Whether you know it or not, a seismic shift in the international perception of South African fine wine is taking place among wine merchants and brokers in global markets.
In order for this to happen, several key factors have had to be realised in a way akin to a proverbial re-alignment of the celestial wine stars. What are these factors you may ask and what exactly encompasses the term “fine wine” in a South African and international context?
The term “fine wine” is generally used by the wine trade, collectors and connoisseurs to describe a wine that has reached a critical level of quality encapsulated by terms such as terroir, finesse, balance, elegance, pedigree, length, and age-worthiness, and that in all likelihood includes a very limited production, scarcity, a demand that far outstrips supply, and an acquired status that raises the wine head and shoulders above most of its peers.
When you factor in this quality status, the added awards from leading wine competitions like the Top 100 SA Wine Challenge, and combine it all with the glue of international acclaim, often in the form of a 20 or 100 point score, from influential wine critics such as Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, Jancis Robinson MW and Tim Atkin MW in the UK, Steve Tanzer and The Wine Spectator in the USA, then and only then do the top echelons of the global wine trade stop, sit up and start to take notice. After all, merchants trading in investment grade fine wines are always looking for the next big thing… their next big meal ticket. And so are collectors!
With Bordeaux En-primeur trading wallowing in the doldrums and losing relevance and Burgundy in the midst of a massive short supply and an unaffordability war resulting from three-plus low yielding harvests, eyes have been turned afresh to newer, less mature fine wine regions including Italy (Piedmont, Brunello and Bolgheri), the USA and more recently, South Africa.
Opportunities exist to be exploited, wines bought and sold to receptive private clients, collectors and investors with the likelihood of a secondary trading market resulting as a direct consequence of rising demand and rising prices.
In one sense, no fine wine lover wants to see their beloved wine estate or favourite wine increase in price and rarity to a point where acquiring it on release and drinking it regularly becomes an impossibility. However, sometimes, it can be beneficial to the entire wine industry when certain wines achieve international fine wine broking investment grade status and success and are traded in the secondary market.