Cheerful, Yes. But Cheap?
If you think about it, wine is really about connotations, isn't it? A wine, wine producer, wine region, and even a wine varietal can all benefit (or suffer) from the connotations that become attached to them over time. And because of this, many wineries and winemakers give almost as much attention to building their reputations as they do the actual processes behind the winemaking itself. And probably for good reason.
Simply put: Connotations and Reputations lead to EXPECTATIONS.
And we all know how large a role expectations play in determining the quality of the experiences we have, whether those experiences involve wine or not!
When it comes to the connotations surrounding a wine, the truth is...a wine usually earns the reputation it receives. Professional wine tasters (i.e. sommeliers and other wine judges) will chime in with their thoughts after tasting a wine, thoughts that draw on a wealth of experience from tasting wines of all kinds the world over. And, of course, we the people (the wine consumers) will also do our part to assign a wine its reputation by sharing our own thoughts on it, often times these days with the bullhorns we call Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
So if a wine or its winemaker or an entire wine region gets a bad wrap over time, that can be tough to overcome. But those factors that assist in building a reputation, good or bad, can be changed or altogether eliminated. And that's great news for any wine struggling to move beyond its reputation!
As famed South African native singer-songwriter, Gregory Alan Isakov, once wrote:
"If it weren't for second chances, we'd all be alone."
We all deserve a second chance every now and then, right?!
For decades, the wines coming out of South Africa were tethered to the connotation: "cheap & cheerful". It's a reputation that developed for a number of reasons. One of which was that, in general, the South African wine industry was focused on producing bulk wine intended to be consumed in bunches (not savored) or blended with other wines.
Thankfully, South Africa's winemakers began to see how truly special their winelands were. The terroir held the potential to produce stellar wines that far exceeded the quality of wines they had been creating for many years. This timing also coincided with the end of the Apartheid era in 1994. At that time, travel and trade opportunities opened up that had previously been unavailable. And those opportunities resulted in South Africa's winemakers learning all about modern winemaking practices, which they brought back to South Africa and immediately began changing how they made their wine.
Fast forward to today...and you won't see a hint of those old cheap & cheerful elements in the wines coming out of South Africa. They have turned the corner, changed their reputation, and are competing with the best wines around the world!
That's why, today, we are hereby declaring...for all to hear...that the "cheap & cheerful" reputation of South African wines is a thing of the past. Those days are long gone. And if you'd allow us, we would love to offer up an alternative phrase to describe today's South African wines -- "chic and cheerful"!