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Malcolm Jolley: 12 radiant South African wineries remaking the country’s reputation


A man loads grapes onto a trailer for wine production on the outskirts of Durbanville, South Africa, Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2008. Schalk van Zuydam/AP Photo.

At this year’s London Wine Fair, a blind-tasting competition was held on the theme of Old Word versus New World. The Judgement of London was meant as an expansion of the late Steven Spurrier’s 1976 Judgement of Paris which pitted California wines against top French wines from Bordeaux and Burgundy. The results, reports Jancis Robinson, who was a judge, were “pretty equivocal” and, as far as she was concerned, “there was no winner.”

If we have come to the end of the division between Old and New World wines, then this can only be good news for the ones made in South Africa’s Western Cape. South African wines’ ambiguous status, in this regard, is a point of pride, and even marketing. Wine has been made there since the middle of the 17th century, but with a particular youthful energy since the end of apartheid thirty years ago.

That tension, between looking back at tradition and forward to innovation, was on my mind last week when a merry band of sisters and brothers invaded Toronto under the banner of the Premium Independent Wineries of South Africa, or PIWOSA. This group of just twelve wineries from the wine lands that radiate northwards from the cold water coast at Cape Town was formed in 2013 to show wine drinkers in export markets like Canada that there is more to South African wine than the bulk, inexpensive stuff that makes up most of what gets shipped from there.

The wines they brought reflected Old World values like the expression of terroir, but also a New World sensibility of experimentation and trying something new. I am thinking specifically of the first wine I tried, the 2022 Raats Family Bruwer Vintners Lone Wolf Cinsault, poured by Bruwer Raats himself. He explained that the grapes came from vines more than 70 years old.

Cinsault would typically be grown to blend with other grapes to add a fresh and lighter character to a red wine. Here, presented on its own, made in a modern fruit-forward style, it was a lovely juicy cherry bomb of a wine.

Cinsault grapes that made the Lone Wolf were meant to be South Africa’s most planted red wine grape, Pinotage. Apparently, the nursery ran out and the farmer settled for the less popular Cinsault. Pinotage was developed in South Africa as a hybrid cross of Cinsault and Pinot Noir.

If you had a South African wine that tasted a bit like the way a bandaid, or even roasted coffee smells, it was likely made from Pinotage. It was once fashionable to ripen Pinotage as much as possible in the hot African sun to get alcohol levels as high as possible. When that style of winemaking became unfashionable, so did the grape.

Alex Dale either doesn’t care about wine fashion or, with his friend and winery partner Ben Radford, intends to change it. He poured me a taste of the 2022 Radford Dale Vinum Pinotage almost as a kind of challenge. If I am honest, I’ll admit that I would have likely passed the wine by based on anti-Pinotage bigotry.

Mr. Dale opened my mind. The Vinum Pinotage was light, elegant, and even pretty with raspberry and cherry red fruit. I might give it a very slight chill to serve on hot and muggy summer night’s braai (Afrikaans for ‘bbq’).

The “P” in PIWOSA stands for premium, and the Raats Cinsault and the Radford Dale Pinotage both cost more than $20 a bottle: $45.95 and $24.95, respectively. $30 was about the median price point for the wines in the tasting, with most of the 66 poured landing somewhere between $25 and $50.

The most expensive wine might be South Africa’s most famous. Or at least it was more than 200 years ago when it was the exiled and defeated Emperor Napoleon’s favourite drink. Klein Constantia’s 2019 Vin De Constance draws a cool $150 or so for a smaller format 500ml bottle, and it rivals Sauternes and Tokaj as one of the world’s great sweet dessert wines.

At $14.95, the most affordable bottle at the tasting was the 2023 Lifestyle Chenin Blanc from Bruce Jack, poured by his son, Ben. Was it quite as good as Ken Forrester’s $63 2021 The FMC or, for that matter, Bruce Jack’s $34 2022 Ghost in the Machine Chenin Blanc? Maybe not, but it’s in balance with a refreshing lemony citrus character that would go down easily at a party.

Ken Forrester was pouring more than The FMC, whose initials officially refer to vineyard site, but unofficially to a phrase that is both obscene and complimentary that ends with the words “Marvellous Chenin.” With him were also the 2020 Sparklehorse, a dry and crisp sparkling wine made entirely from Chenin, the 2022 Terre Noire Chenin Blanc from Swartland grapes, and the classic Ken Forrester Old Vines Reserve Chenin Blanc that retails for less than $20.

There were, of course, lots of other Chenin on the other tables of the tasting. South Africa grows more Chenin Blanc than any other country.

Jonathan Grieve poured his $39 2020 Avondale Anima, made from 100 percent certified organic grapes that were farmed biodynamically. The Anima was rich, round, and showing tropical fruit notes without losing freshness, and Grieve explained that a fifth of the wine was fermented in clay amphora. I’m not sure if using the most ancient wine-making vessel technology is avant-garde or really old-fashioned, but it seems to work.

