How good was your year? Understanding vintage wine

Rare, old, or simply the year it was bottled? Vintage can mean different things to different people but it’s really about how you appreciate it. Sanlam Private Wealth Director of Investments ALWYN VAN DER MERWE and Simonsig Estate owner and winemaker JOHAN MALAN share their insights into this full-bodied topic.




What influences vintage?

‘Vintages differ for a number of reasons. Wine is always traced back to its origin, where it comes from … it has to show a sense of place. Weather conditions in a specific year also have a huge influence on the quality.’

How to open a bottle

‘Opening a really old vintage bottle is one of the critical points in a wine’s life so you need to pay a lot of attention to it. You need a really good corkscrew and you need to pull the cork really, really slowly …’

Investment wine

‘Not everybody has the patience or ability to mature a wine for that long … so this adds to its scarcity and the scarcity value is what makes it so sought after.’

To store or to drink

‘Open a bottle and enjoy it because, as my father always used to say, you might collect all these wonderful wines and tomorrow you might be run over by a bus – and all your wonderful wines will be consumed and enjoyed by your wife’s second husband!’




The passion for vintage

‘Not everybody is that interested in wine, not everyone has a cellar … But I think sometimes people miss out because they only drink the recent vintages.’

What drives selection

‘When I think about my cellar … I always think about a combination of, firstly, what I like, and then the type of foods we consume at home. I want to have a combination of wines that will complement the foods we usually eat.’

Collecting wine

‘I like to have a variety of the older vintages. My palate, and that of many of my friends, has developed to the point where we can now appreciate the secondary flavours that come through … those that reveal the complexity in the wine.’

Click on the podcast link above to hear Alwyn’s views on playing the long game with both wine and investments, and how Johan thinks you can achieve the perfect balance between maturity and quality.




Each year Simonsig offers wine lovers an opportunity to taste and buy older vintages of wines made on the estate at their current vintage prices. It celebrated its fourth Vintage Day recently. Look out for details of Vintage Day 2018 at www.simonsig.co.za