Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is an Estate Wine actually???

In recent times I have come across so many people talking about wine brands as "Estate Wine" and basically referring to any wine as an Estate product...which it is NOT.

So what classifies a wine to be bottled as an Estate Wine?

“All the vineyards have to be on the same land that the wine cellar is built, bordering the cellar and other vineyards with no separation. Only the grapes from these vineyards can be used to be bottled under an Estate Wine Label i.e if you own a property 1km away that does not border the vineyards and cellar on your Estate then these grapes can not be used as Estate Wine. ALL THE PROCESSES OF WINEMAKING needs to take place ON the Estate and in your Cellar. You are not allowed to move the wine from the Estate and then bring it back onto the property at any time. This means that the growing, making, maturing and bottling of an Estate Wine needs to take place on the Wine Estate property”  

It might sound very confusing, but it is actually very simple and the Wine and Spirits Board is very strict with this legislation. When you buy a bottle of wine again, please have a look at the “Wine of Origin”, if it states “Wine of Origin Western Cape or Coastal Region” then you know that some of these grapes or wine was brought in from outside of the wine region. It can still be “Wine of Origin Robertson” if I bring in grapes or wine from within my wine region, but it cannot be Estate Wine then.

There is a lot of old wineries that used to be Estate’s but after being bought up by bigger companies and conglomerates it has only become Wine Brands like any other because they source their wines and grapes from elsewhere and don’t grow all of it themselves. South Africa does have some strict laws when it comes to how we grow, make and bottle wine but this is one term that has become extremely generalised. Hopefully this will also make you realise that an Estate producer is limited by each vintage in terms of what the vintage gives them. If the quality or volume is down then they have to make work with what they got. They cannot suddenly buy in wine or grapes from elsewhere to make the vintage a bit better. Therefore the Estate producers are under more pressure to compete on a global stage with brands that are sourcing their wines from all over the Cape Winelands,
This definitely differentiates an Estate Wine from a normal wine brand and shows the uniqueness and efforts that has been put in to make each vintage consistent and of Top Quality. The other reality the industry face is that some brands are very strong no matter if they are an Estate or not and the consumer doesn’t always understand the dynamics of what I just mentioned and quite frankly i think a lot of people in the industry doesn't either. But what does Estate Owners do to communicate that to the consumers?? I can only hope that at each opportunity they get they inform them of what it actually took to produce the bottle of wine that they just tasted.

Having Estate Wines are probably the closest that South Africa will get to the French Appelations, Left and Right Banks and whatever else. To me as an Estate Wine producer it does make a huge difference in the market place because not only am I competing with huge wine companies but this is also our only bread and butter!!! So next time you shop around…have a look at what the label says.

The Leg...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why is Wine X in JHB so much better than in Cape Town??

This week will be the first time in i think 5 years that we, Rietvallei Estate, will have a stand at the Wine X in JHB. Why? Because since 2009 we have completed our Special Select Range of Wines and we do need the exposure for these wines. Is a show like Wine X the place to do this? It definitely has debates for a yes and no answer, but i wanted to take a chance this year and see what the Wine X in JHB is all about and according to many sales figures, the people do buy wine at the show. Besides the fact that consumers in Gauteng has a lot more spending money than anywhere else in South Africa, why is the Wine X in Sandton so much better than in Cape Town??

Easy, people in CT are too spoilt for choice for 12 months of the year and this includes the Trade as well as the normal consumer. The restaurateur in Cape Town is bombarded with wine farms trying to spoil them, sending samples, big lunch or dinners and a trip to the winery which is sometimes only 20minutes away. During the year each wine farm tries his best to build relationships and grow business through direct and personal contact with establishments which isnt as easy to do in Gauteng or Durban or anywhere else. However, there is also a snobism factor in CT which there isnt necessarily in Gauteng. This part of the business is most frustating because the Trade does not want to give smaller, newer and lesser known brands the opportunity to be listed in their shop or restaurant.

I will go as far as to say that the Trade are more snobbish than the consumers, who are actually more willing to experiment and try out new wines and producers. They could so easily have a wine list of wonderful Gems that few people might have seen, but NO they want the "big, expensive" names on their list. Including this is also the fact that there are just soo many wine festivals in and around the Western Cape that the Wine X in Cape Town has just become another 'drinking spree' and unfortunately it isnt on a wine farm, but in a big old hall!!! People want to drive out to Darling, Robertson or Breede Kloof to see where the wines are actually made while relaxing with a bottle of wine in the stunning Cape Winelands and Constantia, Durbanville and Stellenbosch is on their doorstep anyway. So the "special price" that they have for the wines at the show is not going to convince me to buy it if i can get the wines year round anyway.

In short this is why i think Wine Shows have become a bit too much in recent years in the Western Cape, but i am very excited to see what Wine X Sandton has in store this week...Wednesday-Friday, Sandton Convention Centre here we come.

Stay Classy...

First Blog for The Leg...send this to all your friends and interested wine people

Dear All,

This is my first blog and something that i have been wanting to do for so long to discuss and chat about the South African Wine Industry, but sometimes also some everyday stuff that we encounter.. Hopefully i will be able to send you interesting news and ideas regularly without being a pain in the ass.

This blog is for me to be as honest as possible and share my feelings and thoughts about the SA Wine Industry and how we can make it better and learn from other's mistakes. So, i am excited and look forward to hear your thoughts and opinions as well...

Chat soon..

Colyn The Leg Truter