Three other wines that also really seemed to work that were not made from Chenin were the 2021 Glenelly Cabernet Sauvignon, made in a decidedly Old World Bordeaux style, which will be sold in Ontario this summer for $19, and two Sauvignon Blancs.

The first Sauvignon Blanc that caught my attention was the $26 Paul Clüver 2023 Sauvignon Blanc, from the cool ocean-affected climate of Elgin, and Springfield’s flinty 2023 Life from a Stone Clüver is best known for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so this passionfruit and gooseberry zinger with his name on the label was a pleasant surprise.

The second Sauvignon Blanc was the flinty, lime citrus noted Springfield 2023 Life from a Stone. While the wine may have evoked the Old World mineral character of a crisp Sancerre, the vineyard it comes from was so rocky that it had to be planted with the help of dynamite. If that’s not New World thinking, I don’t know what is.

The $30 2022 Jardin Barrel Fermented Chardonnay, tasted like a fancy lunch, with cream and citrus notes. Jardin is the label used by Jordan, which is trademarked by the eponymous California winery, and by coincidence seems to share a bit of New World frontier spirit.

At one point in the tasting, I couldn’t tell why Rollo Gabb, the managing director at Journey’s End, was telling me about his family’s winery-led school lunch program, while I tasted his 2021 Journey’s End V5 Cabernet Franc. The wine was fully ripe with notes cherry notes and herbal “fynbos” character; I wanted to talk about the wine.

Later I realized that Gabb was on point. PIWOSA is not just a marketing organization, or even a guarantor of quality or environmental sustainability. Membership also requires a commitment to community involvement. Journey’s End started providing free lunch to children in the Somerset area during COVID-19, when the South African economy was almost completely shut down, and there was no way for people to earn money to feed themselves and no help from the state.

Having identified a need, and having found a way to fulfill it, they have decided to continue the program. They are not alone. Every member of PIWOSA is engaged with one or more community involvement projects.

Here is a list of PIWOSA members below. All of these wineries are present in Canada, and most can be found across most of the provinces. The prices I have given are for Ontario and are sometimes approximate and not set in stone.

While the PIWOSA project is an easy way for consumers to identify great value, and values, in South African wine, almost all premium wines from the Western Cape are worth a try, and offer what the pros call high QPR (Quality Price Ratio). If you’re willing to spend about $20 and up, then you can easily come home with a South African wine as pleasing as anything found elsewhere for much more.

The wineries of PIWOSA are:


De Grendel



Journey’s End

Ken Forrester

Klein Constantia

Paul Cluver


Redford Dale


The Drift (Bruce Jack)


Aaron Pete: Indigenous communities are paying a heavy price for political correctness


People enter the Law Courts in Winnipeg on Monday, February 5, 2018. John Woods/The Canadian Press.

Political correctness is doing more harm than help for Indigenous communities in Canada.

As a member of the Chawathil First Nation council near Hope, British Columbia, a native court worker for nearly five years, and a graduate of the Peter A. Allard School of Law at UBC, I have been deeply involved in addressing the unique challenges facing our Indigenous communities. It’s something we should think about, given that it is National Indigenous Peoples Day.

A great deal of empathy and respect is owed when discussing these complex and sensitive issues. However, I’ve found that these conversations are increasingly being led and based more on emotion and political correctness instead of substance, evidence, and logic.

Indigenous people in Canada have overcome a lot of adversity over the past 150 years, in large part due to government initiatives like the Indian Act, Indian Residential Schools, and the Sixties Scoop. The effects of all this have led to the loss of the language in many Indigenous communities, which in turn has meant the loss of culture. Many First Nations have stories told in their languages that haven’t been translated into English. Without that translation, the story is lost and so too are the teachings. This loss has resulted in a lack of tradition, direction, support, and common understanding throughout communities, as well as a lack of coping skills that contributes to high substance use, addiction, and crime rates.

People now empathize with these realities. In 1996, informed by Indigenous overrepresentation in prisons, Parliament created section 718.2(e) of the Criminal Code which indicates that a court imposing a sentence on an Indigenous person should take into account “all available sanctions, other than imprisonment, that are reasonable in the circumstances and consistent with the harm done to victims or to the community should be considered for all offenders, with particular attention to the circumstances of Aboriginal offenders.”

In 1999, this direction of restraint was reaffirmed when the Supreme Court of Canada made its infamous Gladue decision which calls for an Indigenous offender’s personal and familial history to be compiled for judges to consider when sentencing. All this was based on an understanding of the adversity Indigenous people have had to overcome and the government policies that impeded their success.

However, just because this is an empathetic approach, doesn’t make it an unbridled good. And what has this empathetic approach got us? Things have gotten worse. In 1999, when the Gladue decision was made, Indigenous people represented approximately 17 percent of admissions to the federal prison system. Twenty-five years later, a whopping 33 percent of the federally incarcerated population are Indigenous, while Indigenous people only make up around five percent of the country.

