It can’t be said that I am always an admirer of the Wine and Spirit Board, unfortunately – too often, I feel, they ultra-conservatively bow to the interests of the big wine merchants and producer cellars at the expense of integrity and quality. But their latest move is one that I wholeheartedly applaud . Actually (if I must be a touch cynical) their proposals for some interesting new categories of certified wine are not going to impinge at all on the existing rights and privileges for the big guys, which must have helped their boldness.
The little producers, and the exciting ones, the experimental ones, are going to be the great beneficiaries. Many excellent wines made in “alternative” styles should now get passed more easily by the SAWIS boards required to test their acceptability. In fact, the proposed categories bear Swartland fingerprints all over them – and I know that Eben Sadie amongst others, has spent very many hours in discussion with the relevant authorities to draw up appropriate criteria for the different styles.
When he spoke to me about all this recently, Eben was full of praise for the Board’s eagerness to accommodate legitimate new categories of wine – and fully supportive of their attitude that this new latitude must not be seen as laxness, as an easy go-ahead for some producer who’s neglected a tank or somehow allowed it to proceed in a funky direction! Some of the requirements are pretty strict. Interestingly, for example, the drier new styles are required to have not more than four grams per litre of residual sugar – while the basic general requirement for “dryness” in South African wine is five grams.
The following are the new classes that are proposed (NB they are not yet allowed to be used), with some of the key requirements – full details are given in this attachment: Proposed amendments to Regulations and WO Scheme.
- Skin macerated white (fermented and macerated on its skins for at least 96 hours)
- Extended barrel aged white/gris (a vintage wine, matured in oak for at least 2 years)
- Natural pale /Non-fortified pale (related to fino sherry: matured in oak under flor for at least 2 years)
- Méthode ancestrale (sparkling wine, fermented only in the bottle, no added sweetener)
- Alternative white/red (unclear to me what this is all about– seems to be allowing for lighter-coloured reds and darker-coloured whites)
- Sun wine (fortified, maderised vintage wine)
The “Sun wine” category must surely be at Eben Sadie’s request! Four years ago I reported, together with an account of “orange” wine at Lammershoek, on his marvellous “sun wine” (then it was just his idea, that name), made from chenin kept in barrels outside, to undergo all the rigours of the harsh Swartland summers and winters. But that’s not a vintage wine, nor fortified I think, so I guess those initial barrels it won’t qualify under this new category.
Altogether, a move to be welcomed. Let’s hope the legislation to allow these new categories is swiftly passed. It’ll act as further encouragement to those at the forefront of making Cape wine the exciting and dynamic thing it is.