The timeline of the implementation and easing of restrictions in South Africa has been difficult to follow, but I will try to summarise it briefly (buckle-up) –
An initial ban on alcohol exports and domestic alcohol sales was announced on 25th March. This was then lifted on 7th April, only to be reinstated on 16th April. Exports resumed from Friday 1st May only to be stopped again a week later. After some major negotiating between VinPro, WOSA and the South African Government, export restrictions were eased on the 1st June.
Then, on Sunday evening 12th July, President of South Africa Cyril Ramaphosa announced that all domestic alcohol sales would be banned for the second time. A massive blow to the already stretched South African alcohol industry. A statement from VinPro said – “The decision to suspend local liquor sales will deal a devastating blow to the South African wine industry, which has already suffered great financial and job losses due to bans earlier in the lockdown.”
Just over a week ago, before the new restrictions were implemented, I was in touch with Alex and Nicole from Keermont in Stellenbosch. I reached-out to them as I was interested in hearing their first-hand experience of what some people consider to be one of the harshest lockdowns of any country –
“We knew, like the rest of the World we would be facing some sort of lockdown but we could never have expected one of the harshest lockdowns in the World. Zero alcohol sales, zero tobacco sales, zero e-commerce, zero exercise, a strict curfew was in place and roadblocks were the norm. Only essentials could be purchased and shopping was during set hours. Entire shelves of non-essentials were cordoned off. We all hunkered down at home for what we thought would be 21 days of ‘hard’ lockdown. We waited. And waited.” Nicole Kilian, Keermont
“[It was a] confusing period where the government told us that we were allowed to export wine, which meant we could send out a few pending orders and hopefully create a bit of income. Within a week, the government did a U-turn and said that we were now not allowed to transport alcohol to the docks – it felt like we were tripping on our shoe laces. Anyway, it was such an unpredictable and surreal time that there wasn’t too much we could do.” Alex Starey, Keermont
Even after this severe lockdown and the uncertainty that came with it, they are trying to remain positive –
“It’s been so uplifting to see how South Africans have joined forces to give back and support their communities, a few of our clients started soup kitchens in Stellenbosch and Franschhoek. There have been several drives to support restaurants by buying vouchers for future use.
Our small team of 15 people remain vigilant and healthy and working. Alex has become accustomed to recording himself tasting wines and chatting all things Keermont via Zoom, Facebook and Instagram live. We have had several online tastings and chats with passionate wine industry people.” Nicole Kilian, Keermont
Fortunately, under these newest restrictions exports are still permitted. In support of our friends in the South African wine industry, please buy South African wines this weekend and beyond! Below are a few examples of wonderful South African wines to give you some inspiration for the next time you are in a restaurant or wine shop.
A blend of three different vineyard sites in Stellenbosch, Keermont Syrah 2014 is expressive and aromatic. Cherry, plum, earth and spice. Drinking wonderfully right now.
DMZ Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch has a rich texture and aromas and flavours of green apple, apricot, peach, hints of honey and white flowers.
Kershaw Clonal Selection Elgin Chardonnay sits right up there with the greats from Burgundy. Keep an eye out for his new GPS Pinot Noir which has just landed in the country.
BlankBottle Master of None. Needs no introduction. The 2019 vintage has to be the best one yet.