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Who said the Japanese only drink Burgundy and Bordeaux?

Greg Sherwood

20th August 2000

Everybody knows about the Asian melt-down that started boiling in 1997, and about the economic repercussions still being felt throughout Asia even now in the year 2000, three years later. There were few industries that recorded casualty rates as high as those in the Fine Wine Trade.

Just when we thought the South Koreans, Chinese and Thais were finally starting to drink something other than beer, whisky and Soju, bang, recession, or more aptly, melt-down struck like it has never struck before. Today, the Chinese in Hong Kong are thought to only consume about 0.0005% of Bordeaux’s top wines, while the habit fortunately seems to have become slightly more culturally ingrained and steadfast in Japan, who now account for approximately 4.5% of exports of Bordeaux red.

So the fine wine market in Japan is certainly alive and kicking, and South Africa recently got its turn to showcase some of its top producers. Four South African estates were highlighted recently in Tokyo for the excellence of their wines entered in the International Wine & Spirits Competition 2000 (IWC), held earlier this year in London. The four proud estates were De Wetshof, Kanonkop, Steenberg, and Vergelegen, all highly regarded wine industry stalwarts.

These estates were honoured during the Tokyo Vinexpo, which was well attended by many of the world’s leading winemakers, wine buyers and wine journalists:

  • De Wetshof 1998 Edeloes Noble Late Harvest – Best Botrytis wine at IWC 2000.
  • Steenberg 1998 Merlot – Waitrose Trophy for best South African red wine at IWC 2000.
  • Vergelegen 1999 Sauvignon Blanc Reserve – Best South African dry white wine at IWC.
  • Kanonkop 1995 Pinotage – Finest Pinotage in the competition.

South Africa also earned a further 6 golds and 2 silver medals at this annual event’s own tasting competition. The gold medal winners were:

  • Delheim 1998 Vera Cruz Shiraz
  • Stellenzicht 1998 Pinotage
  • Veenwouden 1997 Merlot

Steenberg, Kanonkop, and De Wetshof received gold medals for the same wines as mentioned above.

Congratulations to them all!

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