback from the general Trade being more complimentary and impressed. Christian Eedes and James Pietersen were a bit more critical, maybe because of the nature of their jobs.

Stunning Views over False Bay from Journeys End Vineyards
However, when Leon Esterhuizen (Winemaker) started talking about Carbonic Maceration, use of various types of oak and fermentation on his Griffin Syrah 2012 it suddenly caught the attention and created more interest with guests. Christian later on scored the wine 91 Points although I thought he would give it 92 or more knowing him from previous tastings J

Yes the style of this Syrah is very different to the other Journey’s End ones, but I felt the Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 was a standout wine deserved of a high rating. But it was Cabernet made in a very old world style compared to the interesting Griffin Syrah. The point was not whether the Journeys End wines were below par, but maybe just too similar to what they taste daily or safe as some might call it. 
Does this prove my earlier point? I would like to think so, but it would only be human to appreciate an interesting and different wine a bit more than a wine/variety that you are so used too. Just being different doesn’t mean it is a good wine. It still has to be well made and of great quality to earn high ratings.
Cape Doctor Cabernet Sauvignon
Christian Eedes is a trusted wine colleague and someone who has supported me tremendously the past three years in coming to my portfolio or individual producer tastings. As outspoken and opinionated as he can be about wine or sport, so is he a very good sounding board to discuss wine facts and trends with. I enjoy reading his posts about the wines he taste and he is a bit of a 'funky wine lover' as well :). 

Although I don’t think wine critics always understand what consumer behaviour or buying patterns are, because they get exposed to mainly taste top end wines on a very regular bases. Their input and feedback is always very needed to trigger the winemakers mind and discuss different opinions. 

Unless a country or region starts to push a certain wine i.e Pinot Grigio, Malbec, like some have done, the lesser known varieties will stay a novelty to most. I cannot see white blends, Grenache or Pinot Noir from South Africa outselling Sauvignon Blanc or Merlot real soon.
It is great to taste and see what some of the winemakers and brands are doing with the cultivars. But I can confirm from first-hand experience that the consumer will order and buy the wine they are familiar with.

Personally I do feel that lesser known varieties and 'funky' wines are getting a lot more traction these days than very well made familiar ones. Does this mean winemakers and brands should go out looking for these grapes to create a wine for their portfolio? NO, please dont! Stick to what you have and make that better and better every vintage! In such a way building a brand through consistency and credibility.