How South African wine is received in Canada
14 October 2015
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Welcome to another edition of Old Mutual Live. This is the Wine Edition. It’s great to catch up with you. Thank you so much for listening and downloading to this podcast. I’m Brad Brown and we’re joined once again by a returning guest and absolute pleasure to have her on, Eleanor Cosman, Eleanor welcome back onto Old Mutual Live. Thank you so much for chatting to us today and it’s nice to catch up.
Eleanor Cosman: Thank you Brad, nice to be on again.
BB: Eleanor, I wanted to chat to you. The last time we spoke, we spoke a little bit about the South African Wine Society, it’s an organisation that you’re involved with in Canada that helps promote South African wines in Canada. I wanted to chat just a little bit about that, not particularly the society itself but how South African wines are received in Canada. Obviously we love our wines here in South Africa but from a Canadian perspective is there a huge appetite for South African wine?
Real effort to continue to educate Canadians on South African wine
EC: Unfortunately, prior to the embargo on South Africa, it was very well-received and then so we lost a lot of traction during the time when Canada put the embargo on. So we really had to start promoting South African wines from scratch, from 1994.
So it’s been a long haul. Initially it was just like the big ones, Two Oceans etcetera that were being imported here and slowly but surely the general public is becoming aware that there’s more to South African wines than just the big ones like Two Oceans.
So the smaller ones are, well medium-sized you know, are getting into the marketplace far more frequently now and are very well accepted. People who know South African wines love South African wines.
BB: Eleanor, is it, from a Canadian perspective, are they pretty willing to try new wines and particularly I think South African? Is it a case of they find one and stick to it or are they pretty adventurous?
EC: I’d say in general they’re pretty adventurous. We have a government body here called the Liquor Board of Ontario, LCBO and it’s a monopolistic organisation. However, they do import a huge variety of wines from all over the world so the public is used to having a huge variety to choose from so I’d say in general they are probably of a relatively adventurous consumer.
BB: As far as the varietal that they prefer from a South African point of view.
What SA wine tickles the Canadian taste buds?
EC: They love their Chenins, in the white wines I’d say the Chenins would be the most popular. In the red wines probably they still love their Cabs, the blends and the Shiraz’s. We don’t get many bubblies from South Africa here unfortunately which would be nice if we could.
The rosé’s are slowly, it’s a very small market but you do see the occasional rosé and the port but generally the port is only imported privately by private agents. It’s not on the shelves of the LCBO. Ja, I’d say those would probably be the biggest ones. People love Swartland wines because it’s such a huge area that’s opened up and they make some terrific wines.
BB: Yeah, absolutely I had a chat with Eben Sadie a short while ago and they’re doing some incredible stuff there, I mean small volumes but just incredible wines.
EC: Yes, absolutely.
BB: Looking at how easily accessible South African wines are, you mention the board imports a lot and it is fairly widely available. Can you get it most sort of general retailers or is it specialist wine store and wine bars that you would only find South African wines?
How accessible is South African wine?
EC: No, in Ontario you can only buy wine at the liquor board stores. It is not available in any private liquor stores, well we just don’t have those or the supermarket like you can in the States, no. It’s very, very controlled here.
BB: Interesting indeed. As far as Canadian wine, I mean the climate doesn’t really lend itself to huge agriculture when it comes to wine but I know there are some producers that do produce but they’ve got their own unique challenges don’t they?
Trying to grow wine in Canada
EC: Well, I must tell you that there are quite a few really good wine areas here, Niagara on the Lake, the whole Niagara region in Ontario, the PE Island region and then again if you go up toward Kingston there’s the Prince Edward County. Those are 3 epilations that are really coming along.
Then out West in the Okanagan Valley which is a milder area, they’re also doing incredible wines. They’re really coming along. For example Rieslings do so well here and merlots and chardonnay’s do very well, so they’re coming along over the years.
When I first arrived they were really making awful wine but they’re really doing good wines now, especially the cooler climate wines and one of their specialties is their late harvest, their sweet wine because it’s what they call botrytis. They pick it just as the grapes start freezing and they make it with that so you get this very intense, sweet honeyed kind of wine, delightful.
BB: Sounds fantastic actually. Eleanor, thank you so much for your time here on Old Mutual Live. I’ve loved shooting the breeze and just chatting South African wine from a Canadian perspective and so ja, we look forward to chatting again soon.
EC: Oh, thank you much.