Subscriber login Close [x]
remember me
You are not logged in.

Bibendum keeps it light at ‘Cape & the Boot’ tasting

Published:  06 September, 2023

Under the resurgent London sunshine, Bibendum showcased two of its hottest wine regions for its ‘the Cape & the Boot’ tasting.

With over 150 wines on display, a smattering of lighter styles could be detected from Italy and South Africa, despite their penchant for traditional-style wines.

In an attempt to do both regions justice, Bibendum decided to forgo the big trade tasting setup, to showcase a wider range of wines and producers from both countries.

Front and centre was Italy, Bibendum’s biggest-selling category, according to Italy wine buyer Jamie Avenell. Of course, much of this is driven by the on-trade, where 92% of all sparkling wine sold in the GB on-trade is Italian sparkling (CGA).

Jamie Avenell, Bibendum wine buyer, Italy, said: “Prosecco has had massive growth in recent years although that’s plateauing slightly now. The other thing that’s doing really well for us is Ferrari, which is a traditional method sparkling from Italy. 

“Unlike Prosecco, which is a mature category with lots and lots of competition, Ferrari stands alone, if you ask an Italian to name a traditional sparkling wine they will likely name Ferrari. 

“Everyone in the wine trade knows Ferrari and what great value it offers, but since they started sponsoring the F1, the brand has become more visible. So it is perhaps no longer the ‘hidden’ gem it once was, but it’s still a gem.”

The rise of sparkling amidst the scarcity and inflation of Champagne is something South Africa is also looking to capitalise on.

Simon Jerrome, head of wine at Bibendum, said: “Take Graham Beck, for instance, I think South Africa is the destination for New World sparkling wine.

“They are a giant of the South African Wine scene and have firmly established themselves as one of the world’s leading sparkling wine houses and one of the foremost producers of Methode Cap Classique (MCC).”

Both regions are also championing lighter, fresher styles, whether that be a result of consumer preference, climate change, or even duty hikes.

Rebecca Long, Bibendum wine buyer, South Africa, said: “South Africa has been through a lot in the last few years, a lot of the ‘trends’ have come about due to the drought and other mitigating factors the vineyards have had to adapt to. So, a lot of the wineries now, like Journey’s End, are dry farming, and have built their own dams to store water.”

It is this adaptability, particularly as a new world region, that could position South Africa favourably in light of the duty hikes.

Long continued: “Naturally, winemakers are going to respond and see what they can do to keep some of the abv down. Whether that leads to changes in grape varieties and styles will depend on how much intervention they want to do”

Jerrome added: “New Zealand has been pretty quick, they seem to have cornered the market early doors, and Sauvignon Blanc lends itself to that adaptable style of winemaking, to be able to remove alcohol and add flavour.

“I think other regions are finding it more of a challenge, and I think when we get to next year's vintages, you'll start to see producers naturally reducing abv with early picking, the way they treat the wine and the way they blend it.”

Italy, on the other hand, is perhaps less likely to change on a dime for things like duty hikes, however, its diversity as a region will ensure that lighter styles make their way to UK shores.

Avenell said: “One new wine, the Lagrein from Alois Lageder, is a relatively niche wine from an unknown area called Magrè talus, although, I say unknown, but about 10% of the growing area is in Alto Adige. In terms of its parentage, Pinot Noir is a grandparent of Langrein and Syrah is a cousin – it has the light style, and peppery notes of Syrah plus the generosity of fruit you get from Pinot Noir – it’s a light, easy-drinking wine which can be served chilled.”

He added: “Chilled reds are niche in the scheme of things still, but it’s something we are increasingly looking at, and light styles, in general, are definitely on trend, but sales of the traditional, heavier style reds are also booming.

“There are two polar camps which probably serve two different occasions – the traditional reds are undoubtedly crowd pleasers but the lighter styles are bang on trend.”

As well as the aromatic, light red, Avenell highlighted the Guan Chardonnay, also from Alois Lageder, as a new addition white wine to look out for. White wines are also very much on the agenda in South Africa. 

Jerrome said: “For so many years, Chenin Blanc was a bit of a dirty word in South Africa, often thought of as a cheap, entry-level wine, but Stellenrust has some absolutely stonking Chenin Blancs.

“We are going to see so much more from Chenin. The industry for Chenin in South Africa used to be around spirits, but that brandy market has dropped, and so suddenly there are these really old vines that they are all finding now that can turn into some really interesting wines.”

With the rise of Chenin, and, to a lesser extent Lagrein in Italy, we are seeing the emergence of old grape varieties find a place within modern trends, and, the fact that these might have lower abv levels than their big red counterparts is a fortunate happenstance in light of the duty hikes.