The quality is undeniable – just look at the awards cabinet – and that will be South African brandy’s USP.
“Our exceptionally high production standards have resulted in consistent quality from not only our larger producers but also our boutique smaller producers,” Reade-Jahn says.
“SA brandy has exceptionally high quality driven potentially by the strictest standards in the world,” KWV’s Fernandes adds. “Unlike cognac that only requires two years of maturation, South African brandy is matured in 340-litre oak barrels for a minimum of three years. While this has helped drive the quality of South African brandy it has made it challenging to compete at the entry or prop price point against other brandy-producing nations that have less stringent legal requirements, like Spain and France.
“On a small scale, our premium (pot still) brandies are starting to make inroads internationally. South African brandies have always fared exceptionally well at the big international spirits competitions and the quality affirmation is starting to pay off. Even when it comes to cognac or armagnac, we have beaten the best.”
If Reade-Jahn could communicate one thing about SA brandy, she says it would be that it is made from the best quality base wine and it take five litres of top quality wine to make one litre of SA brandy.
Van Ryn’s Dippenaar is optimistic change is coming and progress has been made. “A lot has been done to educate the public, but there is always more to do. Now that the word is spreading it’s about finding ways to convert them to usual drinkers. It’s great to see the response of people who engage with our brands or our distilleries. It’s very positive to see the sentiment.”
In terms of the future, Reade-Jahn says it looks very bright for SA brandy. “We have embarked on an exciting strategic repositioning platform to reach a bigger audience with our excellent products and to take the message out there: SA brandy is the world’s best and the epitome of the brandy masters art.”
Van Ryn’s Dippenaar is equally encouraged. She says: “With the way things are going I do believe we are set for some substantial growth over the next few years.”
Bowman concurs. “With more international markets open to SA, we are slowly but surely making ourselves known. In fact, I am presenting a SA brandy and cognac lunch at the Michelin-starred The Harrow at Little Bedwyn in the UK in April.
“This is after chef and owner Roger Jones explored South African brandies with me here in Cape Town. He was blown away by the quality and different styles. And, of course, at many times a fraction of the cost of traditional cognac.”
With tasting competitions just around the corner and a slew of awards to collect, the South African brandy category needs to shout its success from the rooftops and monopolise on the genuine quality cues it has at its disposal.
It has an enviable arsenal to tap into the current climate that demands authenticity and quality as people drink less and better. If lesser liquids can do it, then South African brandy shouldn’t shy away from the fight.