Wine’s former workhorse is now the crossover between craft and ...


Wine’s former workhorse is now the crossover between craft and commercial

Age is not just a number when it comes to chenin blanc

Michael Fridjhon

The world of wine — not just in SA, but in most places — divides into those who seek the comfort of familiar styles (the so-called commercial) and those who prefer the more obviously edgy (artisanal). This distinction owes as much to differences in the perceived image of each of these categories as it does to how the wines taste.

How can you tell, simply from sampling what’s in the glass, if a wine is the result of craft winemaking or the product of a huge industrial winery? Sometimes it’s obvious, though not all craft wines are edgy, just as not all commercial wines taste like alcoholic fruit juice. The label, in theory, is a great indicator, providing you’re prepared to take the creative writing efforts of the copywriter with a shipload of salt.

In SA, where there has been an extraordinary proliferation of small producers (numbers have doubled in the past 20 years), you could populate the intersection of a Venn diagram detailing the key attributes claimed on artisanal wine labels with words such as “cult”, “craft”, “old vines”, “dry-land”, “bush-vine” and “edgy”. The message here is clearly more important than the medium...

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