Tag Archives: wines of south africa

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.