Eighty and counting

Thursday, 1 July, 2004
Angela Lloyd
How many angels can fit on a pinhead? A question that could equally well be asked of the number of new wine producers able to fit into the 2005 edition of John Platter's Wine Guide.

As the annual tasting marathon gets underway for what will be the 25th  edition of this comprehensive picture of the South African wine industry, a further 80 new names (at the last count; can there be others out there we don't know about?) are joining the fray. From Adamastor & Bacchus to Zidela Wines, they are sprouting up, covering all points from Vredendal to Calitzdorp.

What this suggests is that South Africans are an optimistic bunch; the competition out there is hot, as is the Rand.  Are these newcomers going to be able to push their heads above the rest of the crowd? Who are they anyway?

Well-known names include Ross Gower, ex-Klein Constantia winemaker, who is making wines under his own label up in Elgin. He's also involved with a joint venture Elgin Vintners label. After retiring from his long-time place behind the Meerlust press, Giorgio dalla Cia is now broadening the scope of his own-label range. And doesn't Ferdinand Rabie ring a bell from somewhere?

Not all these enthusiasts hail from Stellenbosch (is there room for another winery there anyway?). Tulbagh is but one unsung area being energised by a rush of fresh faces: watch out for Dewaldt Heyns (ex-Avondale) at Saronsberg and Henk & Anita Jordaan at Blue Crane. Another off-the-beaten track winery is Johan van Zyl's Vanzylskloof, one of the first wineries in the much talked about Ward of Piekenierskloof. Others soon follow successful trailblazers, as the du Preez's of Bon Cap in Eilandia will acknowledge. Their neighbour, Albie Cilliers launches his Cilandia label in this year's guide.

Let's give all this activity some perspective. According to the 2004 Australian & New Zealand Wine Industry Directory, the number of wine producers in Australia stands at 1798, while their vineyards cover approximately 158 600 ha. Over the Tasman Sea, New Zealand, has 19 432 ha of vineyard and 421 wineries. Latest figures for South Africa show we grow just on 124 000 ha of vines and, with this latest crop of newcomers, support something in the order of 600 wineries.

So if your 2005 Platter appears to groan a little under the extra weight, just be thankful it's not an Australasian version!