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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES (article first published : 2002-09-4)

Among the hundreds of brand and estate names of South African wines Nederburg is probably the best known; this famous farm at Paarl was established more than 200 years ago. It is therefore good news for wine lovers that the Distell organisation, which now owns Nederburg, has embarked on a R67 million cellar expansion programme that will increase Nederburg’s pressing capacity for red wines by about 50 percent and for whites by 20 percent.

It is an interesting example of the potential value of a business merger, a process often criticised as harming competition. The Nederburg cellar was owned for many years by Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery, which merged about a year ago with Distillers Corporation, to form Distell. Andre Steyn, director of corporate affairs at Distell, says: “It is only as a result of the merger that such a substantial investment is being made, since SFW would not have had the financial resources for an undertaking of this magnitude”.

He says that Nederburg, as South Africa’s single largest wine brand with a growing following in Europe, the United States and Canada, has been earmarked for significant expansion. Nederburg wines are to be repackaged to present “a more contemporary face” and the new look will be released early next year.

Andre Steyn added: “Export volumes of red wines grew 13 percent in the 12 months to June 2002, but cabernet sauvignon and cabernet sauvignon-based blends have shown especially big increases, in some cases about 38 percent. Sauvignon blanc sales jumped 75 percent and those of noble late harvest wines have been extremely robust. All indications are that growth will be even stronger in the current year”.

This confirms what many of us have long believed: that Cape reds are generally of high quality and much better than the rather grudging assessments given of them in the past by overseas wine critics, merchants and producers.

The Nederburg expansion project, which has already started, is being carried out in two phases. The first will come on stream in time for next year’s harvest and the entire project will be completed in 2005, enabling Nederburg to double its present production.

Nederburg buys grapes from many areas in the Cape and has recently signed contracts to buy increased supplies from colder-climate areas, including Durbanville, Darling, Philadelphia, Elgin and Grabouw.

People of my generation grew up on Cape riesling white wines. The Cape’s wine cellars had not yet got round to producing Rhine riesling, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, semillon and the various permutations of them now on the market. And the standard item in those days was Nederburg Riesling. It’s still around, under the name of Nederburg Paarl Riesling, and it’s still a top-selling dry white. I bought a bottle the other day, for about R19, and thoroughly enjoyed its crisp, sharp taste and cool pale colour. If your palate feels a little jaded, try this one. – Michael Green




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