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The South African wine industry is known for its dynamic and innovative approach as well as its top notch wines and young, creative winemakers.

The industry is progressing and changing at speed, as South Africa is increasingly recognised for premium wines and world-class wine tourism. Read all the latest news from Wines of South Africa...

Read Jamie's latest feature on South African wine

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Jamie Goode; biodynamic farming; wine; South African wine

The natural balance of biodynamic farming

By Jamie Goode | 12 May 2016

If you’ve ever tried growing your own vegetables and fruits, you can understand why chemical solutions to pests, weeds and diseases are an attractive option. For five years, I had an allotment near my home in Twickenham. I was busy, and the kids were young, and so any time I spent there tended to be spent fighting a losing battle with weeds, whose growth was relentless. And then, when I finally got things to grow, there was always an insect or fungus that seemed to fancy a bit of my crop. It was frustrating. Now imagine you have 40 hectares of vines to look after, and your financial future depends on getting good yields of healthy grapes. It’s not hard to understand the allure of agrochemicals.

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Top 20 South African wines

By Jamie Goode | 4 April 2016

It’s that time again. The time when South African wine journalist Tim James sends out a questionnaire to key wine journalists, sommeliers and retailers in South Africa and abroad who have a special interest in the country’s wines. 27 people in all were polled. We were asked to give him a list of our top 20 producers, identifying our top five out of this list. And from the responses, he compiles an overall list of the 20 best producers, according to opinion formers. Because this is South Africa and the journalists there don’t trust each other all that much, the whole process is of course audited, to take away any grounds for accusations of fiddling. And, when the results are released, we all go back to our notes to see how well our own personal lists tallies with the final group list.


I’ve done this exercise a few times now (it was first done in 2001, and has been repeated several times since), and I always find it very interesting. Some of us (me included) are very enthusiastic about new producers and the latest developments. Others take a more measured approach where they like to select producers with a longer track record, and pay homage to some of the industry greats. Overall, there’s a natural balance to the final ranking, and each time the list is compiled, it gives a snapshot of how the wine scene here is evolving.

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By Jamie Goode | 29 February 2016

If there's ever a grape variety that has experienced a change in fortunes, it's Cinsualt. Also known as Cinsaut, it has been in decline in South Africa for almost 30 years. But it is one of the country's most important red varieties from a historical perspective. Back in the 1920s, it was claimed by Itzak Perold (the first professor of viticulture at Stellenbosch University) that Cinsault made three-quarters of the country's red wines. In the 1970s it began to make way for more famous varieties such as Cabernet and Merlot, but it was still the most widely planted red grape variety. It was only overtaken by Cabernet for this title in the early 1990s.

Until fairly recently, things were looking pretty bleak for Cinsault. There are still 1900 hectares of it planted, though, and this is a good thing, because in a very short space of time it has become super-trendy. With its large berries and resistance to heat, Cinsault can make very attractive lighter-coloured red wines at moderate alcohol levels, and also works very well in blends. Because it yields generously, these wines need not be expensive. There is a reason it was so popular in the Cape: because it is well suited to the climate and soils, and it makes economic sense. While the fashion was for bigger, darker red wines, it was out of favour, but now lighter-style red wines are back in fashion, and it is time for Cinsault to shine.

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From Jamie Goode

Jamie Goode

The interesting thing about wine is that you only get one chance a year to make it. So for the average winemaker, retiring at a normal age, you might get to make 40 or so vintages in your lifetime, unless of course you switch hemispheres in your winter and go to work somewhere else.   Wine is an expression of place; it's also an expression of a particular year. For the winegrower who also tends their own vines, there's a special significance to vintage time. From the time the vine buds, to the point where the flowering occurs, to the point where grapes begin developing, to the point of veraison when the skins soften and red grapes chance colour, to the point of deciding when to pick, the winegrower tracks the progress of vintage. That year is then something they try to capture in the wine, as the grapes enter the cellar. It's only after several months that they will really know the personality of the vintage they have just lived through, when the baby wines begin to show what they are about. Along the way, there are many things that can go wrong: frost, disease, pests, microbial disasters in the wine. It's a complicated business, but when it does well, it’s worth all the anxiety and toil.

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In Jo's glass

I was recently in South Africa for Cape Wine and managed to taste several vintages of the delicious Vin de Constance from Klein Constantia. I usually opt for a sweet wine at the end of a meal instead of a pudding and The Vin de Constance is a perfect way to end a meal. It's rich and opulent with stone fruits, vanilla and a hint of spice yet it is also fresh, balanced and has a long, moreish finish. Master of Wine, Tim Atkin, highly rated both the 2011 and 2012 in his most recent report on South Africa which is available to download for £15 on  

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