My approach at this year’s Cape Town Cycle Tour, or “Argus” as most people still call it, was to do it like a tourist who’s visiting Cape Town for the first time. Although looking at incredible scenery (instead of the wheel in front of me) and stopping for every half-melted Bar One and massage, meant I spent a long time on the saddle, it was worth every drop of sweat.
It’s easy to get used to Table Mountain, the vineyards and the Atlantic Ocean if you see them every day and it often requires a concerted effort to take a step back and appreciate these miracles anew. The same applies to those of us who – unlike the vast majority of consumers – work in the wine industry and deal with wine on a daily basis.
Which is why for this issue WineLand is seeing things from the consumer’s point of view – an approach consumer-centric industries should adopt on a regular basis. In fact if you don’t, you’re likely to start staring at the wheel in front of you instead of the real opportunities that surround you.
While Marlborough has become synonymous with Sauvignon Blanc, even the New Zealanders at the International Sauvignon Blanc Celebration took note of the leap in quality of South African Sauvignon. The “gin and tonic of wine” easily takes pole position in terms of single varietal packaged exports and is by far the top single varietal when it comes to locally consumed volume.
Progressive wine businesses are increasingly benefiting from the untapped potential of the local market. Michael Fridjhon notes that Gauteng can be regarded as the Cape wine industry’s most significant “export market” and asks whether wineries are investing enough time there, compared with the combined time spent in international markets.
Touch Warwick, the joint venture between Warwick’s Mike Ratcliffe and Metro FM DJ sensation T-Bo Touch, is an exciting prospect particularly for the crucial local black market. The lack of truly successful black-owned brands has been an uncomfortable elephant in the industry room and spicing it with some hip-hop could present a welcome breakthrough.
Speaking of breakthroughs, Erna Blancquart recently became the first black South African and only the third woman to be awarded a PhD in viticulture from Stellenbosch University. Innovation, technology and qualified researchers equipped to drive new initiatives are essential at a time that irregular weather conditions are seemingly becoming the norm.
Dry, hot conditions put winemakers’ skills to the test and resulted in a small 2016 vintage. A proper cycling tan – or rather cycling sunburn – attests to these conditions. The industry is facing tough times and many feel 2016 will see a significant shake-out. As an industry publication, WineLand has a tough, balancing act to perform: To convey hope through success stories on the one hand, and to sympathise with those enduring an uphill battle on the other.
Even in challenging conditions there are always those who thrive. And looking up is often part of the answer.