Allan Mullins - a tribute

It's easy to see why Allan Mullins is one of the most liked and respected personalities in the wine industry. Carla van der Merwe interviewed the man who is not only extremely knowledgeable about wine but also easy to talk to.
Allan Mullins is a legend in the wine industry and has seen three decades of changes thus far in his career. Allan is a very busy man and it's no wonder as he has one of the most sought after palates in the industry. I managed to squeeze in an interview with Allan at Spier Hotel, where he is set to have a tribute gala dinner held in his honour later this week.

As it is not every day that I find myself in the presence of such an accomplished wine personality I sought to ask questions about Allan's view of the changes in the wine industry over the last thirty years, the improvements he's seen, changes still to be made and the personalities of the future.

What significant changes have you seen in the wine industry?
Wine has increasingly become a business, back when I started out it used to be friends making wine. It was much more easy going back then. The biggest change in the industry came in 1992 when South African wine exports took off and this changed the fabric of the industry as we knew it. Large corporations started to export wines abroad under unknown labels. The exported wine was predominantly cheap bulk wine which filled a pipe line due to a need for sales and revenue. In 2002 there was a significant change and people started to appreciate the quality and value ratio of South African wines.

Where do you think further improvements need to be made?
In my opinion winemakers need to travel more as there is a notable difference in wine made by a winemaker with international exposure. There is a clear difference in their outlook and focus too. There is also a good upswing in the quality of single vineyard wines and an exciting drive towards terroir focused wines. This is great improvement for the industry as people will start to realise the difference in wine of origin regions and pick up on South Africa's distinct characteristics.

Where have you seen the biggest changes in the wine industry?
The biggest improvement I've seen is on South African white wines. Fifteen years ago the white wines in South Africa were not highly regarded but they have improved exponentially. The shortage of red wine 10 - 12 years ago encouraged people to plant more red cultivars which has led to a surplus of red wine in the country. There has also been a noted decrease in the use of oak in red wine which has led to a better balance of fruit and oak and a better expression of terroir.

Allan was also very insistent when he told me how impressed he is with the up and coming new wave of young winemakers. He continued that the young winemakers such as Albert Ahrens, Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst, Boela Gerber and Miles Mossop possess a lot of infectious passion and excitement for their craft. He applauds their willingness to experiment and use their international experience to influence their winemaking.

Allan also emphasised that the industry needs young dynamic winemakers that can take the industry to a new level and be the icons of their generation. Allan also said that he'd like to see more team work throughout the industry and more trust in in the wine of origin system and wine growing areas. Allan concluded that there is an opportunity for growth in the industry and that South Africa will have to be global to compete.

On Friday the 2nd of September, 2011 a gala fundraising dinner will be held at the Spier Hotel to pay tribute to Allan Mullins.

One of the most respected and loved people in the wine world, Allan has overcome huge physical challenges to rise to the top of his profession and become an inspiration to us all.

It is no secret that Allan’s disability and ongoing medical and care needs are considerable and are of concern. Whilst Allan has always been positive, people closest to him have identified a need to address this situation.

The dinner will be hosted by Woolworths and Spier, together with the support of the wine industry.

For more information on the gala dinner or to book a seat at the event please visit the dedicated website