The business of marketing wine calls for wine marketers who know their fining agents from their fino. EMILE MARX, a freelance writer based in Cape Town, reports from the University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business.

In order to sell wine you first have first to understand it in all of its glory. This is the mantra of Paul Bowyer and colleague Bob Barrett, lecturers from the University of Adelaide’s Wine Business Programme – the largest wine business and marketing school in the world – who recently visited South Africa to teach on the new Wine Business Programme at the UCT Graduate School of Business.

Using a deep understanding of wine to sell it is a philosophy that the pair believes, has helped Australian wine grow its export market seven-fold in as many years.

“It’s difficult to have any confidence in your product unless you understand all of its facets,” said Bowyer. “In order to make what you are trying to sell stand out, you have to know a lot about it.”

For Bowyer and Barrett, knowing “a lot” about wine starts, quite literally, at the vine roots and extends to understanding the terroir of site and soil, grapevine variety and its physiology, as well as its growth, development and culture.

It’s a fairly revolutionary approach to wine marketing, which quite obviously has worked for Australia, and the pair were in South Africa to share their perspective thanks to a deal between the University of Adelaide and the UCT Graduate School of Business.

The focus of the UCT programme is to bridge the gap between winemaking and wine business and – next to the University of Adelaide and an MBA offered by the University of Bordeaux – is one of the few academic qualifications in actually selling wine rather than making or tasting it.

Tom Ryan, course convenor of the UCT programme, is convinced that South Africa has an opportunity to learn from a variety of success stories.

“While South Africa has plenty of expertise in wine making and viticulture, – where its has greatest potential to grow is lies on the business side. There is a huge opportunity to emulate Australian success and grow South Africa wine markets,” said Ryan.

For South African marketers to co-operate with Australia makes sense, said Bowyer, not only because of the two countriey’s’ similarities – for example f climate and location – but also because they compete in slightly different markets. South Africa has more historic features and links to old world styles of wine and a longer production history, which gives it entrance into the more established markets, while Australia, with its younger vineyards and winemaking culture, enjoys most of its success in the UK and US markets.

Bowyer said that more than being able to immerse themselves in enjoying what they sell, the in-depth knowledge about wine is also crucial because wine, almost more than any other product, also requires marketers to educate their markets.

Further even than that, it gives them the ability to adapt and respond more quickly to changes and consumer feedback and preferences.

According to Barrett, it is increasingly common in Australia to specify which grapes to plant, and where, based on what the market wants. In this context, marketing actually plays a central role in the whole industry helping to anticipate consumer trends and acting to make sure the industry is able to meet demand.

“We really want the graduates to understand the terroir to quality link,” says Barrett. To do that we need to start with the rootstock, then go on to emphasise the importance of ‘balance’ for that variety, that soil, that place, and that culture to produce ‘”That Wine'” the consumer tells marketers they want. Then the marketers can tell the consumer why they wanted or liked it.”

The Wine Business Programme at the UCT GSB is facilitated by the SA Wine Industry Trust, and aims to boost leadership and business management capacity in the South African wine industry. There are three postgraduate, co-badged qualifications in wine business management – the Associate in Management (AIM), the Postgraduate Diploma, and the Masters Degree in Wine Business Management.

The breakdown of course options is as follows:

Year 1: Associate In Management (AIM) in Wine Bbusiness Mmanagement: A one year programme that has four one week full-time study modules. Each is followed by 12 weeks of part-time project work. The Modules are:

Foundations of Business Acumen I – Principles of Financial Management
Introductory Grape and Wine Knowledge
Foundations of Business Acumen II – Wine and Food Marketing Principles
Global Market for Wine. An undergraduate degree is not needed for the AIM.
Year 2: Postgraduate Diploma in Wine Business Management: The Postgraduate Diploma is a one year programme that has four one week full-time study modules. Each is followed by 12 weeks of part-time project work. The modules are:
Designing and Managing Wine Marketing Logistic Systems
Winery Business Management
Vineyard and Winery Operations
Managing Strategic Projects in the Wine Business.
Year 3: Masters in Wine Business Management Programme: Students complete a dissertation on Wine Business Management.
Candidates are professional or technical persons in the industry with three or more years of managerial experience, with the ambition and talent to move into senior management and beyond into business leadership. The programme also offers an entrance route into the Wine Industry for suitably qualified applicants.

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