Asia offers significant opportunities for South Africa, but we need to get our branding and price points right. A frequent Rootstocker and runner-up at the young wine-writers competition, Danielle Jacobs, shares some of the highlights of the Simon Tam Rootstock Session.
Head of wine at the premium auction house Christie’s in China and Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show judge, Simon Tam, has worked hard to build an extensive and impressive resume. With almost 30 years of experience in the trade, from consulting to judging on international panels, he has gained respect throughout the international wine industry as a leading authority in trade growth and market foresight.
With wit and charm, Tam challenged many of our current preconceptions of the modern Chinese market at a recent Rootstock session, which took place at Warwick. From referring back to a decade ago, when brettanomyces or ‘terroir-taint’ was dominant in many South African wines, he was jubilant about current quality.
So why has South Africa only knocked on the door of the Asian wine markets when we should be busting it wide open – armed with corkscrew in one hand and a mixed case of Meerlust Rubicon and Bouchard Finlayson Galpin Peak Pinot Noir in the other?
His simple answer to this? Branding. We as South Africans have a knack at being very good all-rounders, but what would stop the extravagant Chinese business women from buying a bottle of white Bourgogne (the Cocaine of Chardonnay, as described by Wine Folly) over the Groot Constantia Chardonnay?
We have established ourselves as supplying excellent quality wines from varietals originating from every corner of the globe. But we have yet to succeed in creating a global brand of South African wine, that is not producer or area-specific, but internationally recognized as our own.
The South African wine industry is growing in both quality and praise for its rapid ascent in the global wine trade. What needs to be kept in mind, is that one cannot build a bridge to broader international markets, with an unsteady foundation. Trying to have a finger in every pie, leaves everyone with sticky fingers.
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