When Jan van Riebeeck planted the first vineyards in the Cape in 1569 little did we know that we would become the wine lovers we are today. Today South Africa is ranked eleventh in the world wine consumption stakes according to online wine reference guide www.cellarnotes.net.
If we look at wine consumer trends in the new South Africa, this isn’t surprising at all. The rise of the black middle class, or black diamonds as they are popularly known, has lead to the rise in South African wine sales. A young Zulu man going out for dinner at a trendy restaurant is more likely to consider ordering from the wine list than asking for a beer as a substitute for his favourite traditional drink umqombothi (a home brewed sorghum beer). Being a black diamond means that he is able to afford the luxury of wine. What’s more, the association of drinking wine provides him with a certain amount of status among his peers, status that he would not have enjoyed had he ordered that glass of beer.
Let’s look at an entrenched local tradition – the braai – where previously the preferred accompaniment or two would be an ice cold beer. Nowadays South Africans will more likely opt for a glass of Pinotage Shiraz instead. This is largely because South Africans are starting to realise the excellent quality of local wines.
The skill and ambition among existing wine-makers such as Leopard’s Leap’s Eugene van Zyl and the young upcoming talent in South Africa will surely lead to the continued production of high quality wine for the global and local markets. With South African wine–makers increasing their understanding of the terroir and the science of matching the vine to the soil, South African wine is guaranteed to strengthen its appeal as a major international wine force and increase its fan base back home.
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