Riding the wave of the Swartland Revolution: would a wine by any other name smell as sweet?

For decades now, South Africa’s wine co-operatives have suffered bad press. They are blamed for fuelling the bulk wine market and lambasted for South Africa’s wines being labelled ‘cheap and cheerful’ by international consumers.

Yet some co-ops, such as Swartland Winery, have shifted focus, using their access to wine as a means to meet their client’s needs, rather than flooding the market with bulk wine. “Today we build brands rather than make wine,” says Marketing Manager, Sean Nieuwoudt. “We source wines for our clients, and then package them to meet their needs.”

To this end Swartland reversed out of their own cellar, leasing it to Leeuwenkuil who in turn makes wines for themselves and for, amongst others, Swartland. 

“We are the only winery that can put the name Swartland on the front label,” says Nieuwoudt, grateful to ride in on the shirttails of the Swartland Revolution and its maverick winemakers making small volumes of monumental wines. “They make amazing wines, but they are not focusing on wines for the masses from the Swartland region” he explains. 

“But that doesn’t stop us from playing in the boutique arena as well,” he adds, referring to the Swartland Limited Release Roussanne 2017 that won Tim Atkins ‘Best Value’ award after his trip here recently. “We now have the freedom to vinify special wines or unusual varietals on their own. For example, the grapes for the Roussanne come from a single bushvine vineyard belonging to one farmer in the Swartland. But we also produce much larger quantities of good quality Wine of Origin Swartland wines that are featured on supermarket shelves and ‘On-Con’ outlets around the globe.”

Currently the winery exports 60% of their wine and their focus is mainly the United Kingdom, Holland, China and Africa. However, their cellar door sales are also significant and there are plans to develop a separate tasting room into a more tourist-friendly environment.

If Tim Atkin is anything to go by, the Swartland Revolution is definitely not over. While the Mullineux’s won his Best Winemaker Award, of the 10 wine awards, 4 of them were from the Swartland, including the Swartland Roussanne. So it’s not hard to see why Swartland Winery keeps riding that wave. And long may it last!

-Julia Moore