The Big Four-Oh
Although South Africa’s winemaking history stretches back 350+ years, its regenesis is actually more recent than that. While most people will circle 1991 as the year in which things within the local wine industry started changing significantly because it coincided with Nelson Mandela’s long walk to freedom after nearly three decades of incarceration, there were pioneering winemakers who altered the face of the local landscape some decades before.
The late Frans Malan was one such pioneer who launched Kaapse Vonkel, initially made from Chenin Blanc, in 1971. At the time, sweeter carbonated sparkling wines were popular – Grand Mousseaux or Grandma’s Socks as Francois Malan recounted. “I was 15 when my dad did the first bottle-fermented sparkling wine,” he said, recalling that it was the most expensive local wine in the country at a whopping R3 a bottle. “Each bottle was sold with a little pamphlet explaining the style and process involved.” Educating local consumers about the South African wine with a French tradition was core to the success of Kaapse Vonkel although the first few years were tough.
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