SOUTH AFRICA – Brandy drinkers who consider themselves connoisseurs will have something to cheer about, as new rules may mean an improvement in the quality of premium brandy.
The changes were first mooted by the South African Brandy Foundation in 2009, and seek to enforce stricter requirements on brandy manufacturers that make two styles of the spirit — vintage and potstill.
Potstill brandies, which previously could include a maximum of 10% unmatured wine spirit, must now contain 100% potstill brandy.
Vintage brandy must now be aged in oak casks no larger than 340l for a full eight years at least.
This applies to the potstill and non-potstill contents.
“The revision of the South African brandy definitions was put forward to the Wine and Spirits Board after discussions with key players in the industry,” South African Brandy Foundation director Christelle Reade-Jahn said.
“Top-end potstill brandy competes directly with single-malt whiskies and cognac. Single malts must be 100% malt spirit and cognacs must be 100% pot distilled. The local brandy industry wanted similarly stringent parameters for what constitutes a pot-stilled brandy to reflect the already extremely high standard of our product offerings.”
Ms Reade-Jahn said distillers such as Distell and KWV also exported a significant part of their production and the new rules would boost their products on the international market, where they competed with distilleries from France, Spain and Germany.
Some of South Africa’s top brands included the range from KWV as well as those from Distell’s Oude Meester brand, both of which were sought after in export markets.
The new legislation provided a greater differentiation in the characters of vintage brandy and potstill brandy, she said.
“Vintage brandy should have a distinctive wood maturation character, while potstills are fuller bodied on the palate.”
Ms Reade-Jahn also said the new rules would not affect brandies on the lower scale of the market, which were usually blended.