Can I GET A 


Most nations – barring Americans – have a certain amount of humility about their national pride.


Words can be very powerful. I have always sought to find just the right word for whatever context I’m either talking or writing about – and “cringe” is one of those words. The absolute epitome of a cringe in physical form is Gollum in Lord of the Rings. The pale waif has his shoulders drawn up to his ears while he’s muttering about his “precious”!

So where am I going with this? I think South Africans have been guilty of cultural cringe: that we as a nation feel embarrassed and not worthy to take our seat at the world table. Much of that can be attributed to being a pariah nation for so long. Justifiably, it must be said, because of our history of apartheid.

Obviously my area of expertise is in wine. And I have seen such a dramatic change over the past 20 years in this field. Post 1994 we took our wines to the world somewhat arrogantly – and we got a Polokwane to Kakamas express delivery! The great and the good of the wine world told us our wines were not good enough, especially pinotage which was likened to rusty nails or burnt rubber.

The country’s producers swallowed the bad medicine and went back to basics: learning what the world considered great and then aiming to not just emulate that standard but to exceed it. It was noted at the recent Amorim Cap Classique Awards how far South African sparkling wine made according to the traditional Champagne method has come. The improvement has been remarkable in 20 years. The same holds true for pinotage which is not anything like it was two decades ago. International commentators and critics now frequently state that local chenin blanc is the reference the rest of the world should look to. Just a few weeks ago Cape Wine 2022 was held four years after the previous staging. It was one of the hottest global wine events held post-pandemic. Buyers, agents, journalists came from far and wide to both taste our wines as well as get to experience some of the amazing beauty and lifestyle on offer.

And it’s not just in wine either. South African gin is an exciting category internationally. Our brandies frequently outperform either Cognac or brandies from other countries. Same goes for our locally made whiskies. South Africa’s whiskies, malt and grain, truly excite international experts as well as consumers.

So here’s my point. We need to stop making like Gollum and cringing about all things South African. Yes, there’s still a heckuva lot wrong – but we should take the wins and celebrate them. We need to be a bit more American and puff out our chests, put our shoulders back, tilt our chins up a few degrees and hold our heads high because there’s a lot to be proud of. Other nations envy us – our natural heritage, our ease with people from all walks of life, our warmth and hospitality and the unbelievably rich blessings we have when it comes to wine and all things alcoholic.

Cheers to that