South Africa wine: tipping point

06 November, 2015

The first step in the multi-million rand campaign is a new look which will be unveiled on a staggered basis. Carina Gous, who heads the marketing team of Distell’s luxury brand portfolio, explains: “The first tier to receive the make-over is 56HUNDRED, a popular offering in the UK, where it is about to go on shelf.

“Other tiers will follow and in South Africa the new look will be evident from early 2016, when shoppers will find a different appearance to Baronne for example, the newly named The Winemasters that replaces Winemaster’s Reserve and subsequently, the other collections in the multi-tiered range.”

Ross Sleet, sales director of Cape Legends, Distell’s fine wine division, says: “The rand isn’t doing us any favours and the business with visas (government clampdown on possible child smuggling) is hurting us with tourism.

“In Africa, sweet reds started the conversation with wine. Now it is still part of the conversation with wine. Key African markets are Nigeria, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Kenya and Tanzania.

“The trend is towards bigger reds. Among hotel groups in Africa there is a realisation that you should not stock rubbish French or Italian wine when you can list value-for-money South African wines.”

KWV chief winemaker Johann Fourie says: “In the post-1994 ‘honeymoon’ we were planting all sorts of varieties. That is the past. We cannot have all the varieties in one region. We need to figure which grapes work in which region. Winemakers are more travelled now and we are not competing with each other. KWV has relationships with growers going back 50-60 years in all the major 12 growing regions.

“The challenge is the price point, moving the price to what is in the bottle. We need to be more bullish,” adds Fourie.

Former UK supermarket buyer and now a consultant to KWV Angela Mount adds: “South Africa needs to push regionality like other countries, such as New Zealand and Australia. We need to ‘break up’ the (Cape) winelands. There is still a tendency to lump South Africa all together. There is a lot of interest in Elgin, for example.”

De Toren managing director Albie Koch says: “We have to train, educate and upgrade to show that South Africa can make some high-end wines. We can show our wines without constraints. Our key markets are the UK, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.”

Boutinot does not own any vineyards in South Africa but has a major SA brand in Cape Heights. Product manager Robin Naylor tells DI: “We’re not tied into anyone. We are like a roving camper van, looking for good sources of wine. Good things come and great things flow.”

Boutinot winemaker Marinda Kruger-Van Eck says: “In the past South Africa tried to be everything to everybody. Under the old co-operative system they just had everything and there would be a ‘flavour of the month’, such as Sauvignon Blanc.

“After 1995 it changed dramatically. We had been very isolated. Suddenly there was contact with international markets. South Africa has turned around. We do not want to be everything to everyone. We are finding our strengths, finding a sense of place, terroir. SA has such diversity,” says Kruger-Van Eck.

Jordan Estate owner Gary Jordan says: “Some days are longer than others. I think there is real interest in quality. The younger generation of sommeliers is looking for fruit, minerality, vibrancy and flavour. South Africa had a problem with the US but American tourists are now coming to South Africa.”

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Nick Strangeway

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