Good News: South Africa wine exports go-ahead during lockdown

The South African wine industry has been given authorization to export wines during the country’s current lockdown.

Following intense lobbying of the South Africa government by an Industry Exporters Task Team, the Minister of Transport stated in a release yesterday, April 7: “During the lockdown period, the transportation of the wines and any other fresh produce products at the seaports and international Airports Designated as Port of Entry for export is allowed.”

“Agricultural Cargo is allowed to be transported to seaports and International Airports Designated as Ports of Entry and exported to the relevant destination.”

The move is important for South Africa’s wine producers and fruit farmers as much of their produce is exported, and 50% of all wine produced is exported.

Rico Basson of Vinpro, which represents 3,500 members of the South African wine industry, tweeted, “We are very grateful for the dispensation to allow the exports of South African Wine”.

A statement from The Exporters Task Team also praised the decision: “Government and all the respective role-players [have shown] an understanding for the industry’s challenges through this concession, as nearly half of South Africa’s wine production is exported and a restriction on exports would have a severe effect on wine-related businesses, but most importantly the livelihood of close to 300,000 people employed by the wine industry value-chain.”

The Task Team emphasized that it recognized “the severity” of the Covid-19 pandemic, asking all businesses and people to “strictly adhere to the regulations” set out by government to ensure the safety of all employees during the lockdown.

Describing the development as “very good news for the industry”, Wines of South Africa‘s (WoSA) UK market manager Jo Wehring clarified that, “this exemption only relates to finished product that is ready for shipping in either bulk or packaged format”, adding it is “a massive step in the right direction and will bring much relief”.

WoSA recently announced that the 2020 vintage would deliver ‘exceptional wines’, after a last minute concession from government allowed harvesting to take place.

Ontario Adopts Temporary Measures to Support Bars, Restaurants and Alcohol Retailers During COVID-19 

The Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) has announced a number of temporary measures to support local businesses in Ontario that have been significantly impacted by the spread of COVID-19.

Effective immediately, licensed restaurants and bars in Ontario will be allowed to sell alcohol with food takeout and delivery orders between the hours of 9:00 am and 11:00 pm. All active liquor licensees may immediately begin offering this service if they choose and there is no application process or fee required. Liquor may be sold for takeout or delivery through a third party, such as a food delivery service or ordering platform, provided they are acting on behalf of the licensee.

Additionally, the AGCO is temporarily allowing authorized grocery stores and liquor manufacturer retail stores to begin selling alcohol as of 7:00 am in order to support early shopping programs for vulnerable people and to provide greater flexibility to retail stores. The temporary extension of hours also provides greater flexibility for all alcohol retail stores to choose their hours of sale to meet public health objectives. Consumers are encouraged to confirm operating hours with retailers.

The AGCO is also extending by three months the term of all active liquor, gaming and cannabis licences, authorizations and registrations during this extraordinary situation. In all cases, licensees do not need to do anything. Existing licences will simply remain in effect for the extended period, at no additional cost.

“Everyone at the AGCO is concerned for the individuals, families, businesses and communities affected by this virus. We are working closely with the Government of Ontario to find ways of supporting Ontarians and the sectors we regulate during these challenging times” states Jean Major, Registrar and CEO, AGCO.

26th Grand International Wine Awards Mundus Vini Spring Tasting 2020

The Mundus Vini wine awards are held in Neustadt an der Weinstrasse, in the heart of the Palatinate region in the Pfalz, south of Frankfurt every spring.  268 wine experts from 54 countries gathered at the 6-day tasting in February to blind taste and assess around 7500 wines from 45 countries. Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright, Cape Wine Master, was invited to be a judge for another year in a row and this time as Canada’s first-panel chair.

Over the days of tasting, Ratcliffe-Wright chaired a panel with judges from Germany, Australia, Russia, Ukraine and Portugal who tasted wines from 11 countries.  Garnacha based red blends from Germany and Spain showed solid quality with very few faulty bottles or winemaking faults. A flight of Sauvignon Blanc from Trentino and Veneto in Italy and white blends from various regions in Italy showed good varietal character, while the blends highlighted the great quality of white wines coming out of Italy recently, being super easy to every day drinkers to enjoy.

