New trend sees South African winemakers practicing restraint

A “definite trend” is taking hold in South Africa as winemakers seek to reel back intervention and practice restraint to achieve finesse and balance in wines, according to Andrea Mullineux, co-owner and winemaker at Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines in South Africa’s Swartland.

“I feel that the winemakers are showcasing their individual style more than ever and that is achieved with more finesse and balance,” said Mullineux, when asked by dbHK about the South African wine trend, prior to the upcoming Cape Winemakers Guild Auction on 30 September.

“Some of the wines have broader palates, but there is a definite trend towards restraint and allowing the sites, vineyards, and grape varieties to shine.”

“Both styles will age well because of the attention to detail and may attract a more diverse crowd of wine enthusiasts. I think it is the best line-up of wines the Cape Winemaker’s Guild has put forward”, she said.

In addition, the winemaker revealed that Chardonnay from cooler vineyard sites in Elgin and wines made from old vines are also shoring up consumer interest, noting that “the general quality of South African wine is lifting across the board”.

Back on her home turf, the winemaker has found Syrah and Chenin Blanc to be the two key grape varieties that translate terroir characters of Swartland into the bottle, which according to Mullieux, produces wines that “taste like nowhere else”.

“The Swartland is very warm, dry, and breezy, which allows for natural and biological farming practices. This in turn allows for the making of wine in a more natural way, which showcases the region and variety to its best ability”, she explains.

Describing two of South Africa’s most successful varieties, Mullineux said Syrah from the region has firm but approachable tannins with an “intoxicating fragrance”, while Chenin Blanc can survive “for a long time without irrigation”, thanks to the age of the vines.

Its Syrahs are bottled based on different types of soil – granite, schist, iron and quartz  – and the winery also makes an old vine Chenin, a blend of different parcels of Mediterranean varieties, as well as three Chenins grown on schist, granite and quartz.

Speaking of South African wines’ potential in a much contested market like Hong Kong, she attributed the country’s diversity of wines at various price points as its advantage, adding that the wines are “extremely compatible with the diversity of food found” in the city.

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