In a recent article, Jancis Robinson explained how she had stumbled upon the realisation that wine comes in two distinct styles. Jancis is a highly respected, authoritative figure in the industry, therefore, anything that she describes in her own words as a ‘new phenomenon’, is definitely worth researching.
What are these two distinct types you might ask? The first style of wine is generally aged in oak and is based on the well-known older style of international Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay.
The second type is more new-age and breaks away from tradition. As Jancis herself explains, ‘the other style of wine one comes across nowadays is what we might call ‘twenty-first century wine,‘ which she goes on to describe as, ‘wine that’s less obviously ripe, higher in acidity, lower in alcohol, lighter in colour and weight, made from grapes probably picked earlier and, instead of being dominated by fruit, it may well finish with a little texture, something akin to wet stones or graininess.’ These 21st century wines are generally made from more obscure grape varieties and are often indigenous to the area where they are made.
Jancis’ new ‘duopoly‘ seemed to strike a cord with Tim James and he, in fact, wrote his own opinion piece on the matter. He believes this phenomenon has actually been going on for some time now and there have always been wines made in either the ‘full throttle‘ or lighter style.
Jancis writes that the wineries of Napa Valley and some of the satellite regions in Northern California are still producing particularly concentrated, relatively late-picked wines that are very similar to those that were made 20 years ago. Tim James notes that this is very similar to what is happening in Stellenbosch with Cabernet Sauvignon. Tim writes that this may be due to the presence of many older winemakers who are reluctant to experiment with the newer style.
On the other end, Jancis says how some winemakers are purely focusing on achieving freshness in the new lighter style. Tim says that, ‘surprisingly, perhaps, there’s not much evidence thus far of a youthful impatience to follow the trend to greater freshness and lightness,’ in South Africa.
In summary, this idea is not as new as it seems to be. However, SA wine producers are a bit hesitant to move away from what they have become known for. There is definitely a hype for ‘21st Century wines‘ as Jancis explains, yet as Tim notes, there is still a heavy presence from the older winemakers who are not quite ready to reinvent the wheel.