Not to attempt to sound like some psuedo-consistent wine evangelist, but previously I posted on wine scoring, so I thought I’d speak on wine pricing. As usual, no questions will be answered, as I don’t have any answers. There will be no panacea.
Prices are rising in South Africa, and not just for wine. The sushi special at Spar has risen by R10, which really knocks it out of the ballpark, at R50 it was pushing it, but now they’re having a laugh. Wine prices are also soaring, though. Look at any garagiste/independent producer and you’ll often see an almost R100 jump from last year’s prices. It really does feel like a “deep plunge before the storm” kind of moment. To make an appropriate analogy, yeast cells goes through a “lag” phase at the start of fermentation, wherein little happens as they adapt to the environment. This seems to be the case in South Africa, only in reverse. The world is slowly coming around to the new South African wine quality jump. Following lag phase, is “exponential/logarithmic” stage. The yeast cells populate as they have attained biostasis in the wine medium, the total biomass in the wine must increases exponentially, on a graph it looks like the profile of a tidal wave. I think South African wine is approaching the exponential phase.
I imagine at the end of the 1980’s the feeling was the same in New Zealand, just before Sauvignon blanc enveloped the wine world like some sort of monstrous green pepper. Much like Argentina re: Malbec. Even though New Zealand has some pantomime style idea of how currency should work, judging by the ludicrous amounts of money even a custodial engineer (janitor) makes, I’m sure they felt their wallets moaning after the world took interest in their local Savvy Bs and the wine farms – quite fairly – decided to ask a bit more for their hard worked product. The end result was the same, as it is with all popularised products: the best ones get too expensive for anyone to own, and so only a small, wealthy group of individuals get to enjoy them.
I think the same is going to happen to South Africa. Currently, you could list all the wines in South Africa costing over R1000 from the top of your head. There’s very few. Even wines costing over R500 would be a relatively small group. Not for long, though. That delicious Rhone blend you shell out for every year is soon going to be a bank account shattering Death Star. Once the wealthy overseas whiff the potential in South Africa, auctions will come, wines will be ordered years before vintage, and prices will jump. Buy those nice ones now; we’re all tourists in Vietnam, buy now while the sun shines and prices are low, time is running out.
The upside to this is the general quality jump. Sure, there’s going to be wines way out of the stratosphere of your expenditure. That’s life; not all of us will own a Ferrari. But, there will always be competition at the cheaper levels, and there’ll always be gems for a reasonable price, that are overlooked by the public. Keep an eye out.