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Artisan wines: Essential things you need to know if you want to impress your wine-loving friends

We get to grips with what the term 'artisan wine' means and how you can get to taste some.

08 Oct 2018

David Cope, owner of Publik wine bar in Cape Town, is dedicated to finding and sharing wines from sustainably farmed vineyards and made with minimal intervention in the cellar.  As one would imagine, these wines taste different to those made in a more 'conventional' style. And if you consider yourself a wine lover,  you definitely need to jump on board the artisan wine train. 

Exciting news is that for the first time ever, Joburg will play host to the Publik Wine Fair on the 21st October 2018 at Turbine Hall in Newtown. This is a tasting showcasing a community of independent producers, giving visitors the opportunity to interact with the winemakers themselves and taste their wines.

We sat down with David (aka @davidcopedavidcope) to find out more about the concept of artisan wines and their burgeoning popularity in SA. 

Here's what he had to say... 

1. What are artisan wines (as opposed to other wines?) 
Artisan wines is a term we use to describe winemakers who make smaller amounts of wine, focused entirely on quality rather than volume, often using unusual grape varieties and with minimal intervention methods in the winery so that the wine in the bottle is a true reflection of the grapes grown rather than a processed commercial product, made using many additives as so many wines are made these days.

2. How did you get into promoting these wines?
Publik started as a wine bar in Cape Town in 2013 when I realised there wasn't a good outlet for these wines. Since then we started selling them online and then in 2016 partnered with Dave Nel who's been in the trade side of the business for several years, allowing us to supply these wines to the restaurants and retailers across South Africa. 

3. How do you approach people who are unadventurous when it comes to wine?
The easiest way is to give them something to taste. It's hard to describe why or how something tastes, so the best is just pouring something and giving it to them, without saying too much, and letting them decided for themselves if they like it. Which is why the Publik Wine Fair is such a good opportunity for people who enjoy wine to discover new producers, regions and varieties they've never heard of.

4. Artisan wines are seen as generally much more expensive, what would be a good way to get into them if you're budget-conscious?

Find a good wine retailer who stocks a diverse selection and can recommend wines for you to try. There are enough out there that are that are under R100 a bottle to get started on. You don't have to spend a fortune to discover the artisan wine world.

5. What wine trends can we look forward to this Summer?
Rosé is going to be big. Good rosé, not the flavourless stuff made as an afterthought, but rosé as a wine with character that reflects some quality vineyards from varieties like Cinsault, Mourvedre, Touriga Nacional and more.

6. Which are the wines that you are really excited about?
I get excited about lesser-known varieties and regions. Wines like the Mount Sutherland Tempranillo, a Spanish grape rarely seen, which is grown in Sutherland in the Groot Karoo, is my kind of wine. Or Muscat de Frontignan made in a dry style, which is a beautiful wine, as made by Adam Mason under his Raised By Wolves label.

7. What do you drink at home?

I'm generally trying lots of wine samples and new releases, so a huge variety of stuff. There are some really great lighter style reds made from Cinsault, Pinotage and Grenache that have come out recently though, so possibly more of these. 

8. What are some of the challenges facing artisan winemakers?
The biggest is fighting for space on the shelf or wine list, to be seen and tasted. The bigger brands dominate so that's the biggest challenge by far. Otherwise, possibly the consistency, since the winemaking is a natural process and variation each year is greater than the high-volume commercial wines, though often this variation can be positive too.

9. Where is a great place to buy artisan wines? (online and bricks store)
We have our own online store at, otherwise, another online retailer have a great selection. Independent wine shops like Wine Menu or Dry Dock in Johannesburg or Wine Concepts in Cape Town have great selections. Thankfully there are more of these type of stores opening, which is good for the producers of these wines.

10. What do you feel is unique and special about SA wines?
Our unconfined diversity in styles, blends of varieties and constant desire to experiment and innovate, which is driven by the smaller artisan producers. It's what's has put us at the forefront of the wine world - just speak with the wine trade in the UK or Europe and you'll see there's a great buzz going on South African wines at the moment.

Keen to get to the Publik Wine Fair? Grab your ticket from (R200 per person). NOTE: Tickets are limited so act fast!

For more information, contact David Cope at

ALSO READ: Wine in a can? Wine industry pundits say nah, but Millennials say YAASS

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