Are we there yet? Four words every parent dreads hearing as they inevitably round only the second corner after leaving home, on that five hour trip to their holiday destination. To further stretch the metaphor, the children are whining because they don’t really have any relative concept of time or distance. They know vaguely where they are going, but they don’t have a frame of reference for progression. Or, they simply don’t care.
So the patient parents break it down for them – pointing out landmarks, working in picnic stops, and essentially trying to prevent the junior occupants of the vehicle from decimating each other.
If you think about it, it is a rather perfect analogy for the wine industry. The organisational bodies are the beleaguered parents, while the producers, wineries, wine marketers and wine writers are the disorderly bevy of kids in the back seat.
And everyone (even the parents) wants to know: “Are we there yet?”
Have we become the formidable player in the international wine market that we are striving to be?
How do we answer that question? How are we measuring our progress in terms of our ultimate end goals? If you are into business development or project management, you would be thinking in terms of SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, Time-bound) goals and metrics to measure if and how quickly one moves towards an objective.
This is an issue where there doesn’t seem to be that much consensus on: by which aspects do we evaluate our progress towards our collective goal of being a top international contender?
Substantial importance is pinned on international awards, which makes a certain amount of sense: pitching our best offerings against international wines in the same context definitely serves to indicate how we match up. But it’s not an exact science, and the representative number of high achieving wines are relatively low compared to our total number of exports.
The same goes for scores by international wine critics – as crucial as they are for raising the profile of South African wine, the most prominent wines that score well are always small in number, and it is a heavy burden to expect them to collectively pull the industry all the way to our end goal.
On the analytical side, there are Sawi stats and export figures, comparing year-over-year growth numbers and analysing everything in terms of market segments and the general consumer base. Questions such as “Is anyone drinking more wine?”, “If so, who?” and “And what?” are commonly asked.
This is not an easy thing to track. It’s doesn’t even seem clear cut on how best to track it. Nevertheless, if we are going to be serious about being the international force we believe we should be, we cannot simply stumble along blindly and hope for the best.
And then we’ll never really know if we’re there, yet.