Young-gun winemakers put South Africa back on map

Young-gun winemakers put South Africa back on map

SOUTH AFRICA - For decades South Africa has been the promising but slightly uncouth cousin of the wine world, but a new generation of vintners are creating distinctive - and some say world-beating - wines.

Quaffed by the likes of Napoleon Bonaparte, Charles Darwin and Frederick the Great, wines made on the tip of Africa by Dutch settlers were the envy of the world in the 18th and 19th centuries.

But that heyday was followed by centuries of blight, war and stagnation.

Then came the apartheid years, which brought an export embargo.

South African winemakers, hobbled by the trade curtain, shunned new techniques and tastes and instead catered for a domestic market that largely wanted cheap and cheerful plonk.

By the advent of democracy in 1994, some quality wines were still produced, but according to Mark Kent of the well regarded Boekenhoutskloof vineyard, too many were "harsh and tannic and acidic and astringent".

"You were always told 'give the wine some time', 'the wines would come around', but of course they never did," Kent said.

"If a wine is made out of balance it is never going to come into balance," he said.

South Africa remained in the doldrums as other "new world" producers - Australia, Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and the United States - racked up sales and awards.

The industry's problems ran deep.

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