October 8th, 2010
03:46 PM GMT
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I couldn't help it! But I just had to do another story about South Africa's wine industry. As someone said to me on twitter recently, I am starting to sound like I cover the "wine beat," which doesn't sound like a bad thing to me!

Besides the quaffing benefits, I also think South Africa's wine industry is an important business story that perhaps doesn't get enough attention, what with all the calls for nationalizing mines and public service strikes.

Many South Africans seem to forget the wine industry is a major contributor to the GDP and provides direct employment to more than 250,000 people.

Even though there are huge opportunities for the industry to grow, South Africa's wine makers are struggling. There are a number of reasons for the hangover.

Locally, more South Africans drink beer or whisky than wine. Internationally, the strong SA currency means wine farmers are getting less for their wines in overseas markets.

Wine consultants, like Emile Joubert, are also critical of industry bodies who insist on trying to market South African wines to the United Kingdom, which is over-saturated with cheap, good wines from all over the world.

So, he says, the English supermarkets and wine buyers are "Killing us for price. We are selling wine cheaper there than what it takes farmers here to produce it."

It begs the question why South African wine producers don't look to sell their delicious wine to China, India and, more importantly, the rest of Africa?

So my question is: do you think South Africa's wine industry has missed opportunities to market its product globally?

All of you fellow Africans out there - do you buy Portuguese, Italian or French wines rather than South African wines? Are enough premium South African wines even sold in your countries?

soundoff (32 Responses)
  1. szuhhh555


    October 9, 2010 at 8:56 am |
  2. steve woodford

    I think SA wines are excellent, along with wines from countries like Chile as well. I have lived in the uSA for 25 years and have never seen a big media exposure to SA wine. A suggestion....market SA wines to the mass market in boxes just like Almaden and all the rest. There is nothing wrong with wine in a box, most people, except the politically correct, take a box to parties and events. And if they don't, they should!
    Bottles are nice I must admit and add ambience to the occasion. I am from SA and think the wineries in SA are unsurpassed, definitely better than the packaged, plastic, commercial atmosphere of places like Napa Valley.

    October 10, 2010 at 2:13 am |
  3. Rein Hogeveen

    South African wines have already gone global. I have travelled all over Africa, in the west to Kenya, Ethiopie, Ghana, Liberia, SL, Cote d'IVoire, Nigeria, Congo, Congo-Brazzaville and Angola. Here in Europe you have a good range of South African wines, also in Turkey and the Middle East.
    About Asia I really don't know.
    Maby because the dollar and Pound has weakened the SA has taken away a lot of the attractiveness but against the Euro it has not. Anyway Africa on itself has not a lot of wine producing countries even maybe SA is the only one you have an advantage above the rest of the world.

    October 10, 2010 at 12:35 pm |
  4. Roland

    Hi Robyn

    I am a south african sommelier who has been working in europe for almost 10 years.I watched this show on cnn and I have a lot to say about it.Firstly I believe that SA wine industry has been falling backward for the last 15 years even if the quality in the wine has gone up and producers have focused on quality and lowering their yields to get that quality.

    I spoke about this problem 10 years ago here when I started doing wine tastings seminars in europe and I tried to tell SA producers that they should market their wines differently.They did not listen to me because they still have a short term attitude of just wanting to sale their wines now.They only export 25 to 30% of production and that's another reason why people overseas still think of SA wine as table wine or wine by the glass.In most restuarants still here in europe SA wine is still only seen on wine lists as wine by the glass or house wine.

    You look at how Chilean and Argentinian wines have grown over the last 10 years.It is not because of quality being better then SA wine but because they export a higher percentage of their wines and they market their wines so well.In SA we still don't have a proper school just to train sommeliers and study the proper sommelier degree.I went to London to do mine.I love SA wine and for that reason I started a podcast blog 18 months ago where I went to producers farms in SA to sit down with them and try to let the world know about the quality of SA wine and our viticulture and to hear it from the winemakers voice themselves.

    I have been trying to promote SA wine in Tastings for years and educating people in europe.But I have received no support from the SA wine trade WOSA.I contacted them last year to ask them if they could help me in promoting SA wines by sending me wines when I do tastings here in europe.I got a big NO for an answer from the CEO.I through my blog have met major people in the world of wine who saw my blog and contacted me,people like Oz Clark and other wine critics who said what I was doing was great.I also met an investor who saw my blog and now wants to sale SA wine online with me here in europe.But the real problem is with SA producers who do not want to take a long term vision by changing the export numbers to higher amounts and to look at other markets besides the UK.

