Johannesburg will never be in the same realm as Cape Town when it comes to wine (nowhere in South Africa will for obvious reasons). But the lack of exposure to different wines, smaller wine farms and interesting cultivars has often left us in a rather dreary space somewhere between Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. To my delight, this is changing. We’re seeing more wine bars opening, more varied wine lists in restaurants and more wine events and wine clubs creating the space for education and diversification.
I spoke to Corlien Morris of Wine Menu to get her lowdown, “People are still hesitant to choose a wine they’ve never heard of from a wine list. This is where places like Wine Menu and restaurants like Ace + Pearl, Coobs, The National and The Leopard (as well as the much anticipated David Higgs’ Marble) are becoming more and more important. If the person selling the wine to the customer knows the story behind the wine (as well as the quality), then we can educate and lead people down the path of exploring the beautiful wines South Africa has to offer.”
Getting to grips with boutique wine
I ask Corlien for her take on ‘boutique’ wines, “They are wines made in small quantities with intense attention to detail. Not all ‘boutique’ wines are of high quality, so it is also important to know the winemakers and follow their track records before making decisions on a purchase. At the end of the day quality is more important than the size of the production, but with a smaller production it’s easier to pay attention and ensure quality every step of the way.”
Corlien tells me that, whilst older folk tend to stick to what they know, the younger crowd is more willing to branch out; “Johannesburg enjoys a diversity of people from all over the world who do not necessarily know South African wines and who are willing to try anything. This has a knock-on effect on their South African colleagues who then start exploring more as they realise their expat co-workers have explored more South African wine than they have. We are also spoilt for choice when it comes to wine festivals all over Gauteng, where new wines are showcased and can be sampled. However, you will not find the so-called “boutique” wines at these shows easily as the farms simply do not have the budgets, and often the stock, to even take part.”
On the 28th May Johannesburg will hold its first Boutique Wine Fair. The Ace/Animo Wine Fair will be hosted by Ace + Pearl, Ex Animo, Wine Cellar and Great Domaines. It will see 13 renowned, local winemakers showcasing between 2 and 8 of their boutique wines, plus a host of superb, international wines from Wine Cellar and Great Domaines.
The winemakers, rather than their reps, will all be there so you will experience a world of knowledge and passion as well as some serious wine-fundi education. We’re talking Johan Meyer, Craig and Carla Hawkins and Mick Craven amongst others.
There’ll be a fantastic food market-style setup between Warm & Glad (Asian fusion), Ace + Pearl (French charcuterie and terrines) and, the newest addition to the block, Selva (Lisbon-inspired Portuguese deliciousness). The 3 restaurants will be cordoned off so you can meander between them tasting wines and chatting to the makers as you go.
Like the wines they’re showcasing, the fair itself is niche and exclusive - they’re only selling 300 tickets. So if serious wine and delectable food are your thing, you can’t miss this. You’ll also be able to order all the wines you fancy on the day courtesy of Wine Cellar.
Get your tickets here!
More info here
And, in the meantime:
Corlien’s list of great boutique wines and winemakers to look out for:
JH Meyer, B Vintners, Fram, Fledge & Co, Hannes Storm, Savage, Reenen Borman, David & Nadia Sadie, Chris Alheit, Franco Lourens and, of course, the king of boutique wines: Eben Sadie.
So where can you buy boutique wines in Joburg on a daily basis?
(Most of the below host wine tasting evenings and events, so get on their mailing lists.)
011 440 5498
Blubird Shopping Centre, corner of Athol-Oaklands Road and Fort Street (just off Corlett
Eighteen 13 Boutique Wine Shop
011 467 9709
Cedar Square, Cnr Cedar & Willow Road
011 706 6637
Riverside Shopping Centre, cnr Bryanston Drive and River Road, Bryanston
011 778 9337
021 448 4105
Suite 1108, 1st floor, Dunkeld West Shopping Centre, Corner of Jan Smuts & Bompas Rd (By appointment)
Also read: Wine - new red kids on the block and Chenin Blanc, the perfect Winter wine?