Book Review – Industry-focused but Good for the Wine Enthusiast too!
WineLand Magazine – R45 monthly
Trying to get my hands on a copy of the WineLand magazine was as tough as finding the proverbial hen’s teeth or, perhaps more aptly, vine’s teeth. I am sure that not so many months ago I saw copies for sale in Exclusive Books, newsagents CNA, and elsewhere. More recently, and in the last 6 months, I have been unable to find at all. I was thus both pleased and fortunate to obtain the January and February 2018 editions for review. It is a publication that is essential reading for my Cape Wine Academy Diploma Course.
WineLand magazine is published monthly and distributed by WineLand Media under the auspices of Paarl-based VinPro, the 15-year old industry body of wine cellars and wine grape producers. The magazine incorporates Winetech Technical. I was surprised to read on the cover that the publication is in its 87th year, having begun in 1931. The subscriber base totals over 3,000 organisations from a wide sector of the industry: from producers and wineries to winemakers; viticulturalists; learning institutions and the media; directors, managers, key account holders and advertisers/agencies; as well as industry suppliers. I did not know until writing this review article that the VinPro division also publishes the Annual South African Wine Industry Directory, that I shall review later this year, as well as the annual Winetech Technical Yearbook.
The magazine runs to some 80 pages. It is printed on glossy paper that has a nice feel. I am unsure whether the pages are recycled but their texture is as practical for the dirty hands of the vine grower as for the damp hands of the winemaker. Regular articles cover a wide range of topics: Editorial, News, a Diary, Industry Indicators, A Day in the Life of …. , An Insider’s Guide to …. , Debate and Feature articles, Supplier section and, to finish, a humorous end-piece. The articles are in both English and Afrikaans, with some alternating their language by month. English is the primary language (75% of content).
WineLand has a specific Focus each month – Packaging/Design in January, Renewable Energy in February – which I found both timely and informative. I learned about the ‘premiumisation’ of packaging, as consumers become more willing to buy higher-priced wines. I didn’t know, for example, that unofficial figures suggest that up to 20% of wine worldwide could be ‘fake’ and that in China some 70% of ‘imported wine’ may be counterfeit. Remind me to look carefully if ever I have the chance to buy a bottle of wine from China, now the 5th biggest wine producer in the world.
I was already aware that South Africa is leading the world with Villiera, Vergelegen and Spier inter alia pioneering environmental innovation. Delheim and Thandi estates too, amongst others, have led the Integrated Production of Wine environmental and Fairtrade working and trading conditions initiatives, respectively. So, it was good to read about the numerous steps that the industry is taking to harness the sun for solar power, to reduce water usage, and to conserve electricity.
I found the Insider’s Guide articles to the Breedekloof and the Cape South Coast useful and interesting. I shall certainly use them when next planning my tasting trips away from Cape Town and the immediate surrounds of the Constantia Valley, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. ‘A Day in the Life’ covered a graphic designer in January and a winemaker in February, which puts a personal perspective to the magazine’s content. I enjoyed too reading the debates about Cork v Cork Alternatives and Organiese v Geïntegreerde Produksie (Organic v Integrated Production) that provided further balance.
Along the way I learnt that just 33% of wine imported to Mozambique comes from neighbouring South Africa (52% comes from Portugal) but that South Africa has 82% of the market share for MCC. I sensed Editor Wanda Augustyn’s stern and expert penchant for dealing with grammatical and typographical errors in the snippets to lighten the Market Watch article on the country. Did you know, pub quiz regulars and wine producers for example, that spelt out in scrabble tiles Mozambique scores more than any other one-word country? It is 34 points if you’re interested. I wonder if Wanda knows which English words contain all the vowels in the correct order. Abstemious and facetious are but 2; add ‘-ly’ at the end if you consider the letter ‘y’ to be a vowel. I digress. The fact that half the people in Mozambique are under 17 years old gives much food for thought – or should that be wine to drink – for wine exporters. The comment is typical of the forward-looking industry approach of WineLand magazine.
Towards the back of the publication the focus turns towards supplier and technical content. I learned how most of the aromas and flavours in sparkling wines arise during secondary fermentation and ageing on the lees, together with the fact that chilling grapes before pressing has a greater impact on MCC aromas than their taste, particularly for lower quality grapes. This was useful background information for me as a future Cape Wine Master student. The articles on yeast strains, novel microbes, and malolactic enzymes will no doubt excite the oenologist and microbiologist more than me for the time being, as will those on pests and diseases the viticulturalist.
To conclude, I enjoyed WineLand magazine. The publication necessarily seeks to be ‘all things to all men’ (women too) in the South African wine industry. It succeeds by covering a broad patchwork of topics. It has obvious industry focus and there’s a sizeable quantity of advertising (‘advertorials’ too) that makes economic sense to keep the issue price manageable. Indeed, I thought there might have been more: a ‘small ads’ or Jobs Vacant/Sought section at the back, customary in many industry publications, would not have been out of place. I should add here too that the WineLand website is comprehensive and a great resource for all. I liked the range of regular, feature and technical content together with the easy-reading, well-illustrated style. This made it easy to dip into and out of the various articles.
I shall certainly subscribe to WineLand magazine as it has enough for me as a serious wine student and committed enthusiast. Decanter and Wine Spectator, at more than double the price and equally difficult regularly to obtain, offer more international perspective but if you want to know what is happening in the South African wine industry then go no further than WineLand. I must, before completing my subscription application, just double-check my grammar and spelling here before Wanda reads this review ….