Category Archives: Trends

2011: The more things change

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 HaddonNeil PendockOrielle 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 WOSAVinpro 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 BadsbergBramptonDeWaal Wines,ExcelsiorKen ForresterKleine DrakenLourensfordMiddelvleiRaats Family WinesRaka WinesRidgeback WinesRooiberg WinesRuderaRustenberg WinesSteenberg 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.


WOSA 2011 USA Workshop

On Tuesday, 6 September; Wines of South Africa hosted a workshop on the intricacies involved in entering the USA market. The title of the workshop was “Demystifying the American Market – Critical Pathways to Success”.

The opening speaker was Wines of South Africa’s Market Manager for the Americas and Africa, Mr. Matome Mbatha, who introduced the day’s proceedings to the delegates. He started off by saying that “the US market is very important but it poses a challenge due to strict legislation”. Matome then continued by saying that though the market is tough it does offer many opportunities as “it is the fastest growing market in terms of consumption”.

Andre Shearer, the CEO and Chairman of Cape Classics, was the speaker for the day and raised quite a few interesting points with regard to the US market. Andre started off by saying that the US market will help define the South African global brand just as it helped to define the Australian global brand. He continued by pointing out that the Australian market is not as successful as they once were and that their wave of success is receding. This creates an opportunity for South Africa to promote our wines due to the gap in the market.

Andre did however also caution that the American consumer is not as familiar with South Africa as the British and European consumers and those we would need to introduce them to both our country and wines collectively. Andre also pointed out that the lack of a coherent brand image for South African wine puts us at a serious disadvantage.

Other new world markets such as New Zealand, Australia and Argentina have been successful in the US due to them creating a collective brand identity around their cultivar strengths. For instance New Zealand has a price point monopoly in the US with regard to Sauvignon Blanc; similarly Argentina dominates the Malbec market and Australia the Shiraz / Syrah market.

Andre also went on to mention that we should perhaps focus on Chardonnay as the South African identifying cultivar as recent write ups in the US by influential wine critics such as Neal Martin have created a buzz. He also mentioned that Chardonnay makes up 30% of the US wine market and that this cultivar has proven to be South Africa’s most consistent white grape with regards to style and quality. Andre then stated that “if South Africa wants to develop a great weapon in the US, we should focus on Chardonnay to raise our profile in the US”.

After Andre’s very interesting talk on the US market we had the opportunity to taste eight of the best selling wines in the US to be able to identify what to look out for in our wines that would appeal to the US consumers. All eight wines were bold and had a great aromatic expression. Andre pointed out that “America is not a wine consuming country that prides itself on subtlety”.

The eight wines which we tasted were chosen because they are market leaders in their categories in America, all the wines were purchased in large quantities and were commercially successful.

The wines were as follows:
(For more information on each wine please click on the wine name)

2010 Kim Crawford Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand which sells at a retail price of $14.99
2009 Bogle Chardonnay from California which sells at a retail price of $9.99
2009 Au Bon Climat Chardonnay from California which sells at a retail price of $19.99
2010 Pine Ridge Chenin Blanc/Viognier from California which sells at a retail price of $13.99
2009 Purple Moon Merlot from California which sells at a retail price of $3.99
2009 Folie a Deaux Menage a Trois Red Blend from California which sells at a retail price of between $9.99 and $12.99
2010 Alamos Malbec from Argentina which sells at a retail price of $10.99
2009 Layer Cake Cabernet Sauvignon from California which sells at a retail price of $16.99

Andre ended his talk by saying that we (South Africa) should be celebrating what we can do and that we should “consciously decide what we can achieve with good wines in terms of our image in the US”.

It is a pity in my opinion that Andre’s message was only heard by a handful of producers in a half empty room at Backsberg. The inside information and industry ‘tips’ which were dealt were of great value to those lucky enough to hear it. What is even more surprising is the fact that the event was over booked (on paper more than 100 people paid to attend) yet only a marginal amount actually pitched up.

Please click here to view images from the event.

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

La Vierge wines seduces followers at tweet-up

The Twitter chatter for the first WINE.CO.ZA and La Vierge Wines international, two countries, four cities tweet-up started days before the simultaneous intercontinental event took place on Thursday, 30 June.

The first tweets to go out were from’s very own Twitter account to get the participants to start a buzz on Monday, 27 June. Soon thereafter popular wine review website Real Time Wine posted a competition to their followers on their Facebook and Twitter feeds for seats to the three South African venues (which were filled up in only a few hours).

The evening started with some frustration as most of the mobile networks were experiencing loss of signal which resulted in static twitter conversations with tweets getting out long after they’d been sent or not at all. But this didn’t seem to hamper the tweeters too much as a total of 388 tweets containing the trending topic #LaViergeWines were sent as well as a total of 110 tweets mentioning La Vierge’s Twitter handle @LaViergeWines.

The four cities of Amsterdam, Pretoria, Johannesburg and Cape Town all started at the tweeting at the same time but soon it was clear that each team proffered their pace. The Cape Town team seemed to be the most active users with the top five users (calculated on amount of tweets) having been present at the Cape Town tasting (@LaViergeWines, @kungfukittypow, @StefanLuka, @winecoza and @carla_wino).

