I consider the South African wine industry to be riding a wave. Sure, the wave is only just starting to break and we’ve seemingly just planted our feet on the well-waxed board, but the swell is there and the conditions are perfect to stop paddling and make the most of things.
Our wines have a strong presence in Europe and now the next step is obvious; we need to grow the value offering. Sadly there is still a big misconception around the quality of South African wine, which is mostly unfounded, however it would seem that there is the perception that cheap equals not-so-cheerful. This, we know, is not the case, however we need to convince the markets of this fact. Whether selling bulk or packaged, an increase in value should therefore be the main aim for producers for the year ahead along with increased price tier listings across all markets, but particularly in Europe.
2016 saw the industry hit by negative reporting and whether it was skewed or not, it rocked the boat. This will not be going away any time soon and concerted efforts need to be made to focus our energies on ethical trade and transformation programmes. It is time that we stand together to ensure that the constant question mark that keeps looming over the industry’s head is finally put to bed.
The hard work that ethical trade bodies such as Fairtrade, Wieta, Fair for Life and wine producers have been doing in this regard cannot be ignored and the stories need to be told on all available platforms. Transformation is happening and whilst it might be a slow and often arduous process, it is a process that is changing the shape of our industry for the better.
One of the easiest ways of telling our stories, building and growing our reputation and showcasing the phenomenal quality of our wines will come through wine tourism. We need to make ambassadors out of each and every visitor who steps into our tasting rooms and restaurants. They need to be encouraged and compelled to tell our story and buy South African wines upon their return to their home countries. Show them the good that is being done, not only in the cellars, but also for the people who aid in producing the final product. This will without doubt lead to increased profit and job creation, which all filters down to improve social sustainability on our farms throughout the winelands.
May 2017 be the year that sees the South African wine industry spread its wings and ride the wave to become bigger, bolder and better than ever before.