South Africa produces some world-class wines but its producers need our support

The coronavirus pandemic has caused untold damage across all kinds of industries, not just in the UK but overseas too, and one major problem now threatening South Africa’s economy is the stance of its government which has banned all domestic sales of alcohol.

There is a whole population dependent on selling South African wine, with vineyards supporting thousands of families.

The reasoning behind this action is that some of the local populace could over-indulge and take up valuable hospital beds which are needed for the pandemic. All fairly logical but the side effect of this action is that the economy of the wine industry is in serious danger of going under. It employs around a million people, from the man who picks the grapes to the woman in the tasting room who pours a sample to taste.

Even the guy who drives the distribution trucks around is part of this industry. With negligible social support in South Africa, these people have no income. And the wine farms still need to sell wine.

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Although exports are permitted, there are some problems in getting space at the docks and now it is thought that without local sales many wine farms will close down. Not only is this a tragedy for those people and their employees, it takes away the unique nature of South Africa. I am constantly amazed at the number of Yorkshire people I encounter on my annual winter breaks in the Cape.

Winemakers in South Africa are asking for support.

Under normal travelling conditions, it takes just 12 hours to get there and you can exchange the grim days of winter for fabulous sunshine and scenery. If the wine industry collapses the whole nature of South Africa will change. There is a population that needs to work and to eat so that when you go back there for some winter sunshine there is still a welcoming, thriving economy.

Within the Cape, there are several projects to help keep people in jobs and one of these is the Restaurant Rescue Project which was started by a number of wine producers. Despite having very little income at present, they have stocks of wine, so they are donating some quality bottles to restaurants which then sell vouchers for a meal and a six-pack of wine. Customers can buy the vouchers, so that, when life returns to normal, they can go to the restaurant for a meal and collect the wine.

This gives the restaurants cash flow when it is greatly needed and free wine for the customers when, eventually, they are allowed to collect it. Check www.restaurantrescueproject.com if you feel like joining in. There are some serious wines on offer from producers.

Another initiative, closer to home is at Waitrose where the buyers have put together a Limited Edition case of South African wine at a 25 per cent discount. Available only online (www.waitrose.com), this case contains fabulous wines from Springfield Estate, Rustenberg, Reyneke, Ghost Corner, Journey’s End and the Waitrose own-label No. 1 Cederberg Syrah. The cost is £62 for six bottles or £125 for 12. This is a limited offer while stocks last so it is worth buying right now.

The main message coming out of South Africa is “please buy our wine”. With export as their only outlet, the producers need to sell their current stocks to keep going. There is a new harvest growing in the vineyards so unless they get some cash flow they will not be able to contract to buy the next harvest’s grapes, which will put many grape farmers out of business.

South Africa is now one of the shining lights on the wine shelves, producing a fine range, from crisp whites to robust reds, at prices from easily affordable to fabulous and expensive.

Where it really exceeds with flavour for money is in the £7 to £12 bracket where there are some wonderful wines.

Here are some to try...

As well as the Limited Edition case, Waitrose has the great value Zalze Shiraz/Mourvèdre and Viognier blend, down from its usual price of £8.99 to a bargain £5.99 until August 25. With deep, blackberry and cherry fruit layered with spice, this is perfect with a weekend barbecue. Waitrose also has the plum and pepper-filled Rustenberg Malbec 2018, down from £11.99 to £8.99 until August 25.

Sainsbury’s has worked with one of the most Fairtrade of all wine estates, Bosman, to create its Fairtrade Cabernet

Sauvignon/Merlot blend. It has soft, blackcurrant fruit with just enough structure to partner steak and at £7.50 it is a real bargain. Head to either of the Porcupine Ridge (£7.50) wines, although the Shiraz is my favourite, for robust, bramble and spice flavours.

Harrogate Wine is the place to head to for some top-notch flavours from South Africa. This little shop seems to get more than its fair allocation from Boekenhoutskloof and so has wines such as Wolftrap, Chocolate Block and even the main estate wine on its shelves. Try the unusual Wolftrap white 2018 (£9.50), a blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Grenache Blanc which conjures up peachy, nutty flavours with a streak of baking spice. This is a perfect match with Asian dishes. It is worth pushing the boat out for Catherine Marshall’s Pinot Noir 2018, grown on clay soils (£18.99) but for real interest try its partner wine, a Pinot grown on sandstone soils (£17.99). The difference in flavour is remarkable.

The Wright Wine Company also has a fine range from the Cape. Meerlust Red 2016 (£14) is a wine that is produced intermittently and always exceeds expectations. Made from young vine Cabernet and Merlot vines, it is vibrant and lively, with cassis and plum flavours and an ability to age and develop. Also age-worthy is Demorgenzon DMZ Chenin 2017, with its honeysuckle and lemongrass flavours and a delicious rounded texture. Pair this one against grilled sea bass or even roast pork.

Field & Fawcett, at Grimston Bar in

York, has the excellent wines from Waterkloof, which stands high on a hill overlooking False Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. Organic and now biodynamic, this estate uses horses to plough the vineyards and is at the very forefront of ecological methods. Look out for the white Circle of Life 2016 (£13.75), a blend of Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon which brings flavours of melon, pineapple and citrus together in a perfectly balanced fresh-tasting way.

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