I Often Find Statistics Boring But Not So Much With Wine

by | Jun 1, 2022 | Cellar Chat

When I was a child I knew that I was growing up when I noticed that, at the table, I was putting more than one food item on my fork. Wine is somewhat similar in that you know that you are ‘growing up’ when you realise that you have stopped drinking wine for its effect and are drinking it for its bouquet, palate, mouthfeel, finesse and so on.

As you progress you find out that the more you know about wine, the more there is to know!   Not quite a ‘Catch 22’ situation but you know what I mean. It becomes a science as you come to grips with such terms as ‘malolactic fermentation’, ‘reductive’, and ‘chaptalisation’. Whole new vistas open up before you. But you might ask, “Do I want to go there and leave my comfort zone ?”. We are often creatures of habit and continue buying the same brands for as far as memory serves.   Why change your favourite wine if it has served you so well? The fact is that a particular brand of wine can change albeit marginally, from season to season so it helps if you have the knowledge and the urge to explore. Exploration can be fun and there are so many aids to wine education available. Let’s face it, the juice of the grape reigns supreme. It has been responsible for prompting poems, the printing of books and the production of movies. As far as I am aware apple juice has remained just that, apple juice. A little wine education can go a long way.  We can’t have people mixing Chateau Petrus with Coca-Cola.

I often find statistics boring but not so much with wine, so here are some observations based on last year’s figures from SAWIS,  (South African Wine Industry Information and Systems).    South Africa is the 8th largest producer of wine on the planet.  Italy is No 1 followed (closely)  by France, Spain and the USA. I was surprised to learn that in terms of volume we produce more than twice that of Australia and New Zealand put together, however, we should be mindful that a lot of our harvest goes to the making of industrial alcohols, brandy and grape juice.    

The number of wine growers in South Africa has declined in recent years as has the area under vines.  However, ‘micro-cellars have increased. We grow a little more white than red (55% to 45%) with Chenin Blanc in the lead from Sauvignon Blanc Chenin is regarded internationally as being this country’s iconic white. Leading the reds is Cabernet Sauvignon (surprise ?) while Pinotage and Merlot have succeeded Shiraz, which was second.  By the way, it’s no surprise that beer is the most popular alcoholic beverage followed by brandy and whisky. It was of interest to note that ‘bag-in-box wines (Chateau Carton ?) represent nearly 40% of all wine sales and I must agree that they can represent excellent value for money. Forgetting facts and figures, why not fill your glass and enjoy this salutary quote from the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam:

A book of Verses underneath the Bough,
A hug of Wine, a Loaf of Bread – and Thou,
Beside me singing in the Wilderness –
Oh! Wilderness were Paradise now!