For all its long lead times, the vineyard side of the wine industry is as prone to the vagaries of fashion as the catwalks of Paris and New York. In the mid-1970s, SA’s producers depended almost entirely on cinsaut for their red wines and chenin for their whites. Shiraz, merlot and pinot noir plantings represented less than 1% of the national vineyard; sauvignon blanc and chardonnay together accounted for less than 0.1%. Since then, the change has been extraordinary: today cinsaut is a sought-after rarity while there’s so much shiraz about it’s become a tough sell. Initially this reversal was driven by international markets. It was easier to sell varieties whose names and styles were familiar to wine drinkers in far-flung places. The globalisation of the world’s wine market produced its own common vernacular of cultivars. Now there is a swing against the “sameness” of it all. Ancient or heritage varieties have suddenly become a la mode as consumers have wearied of multiple rendition...

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