The tasting kicked off in Cape Town with the 2010 La Vierge Noir which was served with a French Onion soup topped with a cheesy crust and Johannesburg chose to enjoy theirs with duck spring rolls. The top flavour components identified in the 100% Pinot noir were rosewater, strawberries, Turkish delight and mushrooms with the most entertaining tasting tweet made by @dannyrocketer: “Pinot Noir! Like being stroked by a strawberry ghost! In the mouth.”

The next wine on the menu was the 2010 Last Temptation Riesling which showed peach, apricot and floral characters with a fresh acidity as noted by the tasters. Pretoria paired their Riesling with oysters whereas Cape Town chose to pair it with a selection of cheeses. One of the stand out tweets on the Riesling was made by @kgbwine: “Surprisingly beautiful match of blue cheese and Riesling. Brings out the melon, apricot type characteristics loooong finish”.

As the decision to switch to the next white was announced @Merlot_Girl commented on the cheeky names of the wines: “From temptation to original sin, oooh how indulgent & sexy”. The 2009 Original Sin Sauvignon Blanc was next out the bottle and lead to an interesting discussion with both Marc van Halderen (Winemaker) and Krige Visser (General Manager) on labels and the decision that La Verge made to break from convention to create a collection of wines with different personalities rather than a range with identifiable traits.

The characteristics identified in the Sauvignon blanc were asparagus, green pepper, apples and passion fruit and @samswaine summed up the winemaking / marketing team’s sense of humour perfectly with her comment: “La Vierge original sin sauvignon blanc. I’ve just smelt it, not even tasted it. Better than an orgasm!”

The last of the whites the 2010 Jezzebelle Chardonnay was also a big hit, even with those who didn’t normally enjoy Chardonnay. The reds kicked off with the 2009 La Vierge Nymphomane Cabernet Sauvignon / Malbec blend that showed herbs and fruit and was paired at Balducci’s with Lamb barbeque-relish burgers.

When the next two wines, the 2009 La Vierge Anthelia Shiraz / Mourvedre and 2009 La Vierge Satyricon Barbera / Sangiovese / Nebbiolo were tasted the twitter chatter started to die down as the noise level in Balducci’s started to rise. The conversations were mostly centred on the nudes on the Satyricon label which refers to a Roman novel of lust and desire.

The evening ended with the last few tweets proclaiming their favourite wines and their enjoyment of the event. @Blackdelilah‘s tweet summed up the sentiments shared by all: “When visiting Hermanus visit @LaViergeWines, unpretentious, sexy, fun but most of all damn good wines”.

To view a selection of images from the intercontinental tasting please click here. For a list of the venues used for the tasting and the names of all the tasters at the tweet-up please click here.

This article was first published on WINE.CO.ZA, please click here to see the original article.

10 Interesting facts about wine

1. Although red wine can only be produced from red grapes, white wine can be produced from both white and red grapes. (For source: click here)

2. There are approximately 20 million acres of grapes planted across the world; thanks to this number, grapes are ranked as the world’s number one fruit crop. (For source: click here)

3. On average, there are about 75 grapes in each cluster. (For source: click here)

4. Wine is considered more complex than blood serum as it has so many organic chemical compounds. (For source: click here)

5. A glass of wine contains about 85 calories. (For source: click here)

6. The first corkscrew was invented in the mid-1800s. (For source: click here)

7. The world’s leading cork producer is Portugal. (For source: click here)

8. Wine is South Africa’s biggest agricultural export – earning R6.2 billion in 2009. (For source: click here)

9. Italy is the world’s biggest wine producer. (For source: click here)

10. South Africa is the world’s seventh-largest wine producer, accounting for 3 percent of world production. (For source: click here)

This article was first published on 24 January 2011 on as part of the Kleine Zalze Summer Edition Wine Ambassadors competition.

A new take on the “wine rack”

I found this quirky invention online and even though I’m a girl I can definately see that the guy (I’m almost certain a guy invented this) that designed this did it for the love of wine.

The rather plain looking bra is quoted as “a sports bra fitted with a bag for liquids that can be filled with up to 750 ml of wine, a.k.a. an entire bottle, thus creating the illusion of big chest”. To read the entire article click here.

For a laugh, check out the picture below.

She looks like my kind of girl, fun loving, out going and with a passion for wine.

Wine Packaging Trends

In doing research for an assignment on new wine packaging trends for class, I have come across a few more noteworthy trends in the wine industry and am happy to note that quite a few of them have been adopted here in South Africa.


According to an article on Business Day, the South African Wine and Spirit Board this year approved the use of an innovative PET soft bottle produced by Mondi for bottling wine. The article continues that the PET bottles are fully recyclable and have a much lower carbon footprint than glass.

Backsberg is the first winery in South Africa to adopt the use of the new plastic wine bottles. Their Tread Lightly range consisting of a Sauvignon Blanc and a Merlot will be the first certified wine sold in the PET bottles. Backsberg’s proprietor, Michael Back is quoted on their website as saying that “The enjoyment of a great bottle of wine should never be at the cost of the environment”. And I agree.


