Asking the tough questions

by | Mar 1, 2016 | Opinion

This revelation came from a supplier to the industry, who would probably lose some business if he does not remain anonymous. But the outsider’s view is often most revealing and I certainly think he has a point.

The past year or two have seen a significant increase in “straight talking, honest discussions”, which are critical to move forward. VinPro, Winetech and the Robertson Wine Valley are just some of the organisations that have gone or are going through the process of introspection to ask the tough questions about current and future relevance and changing course going forward. In fact, the Wine Industry Strategic Exercise (Wise) was initiated to facilitate this process at a macro, industry-level.

The Nedbank VinPro Information Day particularly addressed the hard topics, including the current state of the economy, the fact that most South Africans don’t associate with wine, that our wines are not perceived to be sexy enough to the UK market and, of course, transformation. And yet, post-event feedback has been remarkably positive.

The industry at large has paid the price for being too nice. Listing fees and our barrel bottom prices at the International Bulk Wine Exhibition are a case in point. Unfortunately it’s tougher to get out of such a compromising position than to steer clear of it in the first place.

Premiumisation – the opposite of barrel scraping – is yet again a recurring topic, with Meerlust Rubicon being a prime example of the remarkable impact and potential of a premium wine brand, made in noteworthy volumes. A marked increase in Platter’s five star wines (including the Rubicon) is, according to associate editor Cathy van Zyl MW, proof that the industry is raising the quality bar. Equally encouraging, Vinimark’s marketing mind, Geoff Harvey, comments that South Africa’s move into the premium category has also seen more stories, passionately being told to capture the attention of journos and consumers alike.

Industry leaders like Bernard Fontannaz or Piet Karsten, who feature prominently in this Movers and Shakers issue, are known for ringing the changes and, as Fontannaz puts it, saying au revoir to status quo. Asking the tough questions is a necessary part, and often catalyst, of this process.


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