WINE: Seasonal trends

Tuesday, 12 November, 2013
Michael Fridjhon, BDLive
AS SUMMER approaches, the big red wines that sustain those of us who believe that our drinking choices are partly determined by climate suddenly become too rich and dense for midday consumption. (This, by the way, suggests a new definition for climate change, viz. "what to drink when the weather changes.") The return to white wine becomes evident in the trade: suddenly Sauvignon Blanc sales take off again, even Chardonnay emerges from its doldrums, Riesling becomes unforgotten and white blends boom.
At the more popular prices (closer, infinitesimally, to Nomvula Mokonyane’s "dirty voters"), the Rosé market sweeps back to life after its winter dormancy. Until recently the smart set was expected to resist the temptation of thinking pink, the beverage (historically) of the greater unwashed. Lately, however, the worldwide swing to Rosé has defied Marxist class analysis, and instead it has come to epitomise his utopian vision: the rich and (the erstwhile) poor alike are now WaBenzi and drink pink.

Elitist egalitarians everywhere are celebrating this unlikely discovery of common ground, proof that after nearly 20 years our democracy has replaced the hackneyed old arguments about the legacy of apartheid with a more fruitful cultural exchange. The only problem now is what to drink.

In the days when Rosé was simply cheap and cheerful, it was either pink — and made by blending a little red wine into a fruity white — or coppery, a kind of oxidised Blanc de Noir called Oom Tas. One way or another, this kind of in-between wine accounted for considerable volumes. Bellingham (and later Nederburg) Rosé held onto the middle-class wine trade while Oom Tas dominated the jug wine market.

The next stage of evolution — the vinous equivalent of our prehistoric ancestors crawling up the beaches — came with the unlikely success of Boschendal Blanc de Noir in the early 1980s. Rosé — as long as it wasn’t called that — became the arriviste beverage, setting a trend that lasted several years.

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