How has South Africa's winemaking approach, especially at Fairview, changed in the last 5 -10 years?
We (South Africa as a whole) are starting to benefit from an extensive replanting programme. We used to plant anything anywhere, but over the last 20 years the planting has been much more specific, with cultivar suited to vineyard. These vines are now starting to reach middle age and the wines from them are more focused and expressive. We are also now seeing more fruit-forward wines, as most of the old virus infected vines have been replaced. These new virus free plantings are also now more mature. Especially on our native grape – Pinotage.
What is the most exciting development today in the industry?
We are a mostly warm climate viticulture region. Some of the most exciting wines in our portfolio are the Mediterranean style wines (single variety and blended). As these wines improve and the volume increases, South Africa (and Fairview) is ideally positioned to make these wines. The exciting red wines made from Shiraz/Grenache/Carignan/Cinsault/Mourvèdre and Tempranillo is growing. Also Viognier/Roussanne/Grenache Blanc on the whites. I feel this is the right way forward, suited to our climate. Our Rose Quartz is a beautiful rosé made from Grenache/Carignan/Cinsault.
What are the challenges?
Our biggest challenge currently, is the severe drought we are in and how to manage that…Secondly, it is a huge job converting our consumer base to break the mould from going safety first with varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, to a bit more adventurous varieties (as previously mentioned) and wine styles.
Fairview planted the first Viognier in South Africa, and you worked on the first vintages. How does this variety express itself in South Africa?
The Fairview style of Viognier is the more fruit-forward style, with subtle oak and lovely freshness. The variety can often be flat and alcoholic (especially in a warmer climate), but we do multiple pickings to capture some fruit early for freshness, and some later to go through barrel and lees contact for more mouthfeel. The original Viognier, planted in 1994, is now at its prime.
What are the challenges and benefits of dryland viticulture?
Dryland viticulture is great when the soil has sufficient winter rain and has a good moisture retention to last the vines through the months of no rain. These factors take the grapes to perfect ripeness. It gets rather tricky in a drought situation, as the grower needs to firstly protect the vines; the crop is secondary. We therefore have to drastically reduce crop level to balance the vine with its environment. The wines are often super focused, but in tiny quantity. As a producer you don’t necessarily see the price improvement that these low producing, super concentrated wines should realise!
Fairview’s goats are world-famous and make some delicious cheese. What’s your go-to Fairview wine to match with goats’ cheese?
Fairview Goats milk cheese and Viognier, or blends with Viognier is a fantastic pairing!
What’s the next step for the South African wine industry?
South Africa's next step is to highlight our high quality wines. We are seen as cheap and cheerful. This desperately needs to change for our industry to survive and thrive.