Wines of the New South Africa: Tradition and Revolution was published in mid -2013 by University of California Press.
I have privately brought in some copies of the book which I am able to sell at a decent discount to the prevailing rate. Click here for details.
SO WHAT’S IN THE BOOK AND IS IT ANY GOOD?
I decided that an overview book was needed, and that’s what I delivered.
The second half of the book (which is 324 pages) give profiles and assessments of something approaching 150 of the Cape’s leading wineries (how I chose them is discussed in the preface). This is done in 12 chapters by region, from “Constantia and the Cape Peninsula” to “Klein Karoo and Adjacent Wards”, with some historical, general and vitcultural description of the different areas preceding the winery descriptions. Various significant wineries not accorded full descriptions in the chapter are also mentioned. There are also maps for each of the areas – but they are pretty simple things, and showing only those wineries mentioned in the book.
The first half (approximately) of the book consists of the following chapters, following an introduction suggesting the great variety of landscape and winemaking and the complexities of South African history:
- Wine and the New South Africa gives an idea of the state of wine here today after the great breakthrough of 1994, with subheadings: The wine producers, The changing vineyard, The social landscape.
- A brief history of South African Wine to 1994 is just that. I boastfully think it’s better and more complete than any other equivalent-length history.
- Grape Varieties and Wine Styles, again taking an historical approach, looks at the dominant kinds of wine in the Cape, under the main headings; Varieties and varietalism; Re wine varieties; White wine varieties; Sparkling, sweet and fortified wines.
- Wine of Origin: Legislation, Label and Terroir, basically looks briefly at the WO system and some legalities and suchlike stuff.
Some notes from reviews of the book:
Tim Atkin in World of Fine Wine: “His introduction to each region are among the book’s many strengths. He has clearly walked the vineyards and examined the landscapes, as well as tasted the wines…. This is an important book, penned with knowledge and insight.”
Tom Cannavan in Decanter: “This is the sort of intelligent, keenly observed and intrinsically academic textbook rarely seen since the much missed Faber and Faber The Wines of … series…. It is written with an appealing blend of cool precision and passion for the subject.”
A substantial, positive review by Gerald Boyd on Wine Review Online says that “James writes passionately and intelligently about the wines of his homeland”.
Local winewriter Myrna Robins says in a full review in the Cape Argus that the book is “timely, impeccably researched and lucidly written – with a light touch that one seldom finds in books of this nature – James’s hardback is a welcome addition to the vinous literature of South Africa.”
Jon Bonne of the San Francisco Chronicle says that “it is a vital contribution to a topic with scant reference. Anyone with interest in the diversity and history of South Africa’s wine industry will be enlightened.”
Mike Veseth (who opened the Nederburg Auction) wrote a review on The Wine Economist. He concludes by saying “This is a fine book – well-written, detailed and interesting — that deserves your attention.”
The puffs on the back of the book, obtained from people who were given the text in advance say:
“Tim James combines the necessary cool eye and warm heart as successfully as any wine writer, making him the ideal guide to the new South Africa. Critical, knowledgable, and passionate, erudite, eloquent, and lucid, he finds the gold at both ends of the rainbow, explaining the past and illuminating the present with a light but very sure touch. This is the book on South Africa for which wine lovers have been waiting.”–Neil Beckett, editor of The World of Fine Wine
“Tim James knows the Cape wine scene as well as anyone and far better than most local journalists. He brings an academic’s rigour to his research, but he’s a hedonist, too, reveling in the best wines. South Africa is lucky to have such a well informed advocate.”–Tim Atkin MW