Friday, April 11, 2014

SAWIS:Change legislation to enhance Estate Wines!

I have always supported and endorsed Wines of Origin rather than Western  Cape and in particular Estate and Single Vineyard Wines. These are wines that should be perceived as special, rare and worth every cent, because they are made from a special, small piece of this earth. The majority of these wines are of great quality and deserves the price tag with many under-priced.
Location, Location, Location
Although Estate Wines were almost the only wines produced in South Africa until the nineties, it very quickly lost its point of difference and specialty as producers bought in grapes or wine of a specific cultivar not planted on the farm. This was done to satisfy the need of a certain importer or market segment in South Africa that they wanted to supply. Legislation was never really put in place (as far as I know) other than that a producer can use the Estate name, but nowhere can it say ‘Estate Wine” on the packaging. For instance if I had Colyn Estate Wines and I used wine from outside of my estate I could use the name Colyn, but not add Estate Wines.
Stunning view from only this spot...point of difference!
So what’s the problem with this?
The USP of an Estate Wine should be that the wines were Grown, Made, Matured and Bottled on the Estate. Only the grapes grown on the designated piece of Estate land can be used for the production of the Estate Wine. It means that the winemaker’s challenge is to make the best wine every vintage from the grapes that his vineyards give. They cannot source grapes from elsewhere. Everyone says that a wine is made in the vineyard and Estate/Single Vineyard Wines are the ultimate challenge for any winemaker to prove that.

Hand Harvested Estate Grapes...managing your quality!
The problem is that certain Estates use their location/brand to sell wines at a premium that they actually bought in from other regions or even within their own region. When you read the label it clearly states that the winery is situated in such a wonderful area with unique climate, terroir, cooling breezes off the "Arctic" blah blah. So they want the consumer to think it is from their property in X region, but the grapes/wine are actually from a totally different region and the Wine of Origin is Western Cape.  In Afrikaans you would say “skou met ‘n ander man se perde” (showing off with someone else’s horses).

In discussion with quite a few Estate owners I have come to the conclusion that I am not the only one thinking that when an Estate use NON-Estate grapes they should not be allowed to sell those wines under the Estate name. This means that I will not be able to use COLYN as my brand name, but I will have to use a different brand name for these wines.    

Why is this important?
We all want South African Wines to sell at higher prices, be sought after and to be the wine of choice for people all over the world. Currently this is not the case and many producers struggle to reach the prices that make it feasible to produce wines. Producers have done a lot to increase the quality of our wines but this is not reflected in our prices internationally. An Estate Wine should be a wine that tells a story about the terroir and history of a specific place. It should be a wine produced in limited quantities creating a supply and demand inequality to drive price. The consumer should feel special to get their hands on a bottle of this wine knowing only a certain amount of this vintage was produced. Estate/Single Vineyard Wines should change the perception of low and mediocre quality and uplift Wines from South Africa.
Managing your selected Estate Vineyards to produce Top Quality grapes every vintage.
My request to SAWIS is to work on legislation that will only allow for Estate Wines to be bottled under the Estate Name. There are ways to do it, (too long to explain in this blog), but it needs to be done in a manner that everyone will benefit from it. An inclusive proposal rather than excluding the majority. I firmly believe that this is a process that will bring the industry closer together than keep dividing it the way it has been. We should be proud of our strict and regulated systems, but also use it to grow the industry on the world stage rather than to bypass it for individual gain.

Beautiful Estate Vineyards
Although this suggestion might sound like a petty issue/’who cares”, I can assure you that this will benefit all producers in the long term. We need to change the perception of South African Wine on the international stage and this could be a step in the right direction.