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Heading Off on a Long Trip

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: Mar 6, 2007 3:07pm ET

Well, I’m off to South Africa. Marvin finally agreed to send me—probably because he got sick of me talking about it, and he just wanted me out of his hair for a few weeks!

It’s been a while since a Wine Spectator editor made an official visit to the Cape—not since my colleague James Suckling was there shortly after apartheid ended in 1994.

I’ve been covering the region since 2000, and I’ve watched it grow up quickly. The red wines have gone from tough, astringent bottlings dominated by Pinotage to ripe, mineral and fruit-driven wines that rely more on Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, while the lackluster whites are being replaced with revitalized whites made in earnest from Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.

The category’s presence has also grown here in the U.S.—not long ago, South Africa exported just a few hundred thousand cases a year here, but recently it finally cracked the 1 million case mark. A host of new winemakers are also now populating the industry, and many of them are fashioning small lots of handcrafted wines.

With all this growth in quality and quantity, it becomes more necessary than ever to weed through it all and find the gems. (My next annual report will appear in the upcoming April 30, 2007, issue. You can also reference recent reports from 2006, 2005 and 2004, along with earlier reports in other back issues.)

I’ll be staying in Cape Town, and I'm scheduled to visit three dozen wineries spread over the Cape's wine regions in just two weeks. That should keep me busy enough. I’ll be blogging regularly while there as I meet with the winemakers, tour their vineyards and watch them during harvest, which seems to be running a little later than usual this year.

It’s not easy to get to South Africa, with two overnight flights separated by a day-long layover. My two young daughters aren’t going to be happy with me either—this will be the longest I’ve ever been away from them. I guess I’ll have to bring home some really good presents from this trip.

I won’t be on the ground there until daybreak on the 8th. But, I’ll be at my first winery within a couple hours after getting off the plane—such is the grueling life of a wine journalist.

So check back in on late Thursday or early Friday of this week, and if all goes well, I’ll have a new post up then.

Trevor Witt
Waterloo, Ontario, Canada —  March 6, 2007 9:09pm ET
James...Wish you well on your trip. I've been fortunate to have been to Cape Town a few times. You're close to the Stellenbosch region, beautiful country...coming to the end of their summer season I believe...looking forward to your comments on the red wines. Difficult to find long aging wines from my Canadian perspective. Keep those blogs coming. Long Trip? From Canada you have two night flights in a row with no layover...jet lag to the max. It's time WS sent someone to cover on-site. We'll be reading!!
Jim Mcclure
DFW, Texas —  March 7, 2007 4:43pm ET
James, can't wait to hear what you have to say about the wineries in this region! I'm a fairly new student of wines, but the wine that really first got my attention and sparked my interest was a 2001 Rust en Vrede Estate Blend. Been hooked on grapes since that first sip! Hope to see some comments about what they're up to! Safe travels! -Jim, Fort Worth, TX

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