The Pinot Noir flight from Chile and New Zealand was outstanding with judges awarding many medals.  Merlot from various Spanish regions ranging from La Mancha to Catalonia was solid without too many surprises.

The sparkling wine and Prosecco flight from Italy and Germany showed wines that were whistle clean and market-ready.  Rioja from Spain was interesting in that there were many different styles from the region, but in general, the quality was very high.

The Shiraz and Shiraz blends from South Australia showed beautiful balance and fruit.  There was a Pinot Gris flight from Germany, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Serbia and North Macedonia, while being from a wide range of countries, the grape showed its character and it was obvious why this varietal is so popular worldwide.

Chenin Blanc from various regions in South Africa from Swartland to Walker Bay was promising with a wild card of a Chenin Blanc from Armenia included in the lineup and that had been blended with Aligoté and Kangun.

Valpolicella Ripasso from Northern Italy was an interesting flight with many excellent wines.

Each judge is measured daily on a tasting and scoring graph against their peers to ensure precision of tasting without too much deviation and to ensure consistency.

Christian Wolf, tasting director for Mundus Vini said: “We can see purely by the figures and the feedback from our tasters that the level of quality has risen considerably this year.”

Australia emerged from the competition as number one in the overseas category with a total of 72 medals with Kilikanoon Wines being named, once again, the best Australian winery with 19 medals. South Africa came in 2nd of the wines from overseas with 55 medals and Argentina 3rd with 49. The best Argentinian winery was Gruppo Peñaflor who received a total of 11 medals

Some of the top-rated wines of the show were:

2016 Kilikanoon Oracle Shiraz (Best of show, Australia red)

2018 Jaraman Chardonnay (best of show Australia white)

2016 DeWetshof Estate The Site Chardonnay (best of show South Africa white)

2016 Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Shiraz (Best of Show, South Africa red)

2015 Felipe Staiti Honor (Best of show Argentina)

For the European wines, Italy scored the most medal with 658 with Spain a close second with 631 and France with 325.

“It was an exciting tasting this year to see high quality from so many regions and a privilege to judge with so many accomplished international palates.” Says Jenny.  “I look forward to judging in the competition again next year.”

Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright

Wine in a Can.  I’m a Fan!

What’s wrong with selling wine in a can?  It was not too long ago when traditionalists thought screw caps on wine bottles were a total outrage to an industry cloaked in tradition. And look at us now; twisting that screw cap with glee and patting ourselves on the back that the screw cap invention protected the cork trees.

Wine in a can is no gimmick. It began in about 2004 with Francis Ford Coppola Winery producing “Sofia”, a blanc de blanc sparkling wine in a can.  It has been growing steadily since then and canned wine was a $50 million business in the US last year. It seems to be falling somewhere between the box wine of student days and elegant, gifting wine in bottles.  We accepted beer in a can, followed by other premium beverages in a can like cocktails, sake, and craft beer, what’s stopping us from embracing the wine in a can trend?

So why is this new format drawing so many consumers?  Firstly, it is mainly the millennial generation that is attracted to wine in a can.  This grouping of people is usually drawn to products of convenience, accessibility, approachability, especially when purchasing wine.

Canned wine ticks all those boxes and so many more:

  • Ease of use: simple to take anywhere, takes up little space, is practically a single-serve unit, no mess
  • Environmentally friendly: the product has a lower carbon footprint because of transporting its reduced weight as well as space efficiency. Aluminum cans are also far easier to recycle than glass
  • Faster chilling: making this product practically instant
  • Adaptability: canned wine can be used in places where glass is normally banned like in parks and swimming pools
  • Price: due to reduced costs of packaging and transport

It is now a question of premiumization.  Consumers, especially the millennials do not want lower quality products, in any format.  The challenge is to prove that canned wine can exceed the consumer’s expectations and deliver a quality wine, regardless of its format.  One way is to encourage the consumer to drink the wine out of a glass and not from the tin.  There is still the old myth: “won’t it taste like metal?”.