The Saflite pouch was developed by the South Africa company Astrapak Flexibles together with its first commercial user, The Company of Wine People. According to an article posted on the three-layer packs – with outside and middle layers of metallised PET and an inner layer of linear low-density polythene – come in 250ml and two-litre sizes that can be flattened when empty.

The Company of Wine People website cites sustainability as a key driver for the implementation of the pouches. It also claims that a single pouch’s carbon footprint is 80% smaller and represents 90% less waste in a landfill compared to two 750-mL glass bottles. The company currently packages its Arniston Bay range in the pouches.


According to can manufacturer Rexam, the can is the most recycled drinks pack in the world and are 100% recyclable and infinitely recyclable, with no loss of quality. This is great news for manufacturers who are continuously seeking out new ways to impress the growing number of environmentally conscious consumers.

Australian company Barokes Wines are the inventors of the innovative and patented Vinsafe™ wine packaging system which enables premium quality wine to be canned with stability and longevity. They boast several awards and patents in a number of countries. Elkan Wine Company was also the first and (so far) only Chilean company to produce wines in aluminium cans. I have yet to see wine cans in South Africa, but I’m sure they’ll make their way here eventually.


According to an article on the Glass News website, Zork wine closures were introduced in the U.S. market in 2008, and since then, have won over dozens of wineries with their wine-protection benefits, practical features, and eco-friendly attributes. The Zork low-density, linear polyethylene closure consists of three components: an outer, tamper-evident cap, an inner foil oxygen barrier, and a plunger that “pops” like a cork when extracted and is easily reinserted.


I saw this at a braai the other night and had to share. A South African company Boer and Brit have come up with a new packaging design for one of their wines. The Bob’s Your Uncle Red Wine Brew, is packaged in a 500ml beer bottle with a crown cap closure. The wine is sligtly sweetened to allow for more easy drinking (straight from the bottle). Though this idea will have to grow on me, the website does boast that you can return the bottle for a deposit and “save a tree”, which is a plus point for me.

That’s all I’ve got for now but watch this space for more wine trends.

Wine trends

As a wine enthusiast, I enjoy seeking out new trends in the wine industry. You see as a Stellenbosch (part of the wine district in South Africa) local I feel it is important to be able to at least mumble a few intelligent sounding sentences at a braai so as not to seem too much out of place.


Jonathan Ray writes in his article titled, Wine Trends of the Noughties that “if the Noughties are to be remembered for anything, it’s for making pink wine acceptable. This market continues to grow both abroad (as Ray notes that the category now accounts for 12 percent of the UK off-trade and is worth some 533 million pounds) and locally as SAWIS reports a substantial growth in Blanc de Noir / Rosé produced in South Africa, with the total number of litres produced in 2009 being 6 429 240.


Ray continues in his article, that due to the high prices being charged for wine in the French regions of Bordeaux and Burgundy, a noticeable trend developed which has seen a shift towards great value but lesser-known regional wines. He continues that this trend has intensified over the last several months due to the economic crisis which befell Europe.


The green movement is clearly here to stay, to the relief of many environmentaly aware consumers. An annual survey from Packaging Digest stated that nearly two-thirds of their 1,012 respondents stated that consumer demand from both retailers and customers is driving the focus on eco-friendly packaging.


In order to make wine more popular to the emerging Generation X, winemakers and wine marketers have taken to the drawing board to make wine entertaining through quirky packaging such as the Drink ‘n’ Stick Wine, which lets the consumer play dress-up with their wine bottle which features a 1950’s pin up girl dressed in nothing but lingerie.


The trend in noticeable packaging has also been carried over into naming wines. Carolyn Paluch has created a range of wines which plays with pronunciation on the wine labels. The phonetic wine range is aptly titled Vee-Noh and the cheeky packaging is definitely an attention grabber.


Many connoisseurs insist on the specific pairing of food of wines as an art form. That is why I found the article on food specific wines so entertaining. The range was created for Archer & Vine’s by British graphic designer Matt Davey and features two red wines along with a white wine and a rosé. The wines have names such as “The Lost Sheep” which is a red blend meant to be paired with cottage or shepherd’s pie.


Two of my most favourite things in the world are ice cream and wine. To my happy surprize and amazement, it seems as though I am not the only person who sees the beauty in this pairing. A company in New York Wine Cellar Sorbets produces sorbet from wine. They boast on their website that each flavour is truly unique as it is based on the vintages, varietals and viticulture regions where the wines were produced. Another bonus is that the sorbets are all natural, non-alcoholic and are fat, gluten and dairy free.


A recent article posted on titled, Wine wins World Cup, details the positive effect that the World Cup has had on the South African wine industry. The author writes that the wine industry is one of the sectors to have derived a tangible benefit from South Africa’s hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, with packaged exports still on the rise, despite the continued strength of the rand and the protraction of the worldwide recession.

These are just some of the quirky trends that I found, please feel free to post a comment if you find any other noteworthy wine trends.