After #InternationalWineDay it’s worth reflecting on how every bottle of South African wine has a story.
It’s journey from vineyard to bottle is often not easy. It’s steeped in heritage, the challenges of viticulture and the rigours of a wine farm.
It’s these stories that add a unique flavour note to our wines and partly why wine lovers overseas love the labour of our grapes. Tomorrow is International Wine Day and a time to celebrate South Africa’s best.
My favourite wine story is partly the one of Roodeberg. I always knew it was a heritage brand, but I was oblivious of its history. Last year, in anticipation of Roodeberg’s 70th anniversary (in 2019) I attended a media mingle and learnt that although this wine brand was established in 1949 the seven decades here in South Africa hasn’t always been smooth sailing.
Roodeberg is the brainchild of Dr Charles Niehaus, a pioneer of the South African wine industry, who developed new red blends at KWV in the early ’40s. Roodeberg soon became one of the country’s biggest export wine brands. But, South Africa’s best vintage was not available in the country and it was often sneaked back into the country. The only other way to get your hands on a bottle was through a wine farming acquaintance who had a KWV quota.
It is said that bartering with sought-after Test match tickets, biltong and the like in return for a bottle or two was a common occurrence. This is how I learnt that many people had a story about the red wine. The best one I heard was from a man who explained how a family member was able to sneak a bottle (or two) into the country and it was the celebratory wine at his 21st birthday party.
South Africa’s heritage wine labels all have a history, many of them have managed to forge their brand and their vintages into the new political dispensation and still maintain, if not improve on, quality. And today there is a new generation of wine lovers, and they have discerning palates.