During my undergraduate studies at the University of the Fraser Valley, a fundamental principle was drilled into us: the importance of “evidence-based approaches.” This means not merely acting on intuition or emotion but instead studying, understanding, and implementing policies which have been proven to be effective. Evidence is a principle that should guide our decision-making around Indigenous communities. However, that’s not happening. The policies created don’t seem to be based on real facts and figures. And the policies don’t appear to be fixing the problems they’re meant to solve.

More recently, First Nations courts are being rolled out nationwide. But this is not based on a solid foundation of evidence suggesting they reduce Indigenous recidivism or incarceration rates. Instead, it is based on appealing to the heartwarming notion of “cultural accommodation.” In my experience, First Nation courts still take place in a courtroom, but often only involve a few elders and some community service providers. Healing plans are developed with the offender, who has to plead guilty in order to enter the process.

The idea behind it is that by making the process more “cultural” alongside elders, and pulling in community resources, the offender’s life path will ultimately be improved. While parts of it are admirable and potentially true, we don’t really have any research being done into this issue. Simply adding a drum to a courtroom is not going to solve the problem or ensure justice is done.

Canada has not only worked to make culturally sensitive courtrooms, they’ve also been Indigenizing prisons with elders and smudging. Near my community in British Columbia, there is something called the Kwìkwèxwelhp Healing Village, which is a minimum-security prison. Local elders attend to meet with inmates to support them in reconnecting with their culture and traditions. Again, this work sounds absolutely fantastic. It sounds wholesome, understanding, and potentially effective.

The problem is that if we just follow what makes us feel good, without critically analyzing this to make sure it works, we are doing the people in these institutions a disservice. If someone addicted to alcohol wants help, it’s not our role to solely celebrate their willingness to seek help. It is incumbent on us to find them help and make sure there’s a reasonably high chance that the help they seek will actually help address their problem. When you see your doctor, you want to know they are providing you with a health-care solution that has proven to be effective, not just a treatment that sounds good.

My critics will argue these programs require more time, analysis, and funding to prove their worth. They’ll say the purpose of these approaches is to provide culturally appropriate resources, rather than to directly tackle overrepresentation and recidivism. But these approaches were often originally sold as ways to address overrepresentation and recidivism rates. What we need to accept is that the solution to these systemic problems will not be delivered in the courtroom. By the time it gets there it’s already too late. Instead, we need to think long-term and focus our attention upstream.

Upstream solutions

We know the basic resources needed for communities to thrive: a safe clean home, two-parent households, quality healthcare, higher high school graduation rates, economic opportunities, and childcare. Yet, many First Nation communities don’t have this. We hold massive justice forums on Indigenous issues without discussing any of these fundamental topics.

We’ve all heard that preventative measures are important and tackling issues early can have long-term benefits. Further, there’s also a lot of research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and their potential impacts. An ACE test asks very basic questions about a child’s lived experiences like, “Did your parents insult you or humiliate you?” or “Did you feel you had enough food in your house?” The more yeses the higher your ACES score, the higher your ACES score the greater risk you have of having health and mental health issues.

ACEs-related health consequences cost an estimated economic burden of US$748 billion annually in North America, according to a 2019 study published in The Lancet.

We, as citizens, share a common desire: to address the root causes of criminal behaviour in our society, rather than see people end up behind bars. We need Canadians to reach their full potential by contributing to our economy, culture, and communities. We benefit when people share their skills, abilities, and knowledge. As taxpayers, we should not be funding an expanding prison system or new justice pilot projects, but instead investing in more constructive solutions.

Yet, the federal and provincial governments are making financial investments not based on evidence, but based on the whims of Indigenous political lobbying organizations, like the Assembly of First Nations, that aren’t required to prove how they’re actually solving the problem or provide concrete evidence on the impact of their initiatives. Add to this the fact that these organizations only demand things from government, rather than demanding Indigenous nations actually deliver essential services to their communities.

Indigenous communities have a history of having governments decide how to spend money in their regions without their input through the Indian agent. That was wrong. However, political correctness has now swung the pendulum in the other direction. There has been an overcorrection. Today, communities are developing plans and programs independently with little accountability or evidence.

Some may celebrate this as a sign of flourishing self-government. However, if these programs and plans don’t result in the real improvement of First Nation members’ quality of life, educational attainments, and economic position, then they shouldn’t be celebrated. Conservatives also need to come up with new fleshed-out solutions to these issues. Jail not bail may be a great slogan, but it is not a real plan.

Indigenous people do not care who makes the plan, but whether their lives are improving. These are real people who want economic prosperity, comfort, culture, connection, and community.

It is time we move beyond political correctness and engage in candid discussions about the efficacy of our approaches to Indigenous nations.

We need a comprehensive review of existing justice programs, the implementation of robust data collection, and a transparent analysis of the results. We must be bold in questioning existing paradigms and brave in adopting methods that are proven to work, even if they challenge the current narrative.

By doing so, we honour not just the spirit of our cultural heritage but also the pragmatic necessity of crafting a just society for all Canadians.