Wine trends to watch for 2018

The South African wine industry is experiencing one of its most exciting phases in history. Overall wine quality has increased dramatically over the last five years, international recognition is at an all-time high and the consumer is now spoilt for choice, with a wealth of new producers, varieties and styles.

Though winery input costs have risen and the continued drought may mean a significant drop in yield, the battered rand has helped exports and aided profitability. South African wine offers tremendous value locally and abroad, but premium South African wines are surging in price, widening the gap to everyday beverage wines.

So what are some of the trends emerging in 2018?

1. Premium Rosé

Rosé could not be more trendy and the growth of the Premium Rosé category continues around the world. It has, however, taken some time in South Africa as we have had to shake off the semi-sweet, poor quality, bright pink image. Rosé can be a by-product of red wine making in order to make reds more concentrated. It can also be a blend of leftover red and white wines. The category of premium Rosé is, of course, quality focused and when done well, Rosé can offer the freshness of fine white and depth of a light red. The South of France is famous for its Rosé from Bandol and Provence, some of which can age for decades. Serious rosé is gaining popularity in South Africa and more producers are figuring out how to produce and market exciting wines. The talk of the town is the Jean Roi Cap Provincial Rosé 2016 from L’Ormarins. It’s a blend of various varieties including a large Cinsaut component from the Swartland. Light salmon in colour, there is lovely depth of florals, citrus, and a savoury and textured finish. Well worth its R300 price tag!

2. Sauvignon Blanc is back

Sauvignon Blanc has been hurdled by Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc as the leading white varieties over the last decade in South Africa. Usually offering a crisp acidity, tropical flavours as well as green pepper notes, South African Sauvignon Blanc can be rather watery however, offering less excitement than other varieties. But, older vines, lower yields and more authentic winemaking can make for serious, long aging versions. Bloemendal Suider Terras Sauvignon Blanc 2015 is arguably SA’s best, produced from a 35-year-old heritage block, high up in Durbanville. It is powerful, richly-textured and has the structure to age a decade or even two. At R500, it is also SA’s most expensive. 2017 is also quickly being regarded as the best vintage of Sauvignon Blanc in the last decade, so expect your favourite Savie to have an extra gear this year.

3. Drought will affect prices

Three years of drought in the Western Cape is going to severely impact yields in 2018 as water quotas are slashed and the vine struggle to keep up production. This will not only decrease volumes but also push up costs in years to come. Expect entry-level wines to become more expensive as stocks are diminished and the drought continues. Economically and politically this is a major concern as large volume wineries operate at marginal profitability levels.