What do you look for in a great wine?

How is South African wine perceived globally?

Do you want to get to know the winemaker and his or her philosophy?

Wine tasting is a highly subjective experience, you will either love or hate the liquid gold in your glass. What makes a great wine? For the wine connoisseur, they want to get their noses into the hard facts: terroir, soil property, rainfall, grape variety… there are so many factors to consider, one can really spend a lifetime studying wine properties (and many sommeliers do!) before confidently declaring: this is the wine for me. As a casual wine enthusiast, I find myself drawn to the people behind the wine and their stories.

I spent a wonderful morning with Boela Gerber, Winemaker of Groot Constantia, and wanted to share some stories and highlights with you. Boela has just returned from his Europe and USA tour, where he attended a jubilee celebration held by the Stift Klosterneuburg Wine Estate. Stift Klosterneuburg is the oldest wine estate in Austria and turned 900 years old this year!

Boela GerberBoela and Lisa

Lisa: Thanks for taking the time out of your schedule this morning, Boela! How was Stift Klosterneuburg’s jubilee celebration?

Boela:  It’s a pleasure, Lisa. It was a great experience and an honour to represent South Africa at the Stift Klosterneuburg celebration. Top sommeliers, journalists and gastronomes came together, we learned from each other and I caught up with many winemakers from historic estates around the world. Dyson DeMara from HillCrest Vineyard, Oregon USA,  Don Francisco Javier Hurtado de Amézaga from Marqués de Riscal, Spain, just to name a few.

Lisa: The guest list truly covered all corners of the world, can you share some of the global wine trends with us?

Boela:  It was interesting to see new world and old world wine regions in the same room. Globally, there’s a shift towards emerging regions and new world style wines, such as South African pinotage. Consumers want to interact directly with the wine estates, often choosing smaller family-owned estates to engage with. The Bordeaux region’s wine sales is slowing down,  but there is an increasing demand for high-quality, modern market for champagne in China.

In North America, consumers are choosing Chilean or Argentinean wines over Australian producers. Wines with simple, familiar names are doing well, such as Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. We do see increased overall demand for South African pinotage wines, and the more sophisticated wine connoisseurs enjoy Groot Constantia Grande Constance (they are selling like hot cakes!)

With the slowing economy, the global market is price-conscious and seeks value for money. South Africa’s weakening currency combined with our quality wines gave us a boost in sales, with further stamp of approval from Wine Spectator this year. Several South African wines scored more than 90 points in exacting tastings by prestigious US wine publications.

Lisa: That’s great news! What will you say are Groot Constantia’s top three values for wine lovers?

Boela:  Our history and heritage, we are the oldest wine producing estate in South Africa. We have a great team of people working continuously to ensure the quality of our wine, and Flor (Floricius Beukes, Viticulturist/ Estate Manager) is studying towards his Cape Wine Masters certification. He joins me for tastings regularly, and have a firm grip on how soil conditions affects our wine flavour profile. Lastly, we produce 500 tonnes or 30,000 cases of wine per annum, so Groot Constantia is actually a small/ medium size estate.


Lisa: I didn’t realize Groot Constantia is actually a medium size estate, thanks for sharing that! So, Boela, what do you love about winemaking?

Boela: I started my Bachelor of Science studies at University of Stellenbosch, and switched to Viticulture & Oenology halfway. I enjoy the science of winemaking: monitoring ripeness of the grapes; change in flavour profile throughout the year; and the excitement to transform grapes into wines in the cellar! It’s a really cool experience.

Lisa: Thank you, Boela! I can’t wait to return to Groot Constantia to taste the new Sauvignon Blanc 2014!

 Groot ConstantiaProtea Wine

Does any of the global wine trends surprise you? Share your thoughts with me in the comments below!

Insider’s tip: Join Groot Constantia’s wine club (for free, mahala, gratis) and enjoy Free tastings at the farm! There are often discounts featured in Groot Constantia newsletter too.

Written by Lisa Huang