Wine and the signs of the times

by | Nov 2, 2021 | Blog, Business and Marketing, Wineland

Carolyn Martin - co-founder and marketing director at Creation Wines

Carolyn Martin – co-founder and marketing director at Creation Wines

South Africans always make a plan. It means we constantly invent quicker, more effective ways to find less expensive solutions. And it’s a strategy we could use to add value to everything we do in our businesses and communities.

This agility and inventiveness is key to developing strong brands. Instead of selling raw material such as grapes or no-name bulk wine, our goal should be to produce value-added finished products, locally and globally.

Due to the pandemic, quality has become more important than luxury in brand equity. One might see quality as an accessible luxury.

Embrace diversity

In his opening speech to 5000 new students entering the world of academia, Stellenbosch University’s Vice-Rector: Learning & Teaching, Prof Arnold Schoonwinkel said “If you want to grow, embrace diversity. It’s an indispensable component of excellence.”

This diversity is SA’s cornerstone, and it should give rise to fierce and healthy debate. It brings greater wisdom to our team and therefore, our business and by collaborating and partnering with suppliers and clients, in fact all our stakeholders, we are able to enhance opportunities exponentially. Diversity also leads to resilience, and this is one of South Africa’s greatest assets. However, we need to ensure that our survivalist culture does not get in the way of our business relationships but rather enhances them in terms of opportunities and problem-solving. Wine Estates should not go it alone and abandon the concept of their collective clout creating quality recognition for brand SA.

While diversity brings with it all manner of advantages, there is also a strong argument for weighting diversity if the outcome results in better leadership and communication.

Build smarter teams

Dr Emile Servan-Schreiber, co-founder of Hypermind, believes that smarter teams are characterised by a more significant complement of women. He argues that there is better distribution of speaking time in groups with more women, where fewer men monopolise the speaking time, and more people are comfortable to express themselves. In this scenario, more people listen, and ultimately, it makes teams more intelligent.

Encouraging engagement from each person in your team creates a collaborative environment. During the challenging past 18 months, we were constantly surprised to see how our problem-solving discussions lead to solutions rather than fear leading to apathy.

There is no question that right now, we need fresh input, robust debate, and to set up platforms for different opinions and ideas.

Keep innovating

The past 18 months have shown us how people have focused strongly on both physical and mental wellness. There is a debate about the joy of food and what that means to your body.

At Creation Wines, this combination of agility, being open to innovation and team work led to the development of a virtual Sensation Kit to improve and develop clients’ sense of smell and taste. Whatever the origins of the pandemic, people have become increasingly aware of the wisdom of consuming local, home-grown produce.

It feels like we have moved a couple of steps back to go forward, rethinking our consumption approach. The rise of veganism, sustainably produced wines and natural food fast-forwarded during the pandemic and will continue to grow now it has reached a broader base.

Lifelong learning

In the face of new movements and a shifting set of values and what we cherish most today, we still face the major hurdle of job losses, the negative impact that the pandemic has had on education and food security. There are no easy answers.

All I know is that we have a country with food security, so this should be solvable through production waste management and redistribution. Education needs technological solutions and connectivity to create a circular economy. It is heartening to see how many members of our team are upgrading their skills due and, in the process, future-proofing themselves by multi-skilling.

That desire for new skills coincided with daunting challenges but also exciting opportunities that have swelled the wake of the Covid-19 wave.

Stay in touch

Both communication and online shopping have changed forever in the last 18 months. The online transformation that we thought would take five years fast-forwarded to days. Connecting through ZOOM allows us more time with family, friends, colleagues, and clients with less travelling time. An example has been Creation’s Tasting Together, Apart series, where we have tasted online with more than 4 000 people in the last year.  These interactive virtual tastings have been icebreakers for people to catch up again as well as offering the opportunity to celebrate special occasions.

Having said that, let’s not forget the many pleasures of enjoying wine in situ, among the vineyards where it was grown whilst experiencing the hospitality and ambience of its birthplace!

Do it sustainably

Viticulturists are talking about Climate Change, new cultivar plantings and viruses more than ever. The shocking and disruptive weather patterns we have seen recently in France and Germany are warning that we have to adapt – and quickly at that. Planting is not just what you plant where, together with biodiversity, it is about creating long-term sustainability.

Around the world, packaging e-labels will require full disclosure of sources and processes of winemaking. These are already available in South Africa through our unique SAWIS seal. With food integrity becoming such a critical trading force, it is encouraging that South Africa has the most regulated system in the world. However, we will need to correlate our system with the rest of the world, a little like a vaccine passport. Bear in mind that the WHO has become a dominant global force, never more so than during the pandemic, and among them are staunch anti-alcohol lobbyists. Natural ferments tend to have lower alcohol and fortunately fine wine is for enjoyment and not for guzzling.

One thing is sure: we cannot say that the world is not rooting for high-end South African producers. At Creation, we feel they are! The fine wine business is such a small and personal, mostly family business. During the last 18 months we have come together to share survival strategies. Farming builds resilience as one has to deal with so many unpredictable situations – from the vagaries of the weather to pandemics. We are at the mercy of Mother Nature and intricately connected with the rhythms of the universe. This time of reflection has also allowed us to consider what we may do better and where to put our time, energy and focus in the future. Provenance, quality, and detail are what count. We are, after all, South Africans who craft Plan B arguably faster and more creatively than anywhere else in the world.

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