Age ability is the other difference.  Wine in a can is meant for immediate consumption.  There are currently no trials or stats to see what the aging process in a can might be, so for now, the wine in your cellar will remain in a bottle, but the wine in your picnic hamper may well be in a can.

Stel + Mar sent us some samples of their wine in a can. The Stel + Mar strap line is “premium wine in a can” and I was not disappointed.

The Premium White is a 250ml Californian Chardonnay at 14.5% alcohol.  It is quite delightful.  I tasted it, enjoyed it thoroughly and poured the rest of the can into my glass to enjoy as I wrote this piece.

Tasting Notes: Aromas of fresh nectarine, lemongrass and a refreshing honeysuckle note make it a very appealing everyday tipple.

The Premium Red is a Californian Zinfandel and has classic varietal typicity.

Tasting Notes: Blackberries and rose petals with dark cherries and cinnamon.  It’s heavy enough to satisfy but light enough to glug.

I am a fan of wine in a can.  It’s a growing business and is to be ignored at your peril.

Stel + Mar Website:  https://stelandmar.com/

Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright Cape Wine Master

The South African wine industry commits to sustainability

South African wines are known globally for many things: wide range of styles; diversity of climate and geography; unique varietals; transition between the old and the new world.  But not many people know the Cape Winelands are located in the Cape Floral Kingdom, a world heritage site, one of six plant kingdoms in the world, with more than 9500 plant species. This piece of natural significance, located on the most southern point of the African continent, in the area surrounding Cape Town is where 70% of the plant species found cannot be found anywhere else on earth.

With this unique biodiversity, preserving the natural heritage of the land has become a focus for the South African wine producers. With the boom in the export market, the area being planted to vines in South Africa in on the increase.  Farmers are identifying what is unique and rare on their farms and finding ways to preserve the natural fynbos and renosterveld (translated as rhino fields); local names for the indigenous vegetation, and to minimize further loss of the threatened natural habitat as their plantings increase.

The South African wine industry supports conservation, and special biodiversity guidelines have been written. A program in sustainable farming was initiated called the Integrated production of Wine (IPW).  It became compulsory for farmers in 1998 and it concentrates on every stage in the wine production process.  Environmental impact studies, soil preparation, use of recyclable packaging, as well as botanical audits to preserve endangered or sensitive species, and using indigenous plants as cover crops.  Farmers also are required to set aside undeveloped land on their farms to preserve the natural ecosystems.

South African wine bodies are working together to drive the industry’s commitment to sustainable, eco-friendly production of wine.  The Wine and Spirit board seal on the bottle guarantees this and has a unique seal number which can be verified online (www.sawis.co.za)

Consumers can now know that South African wine is the real deal when it comes to sustainability and not just a form of green rubber stamping to appease wine drinkers.  With that in mind, it is worth exploring the wonderful treasures that this little slice of Africa has to offer.  A recent tasting revealed some delightful wines, all found in the main section of the LCBO, hence, they are easy drinking value wines, and all on promotion for the month of January:

Vinologist Sauvignon Blanc $12.95 (currently $10.95) https://www.vinologist.co.za

  • Fresh, zingy, passionfruit and grapefruit notes

Fleur du Cap Chardonnay $12.95 (currently $10.95) https://www.fleurducap.co.za/wines/

  • Lovely lemon tones, no real sign of oakiness, just the softness and complexity of oak barrels

The Grinder Pinotage  $14.00  (currently selling for $12.00) https://www.grapegrinder.com/grinder-pinotage

  • A great expression of the South African Pinotage grape, loads of blackberry and plum fruit and coffee toastiness from the oak

Porcupine Ridge Syrah $15.95 (currently $12.95) https://www.boekenhoutskloof.co.za/porcupine-ridge/

  • A great value Syrah with notes of black pepper and black cherry

Jenny Ratcliffe-Wright
Cape Wine Master