Looking back at the past year it is evident that the South African wine industry has seen many changes, controversies and closures but it is important for us to look ahead to the positives that the New Year brings. As stated by Deepak Chopra “All great changes are preceded by chaos”.
This year was not short on controversy, with the most notable of which being the Coffee / Caffeine Pinotage debacle and media onslaught after the University of Pretoria found high levels of caffeine in a few of the coffee Pinotage wines tested in their laboratory. The information was published as a letter in the Sunday Times on the 7th of August. After the publication everyone from WOSA to Harry Haddon, Neil Pendock, Orielle Berry and Cathy Marston commented on the findings.
Another controversial topic that ignited debate in the wine industry was the release of a 96 page report titled “Ripe with Abuse: Human Rights Conditions in South Africa’s Fruit and Wine Industries” by an international company called Human Rights Watch. Once again the online media was abuzz with commentary from WOSA, Vinpro and Fairtrade SA.
The Backsberg Vino Varsity Challenge saw its third year with popular favourites Stellenbosch University failing to impress the judges and losing their undefeated two year champion status to arch rivals UCT. Also in its third year, the Nedbank Green Wine Awards saw a significant decline in the number of entries from the previous two years. The decline could be attributed to a number of reasons, such as the competition’s new home at Getaway Magazine or the fact that it remains a niche market.
2011 was a bumper year for wine festivals with many established festivals standing strong despite a decline in interest (such as WineX Cape Town) and others joining the party for the first time such as the debut Gugulethu Wine Festival. Though there was not a lot of interest from the producers (with less than twenty in attendance), those that did choose to attend were greeted by many eager locals keen to learn more about wine. Every wine journalist and blogger that could attend did and Neil Pendock and Cathy Marston (amongst many) thoroughly enjoyed the festival.
Though there seemed to be a wine festival every weekend, some managed to attract more attention than others. The second Swartland Revolution proved that the ‘cult’ status of the wines from this region is not for nothing. The weekend saw 250 people of a great diversity from across South Africa (and beyond) converge on the small town of Riebeek Kasteel with only one thing on their minds: wine. The well organised and punctual festival was well worth the money as the tutored tastings added value to what could’ve ended up being only a party.
With the world still trying to recover from the economic recession that shows no sign of letting up any time soon, the wine industry has had to adapt to the situation it finds itself in. The industry has subsequently seen a lot of change in the past year. From wineries finding new owners such as Klein Constantia and Mulderbosch to wineries going under the hammer likeQuoin Rock, there has been quite a bit of shuffling around.
Even the two biggest South African Wine Auctions decided to take on new directions. The 37th Nederburg Auction saw a fresh new look and feel with a comprehensive online strategy that stretched across Social Media platforms and a new website. The Cape Winemakers Guild also announced this year that they have introduced new selection criteria to encourage creativity and diversity amongst the wines from their members. This year’s public tasting already showcased some of the guild members’ more unique offerings which indicated that the members had already started experimenting before the announcement was made. This year the CWG Auction also boasted a record turn over of R5 286 700 (up by R1.4 million year on year) indicating that the updated criteria has stimulated some renewed interest.
2011 also saw the last printed publication of WINE Magazine in September and with many other printed publications going the way of the dodo, it is great to know that at least there is an online South African Wine Magazine in the form of Michael Oliver’s Crush!. Crush! was also recently shortlisted as one of six finalists in the “Food and Drink Magazine of the Year” category of the 2011 Digital Magazine Awards. Crush! is also the only South African publication to be nominated.
WINE.CO.ZA saw a few big changes this year, with the move to our new offices in April where our entire team and warehouse is housed under one roof. Judy Brower and Kevin Kidson took a three month sabbatical shortly after the move. The team were left to their own devices but managed hold down the fort till Kevin and Judy’s return from Europe.
This year also saw the addition of two new members to the team. Mart-Mari du Preez joined the online shop in February and proved to be not only great at sales and logistics (our online wine shop continues to grow) but also a budding writer/blogger and wine enthusiast.
Carla van der Merwe took over as WineNews Editor in April and Social Media maven in August, proving she can multi-task like the best of them. WINE.CO.ZA managed to reach several milestones with our Social Media this year with Dusan Jelic managing to get first 1000 and then 2000 Twitter followers while Carla brought the total up to 3000 in November. Our newsletter subscriptions also increased by roughly 1000 new subscribers this year.
WINE.CO.ZA strives to be constantly ahead of trends and embraces new technology, having released free QR-codes for South African wines in September and spotlight focus areas for our Global Partners and Partners in November.
Since the launch of our new website development option in July 2010 our entrepid developer, Garth Hapgood-Strickland, has developed 40 new websites for our clients. Some of the wineries that the sites were designed for include Badsberg, Brampton, DeWaal Wines,Excelsior, Ken Forrester, Kleine Draken, Lourensford, Middelvlei, Raats Family Wines, Raka Wines, Ridgeback Wines, Rooiberg Wines, Rudera, Rustenberg Wines, Steenberg Vineyards and Waterstone.
Here’s to a festive season filled with good wine, great conversation and amazing memories!
This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.