Why doesn’t South Africa have megaexport brands exceeding one million bottles?
South African wine doesn’t own a key variety. Many of the other wineproducing countries have a core variety that guarantees their place on a retail shelf or wine list. New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc is a good example. This means that we have struggled to gain traction in many of the global volume markets – think China and America, for instance.
That said I’m not sure that megaexport brands need to be purely defined by volume. I think South Africa is starting to slowly develop a reputation for premium and superpremium wines that deliver far better value than their New World competitors.
What do you regard as the South African wine industry’s most aspirational brands?
South Africa is spoilt for choice when it comes to aspirational brands. There are traditional producers such as Kanonkop and Rustenberg or new benchmarks such as Boekenhoutskloof and Sadie Family Wines. There’s also a new crop of exciting producers such as Mullineux Family Wines and Reyneke Organic Wines.
What does South Africa have that you believe can send us in the right direction?
I think the South African wine industry is heading in the right direction. We’re starting to follow the Old World more than the New and this is to our benefit. We’re selling more and more wines in the commercial premium and premium categories around the world. We’re starting to show how regionality is beneficial to producing certain varieties, for example Chenins and Syrahs from the Swartland, and this has dramatically improved style and quality. There are more stories being told with passion by young, dedicated winemakers and brand owners that are capturing journalists and consumers’ interest.
The column inches written about South Africa by influential international publications over the past five years is probably more defining than actual sales.
What should a producer do to increase exports?
Understand the market that they are exporting to. Who are they targeting to sell to? What are the key price points, on and off-promotion? What is the most efficient route to market for their brand/product?
They need to make sure they are dealing with the best importer/ customer for their brand.
They need a compelling, consistent and preferably unique brand story.
They need to visit the market to support their importer and brand.
They need to be patient.
Geoff Harvey, who has a BCom from the University of Cape Town and postgraduate course in advertising and marketing, has for the past 20 years worked primarily in the liquor industry on both the advertising and brand management side. He has been with Vinimark Trading for the past 13 years and is currently the company’s marketing and export director.