Personal developmental relationships with experts in the wine industry are of great help in guiding the less experienced. In a brand new series, Wanda Augustyn talks to mentors in wine, starting with Mike Ratcliffe.
Mike ratcliffe manages and co-owns warwick and vilafonté wineries, which generally keeps him out of trouble. He also works alongside an amazing team of people raising money to support education in the SA Winelands – the www.thecapewineauction.com.
The influence of packaging, is it client-driven or more based on what is practical for the wine cellar?
Packaging is a means of telling a story – it is a tool. We first decide on the story that needs telling, and then we work out what tools we need to tell it accurately. This is the same as marketing. Practicalities should never – in an ideal world – ever come into it. I almost always feel that as an industry we should be telling our own stories with confidence and assume that consumers will find them interesting. South African wines, the people, the varieties have a lot going for them.
How can the wine industry break down working in silos, especially when it comes to telling a singularly South African wine industry story?
We have already made a great start with the work that VinPro and Wosa are doing. We have started a dialogue among industry players. We are crafting a strategic direction and I feel that we have a shared industry future. The next big step is government, but that is trickier.
What can we learn from the craft beer industry to up our game on the visual and tactile aspects of wine?
Perhaps we should consider a 340 ml serving size? But seriously – the craft beer industry is generally in its infancy and will struggle with the same things that big businesses have to deal with. How to grow – and still stay cool. To explain, Castle Lager used to be a tiny little brand, but it grew and then became mass market. Similarly, one of America’s first craft beers, Samuel Adams, is now one of the biggest brands in America. We need to find a way to grow our cool brands until they are big enough to become globally relevant, but still keep them cool. It’s not easy, but it is the way we must go.
Any packaging trend that you foresee?
In general, South African packaging standards lag behind the international industry. As the quality and popularity of South African wine rises and foreign demand increases, it would be reasonable to assume that South African winemakers will demand more of their packaging suppliers. It is also reasonable to assume that packaging suppliers will be able to raise their prices in line with an increase in the average selling price of a bottle of wine. These go hand in hand, but it is difficult to forecast what will be the ultimate catalyst.
Do you have any advice on how to get more work done in a day?
Technology is the answer to everything. Syncing work calendars on iCloud and using Siri voice recognition to do all e-mails and messaging can save a load of time.