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South Africa confidence returning as winemakers concentrate on quality, Kleine Zalze boss says

Published:  21 May, 2015

South Africa needs to evolve its premium wines and offer wines better suited to the terroir, leading South African producer has said.

South Africa needs to evolve of it premium wines and offer wines better suited to the terroir, leading South African producer has said. 

Kleine Zalze's managing director Kobus Basson said both South Africa and Kleine Zalze had a lot of potential and scope to grow, and it was developing better understanding of terroir that would benefit its premium offering. As a result, confidence was returning, he said.

"I am excited about what is happening in South Africa at the moment. We're seeing change from rootstock, varietals, infrastructure and styles - the ball is rolling but it may be slower than Chile or New Zealand because of restrictions in capital," he told

"The new South Africa has only been in the market for twenty years - so it a short period and there have been a lot of changes, most of them positive. But it is not easily to change things in the short term. We replanted between three and seven years ago, but wine is like cricket - it's not a one say game. But there is a confidence in what we have, we understand where we have to change and we've seen that it is only the beginning, we are not even half way."

He said the most important thing was to develop more varietals for specific areas and terroirs and find the right varietals and styles for the future. "It is not reinventing the wheel, it is refining and delivering more exciting wines with elegance and structure,"  he said.

Cellarmaster and head winemaker Alastair Rimmer, who joined the company last August, agreed that more and more of South Africa's winemakers are bringing techniques they have learnt in other countries back to South Africa but instead of slavishly copying these, they are increasingly reinterpreting  philosophies to benefit the terroir. He cited his own experience working in the arid vineyards in Alicante which had informed a better understanding of how to evaluate ripeness in grapes. 

"We use the science of viticulture but we also need to understand the area and get a feel for it," he said. "Before, we were looking for a magic bullet and adapting Australian, Bordeaux techniques, but today we are understanding the terrrioir better - that is the trend you will see in South Africa, that is how it will evolve. There is no hard and fast rule to it."

Basson admits that more generic South African wine had suffered on the volume side and that this was part and parcel of boosting the premium side.

"We've dropped volumes and moved up in terms of style, and that is we here we see it," he said. "We believe we can still grow well in terms of moving more premium - we won't run away from the affordable end, but we can do better in the long term, especially in the on-trade and independents."

Currently Kleine Zlaze sells around 65% into the off-trade, with the remainder in the on-trade.

"But we are not segment specific, it is more important we sell higher quality and priced wines over time, so Uk consumers can also share those products."

"There is good growth and people love South African wine and like the new wines, so we are very optimistic about it."

Earlier this month South African wine organisation VinPro released its harvest report, which said 2015 was likely to be an exceptional in terms of quality, but yields would be slightly lower.