We chat to Publik’s Director David Cope ahead of the Publik Wine Fair at Turbine Hall in Johannesburg on October 21.
‘Artisanal wine’ seems to be a bit of a controversial phrase in the wine industry with there not being any clear consensus about what makes a wine artisanal. What does ‘artisanal wine’ mean to you?
I think there’s a misconception that every winery is a natural process from vineyard to bottle, whereas most of the wines out there are large commercial ventures that operate rather industrially. Artisan wines is just a term to describe wines made in more handcrafted production methods by winemakers following minimal-intervention methods in the winery and usually making small batches of interesting wines.
What would be some of the reasons why a wine enthusiast would seek out artisanal over commercially produced wine?
The simple answer is they’re a more honest reflection of the vineyard. These artisan winemakers don’t add yeast, acids, enzymes or other additives that are commonly used. They avoid new oak barrels and wouldn’t dream of using oak chips (also common) which mask the true flavour of the grapes. And they are often working way more grape varieties than the usual well-known ones, so there’s a whole new world of flavours and wine styles.
Tell us a bit about Publik and how you came to be a champion of small-batch wine producers.
Publik started 5 years ago as a Cape Town wine bar with the goal to introduce drinkers to the many artisan wines that were out there but didn’t get the shelf space or place on restaurant wine lists, wines made in small volumes (often a single barrel) from grape varieties people haven’t even head of. Since then the interest has grown exponentially and we’ve expanded to sell wines online and also distribute them to other restaurants in South Africa.
You hosted the inaugural Publik Wine Fair in Cape Town earlier this year – what was your biggest learning or observation from the event?
That people are open to new things if you give them a chance to try them. This event is all about giving wine drinkers opportunity to try wines they haven’t heard of from new and interesting varieties and styles and often grown in outlier wine regions, and it’s great watching guests realisation of just how much else is out there outside of the established wine names seen on the supermarket shelves.
Publik now has an online store that ships nationally – have your noticed if the different regions of the country have different taste in wine or varietals?
Many of the wines we work with sell out soon after release and mostly in the Cape, so we definitely see a larger demand from Gauteng for these ‘cult’ wines that are in huge demand and harder to find there.
Please give our readers your top 3 reasons to visit the Publik Wine Fair in Johannesburg later this month.
The best opportunity to try over 100 artisan wines from 30 independent winemakers (many they probably haven’t heard of because their production is so limited) at an unpretentious event.
The quality amongst the producers is incredible, for example Alheit Vineyards, recently voted best South African producer by renowned UK writer Tim Atkin.
The diversity of grape varieties, growing areas and wine styles offers a whole new perspective on what wine should taste like. There are white wines made like red wines, wines from vineyards in places like Sutherland in the Groot Karoo or the Orange River and wines so unique they defy categorization!
Visitors to the fair will have 100 wines to choose from, which are some of your not-to-missed producers.
Producers like Alheit, Crystallum, FRAM, The Blacksmith, Radford Dale, Raised By Wolves, Fable, Naudé have all become very popular recently and worth seeking out!
Who are some of the winemakers that visitors will get a chance to meet?
It’s hard to single out just a few! Thinus Kruger from FRAM is one of the most interesting characters to meet, always fun and insightful to chat to. Adam Mason from Raised by Wolves, Marelise Niemann from Momento and Alex Milner from Natte Valleij are three more talented winemakers worth chatting to.
We love your Publik branding and posters, who do your work with on these?
I work closely with Chris Moore in Cape Town on the design of the posters and artworks. He’s an illustrator and designer that just gets our style and does great work, and I think good design is vital in building the market these for exciting wines.
The Publik Wine Fair will be held at Turbine Hall in downtown Johannesburg on October 21. For more info and tickets visit the Publik website here.