CELEBRATING SOUTH AFRICA

WORLD RUGBY CHAMPIONS & ZERO CARBON WINE

I first met Steven Campbell when he operated a Wine Bar in Hazelton Lanes, Toronto, and later when both our offices looked on to Honest Ed’s Parking lot. Cool location for sure. Steven has been one of Canada’s most dynamic wine importers and his latest venture is a line of ‘zero carbon’ wines sold under the label Campbell Kind Wines. One of which is South African, crafted by Bruce Jack, a modern thinker who I’ve had the pleasure to meet on my travels.

Jack’s Syrah reminds me of how my favourite winemakers in the south of France create richness and comfort in wines while still including freshness, and a dose of earthiness, edge and charm. The full show. The peppery character of Syrah is another feature that makes for a perfect partner with grilled beef or lamb. Even better on the second day.

CAMPBELL KIND 18 Syrah, South Africa 10522 Vintages $14.95

 

The following is a condensed version of a recent Good Food Revolution interview with Jack. I hope you will find as interesting as I did.

Bruce Jack: Right now? I am excited by the world of wine – wow, it’s so dynamic and so endlessly fascinating. I don’t think things have ever been changing so quickly or so dramatically; well maybe not since that wedding at Cana or the phylloxera scourge!

What’s so fascinating is how the consumer is changing the world of wine. Social media has obviously had a lot to do with this and it is freeing the wine industry in many ways. Younger drinkers are drinking less and better. They are demanding to know how sustainable a brand is, what the brand stands for and the authenticity of the wine and the brand’s communication – this is so cool, because it’s exactly what I believe in and what I’ve been preaching since I began – 30 years ago.

As a result, we may see some (not all) of the big, commercial brands lose ground, because they can’t easily offer all these things. But some big family players manage to be profitable, produce consistently amazing wines and stand for something, like Concha y Toro, Spier and Torres for example – there are some inspirational, generational businesses still kicking butt out there. It’s good to see.

The wine world is starting to tear apart between the luxury offerings like 1st Growth Bordeaux, and producers who can offer innovation, accessibility, a reason to believe and incredible value.

There are a gazillion players in-between who are suffering and struggling to make ends meet – a lot of small and medium-sized family businesses that are finding it really tough, because of the usual market forces – over supply of brands mostly. You just need to spend a day at the world’s largest wine show (Prowein in Germany) to see how bad it is – you can smell the desperation.

But therein lies other opportunities – especially for produces who stand for something that resonates with today’s consumers. All they have to do then is find alternative strategies to make themselves heard and noticed – and of course get some level of meaningful distribution.

Where is the deep meaning in that? This goes beyond wine, of course, but as consumers become more sophisticated and think deeper about what and how they consume (a trend very much in evidence in younger consumers), brands built merely on fashion will have less relevance. Similarly, most thoughtful producers want customers to buy their wine so they can show off how canny they are, not how rich they are.

Another development that excites me is the change in packaging formats. I love the growth in wines-in-a-can. This is being driven by environmental concerns (a radically lower carbon footprint and fully recyclable), but also smaller serving sizes and of course, convenience over snobbery – what’s not to love!

The planet will survive, but the important take-home message is that we won’t. The planet is just going to kick us off – extinction is a real probability. The self-destructive trajectory we are on as a species is so telling – we’ve forgotten that collaboration, generosity and empathy will save us and greed and ego will destroy us.

Sustainability in wine isn’t only about crucial things like a carbon-neutral mindset, it’s about standing up to the short-term, greed-driven people leading our species off a cliff. It’s about emphatically and fearlessly stating that we won’t be lemmings and we are going to do business differently. Only the idiots will be left slavishly following a destructive model that clearly isn’t working. Somewhere a revolution is brewing, and my bet is, it’s with the new consumer and the power they bring.

What’s great is that it’s so much easier now to follow a sustainable, generational business model and pay the bills, because the new consumer is listening and looking out for businesses and products that stand for (and live up to) what’s right and good for them.

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