    Markets like Scandinavian, Hong Kong which is a great market for wine and the USA.SA wine producers told me straight to my face that they sale their wine within two weeks of release and that the local market is great for their wines and that they can't wait months for try and take on new markets or spend more money on marketing.If they only knew how to market themselves online which cost almost nothing and if they used sommeliers in the right way they would see the results.I actually don't feel sorry for them because I in my small way have tried to talk to them,I have tried with WOSA which is actually a joke of an organisation and I have tried with my blog and having spent time and my own money on flight tickets and travelling around the wine country doing interviews with them to help promote their wines for nothing.

    What have I got in return,no thanks from them for my blog which looks to promote their wines and no support from WOSA.Anyway what can we do with people who are their own worst enenmy.Robyn if you got on the speak to winemakers you would see what I mean about their attitude.

    Robyn please look at my podcast blog and you can listen to interviews with SA top winemakers and I still have more interviews to load I have just been so buzy.

    It's http://www.southafricanwinereport.com

    Speak soon.


    October 10, 2010 at 5:36 pm |
  5. Mike Ratcliffe

    While your article raises some interesting questions – it is hard to understand the motivation. While the South African wine industry might be struggling, it is not unlike any emerging market exporting to the US and battling a weakening Dollar. The SA industry has relative structural integrity and is fundamentally OK – it is also becoming increasingly efficient and quality is increasingly exponentially. Can the same be said for our competitors? For those in the know – the answer is no.

    South Africa's achilles heel is a lack of willingness to 'back our quality' and talk ourselves up a little. The top South African wines are as good as any in the world – our competitors know that already.

    October 10, 2010 at 7:34 pm |
  6. kolobe

    private south africa aspires to be english..you can even check company listings. every rubbish that comes from uk is headline in the pvt media here. there are more south african immigrants in england than anywhere else.

    October 11, 2010 at 12:52 pm |
  7. karmjit

    I have tasted S african whites and RED wines and find them good;I like your RED wines !
    But I suspect the marketing effort is not as strong as the Chilean and Autralian wines !
    Hope this helps .Rgds


    October 11, 2010 at 2:48 pm |
  8. stanley

    i guess so .it will definitately

    October 11, 2010 at 4:27 pm |
  9. Evert

    You can bring a carton and then pour the wine in a bottle, tastes much better ;-). I see a lot of South African wine in Kenya and Tanzania. But the prices are far too high. Restaurants charge up to USD35 for an ordinary white wine, like KWV chenin blanc. This is not good marketing for SA wines. Government should negotiate lower duties and taxes in Africa to promote South African wines in Africa.

    October 12, 2010 at 10:33 am |
  10. marco

    I enjoy a glass of wine, and I think our wines are right up there with the rest of the world. The problem is the price. Restaurants in S.A. mark up the price up to 300%. It is not unusual for your restaurant bill to be made up by 50% food, 50% wine. If wine was more affordable, more people would enjoy it.

    October 12, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
  11. vucy

    I totally agree with you as here in England we buy SA wines in SA shops and its expensive there than when you buy it at Morrisons or tesco. Why cant we sell it to the rest of the world since now the world can notice us better than before (because of the world cup), we might aswell take this chance before we lose our fame.

    October 14, 2010 at 11:23 am |
  12. Sebastião Marco de Sousa Carvalho

    I totally agree with this article, instead of country like Angola and some others who have huge wine consume from EU and South America, we should buy it in our regional neighbor country like South Africa!

    October 14, 2010 at 2:32 pm |
  13. AVRIL

    It is wierd ,yesday i leaved common ,but it was by deleted ,,,,,,,,!!!!!!!!

    October 15, 2010 at 1:27 am |
  14. lsklady

    I am a Zambian living in the US and I always look for South African wine when I purchase wine here. I love South African wine and wish the more upscale wines like Nederburg and KWV were sold over-seas

    October 15, 2010 at 1:47 am |
  15. Ruth

    Hey! I am a South African who loves and only drinks our fabulous wines. I find them very affordable, and am very proud of our wine heritage. We went global a long time ago as far as I know. Our wines are recognized for their excellence world wide. Perhaps a bit expensive overseas, dont know.
    Proudly South African!!!

    October 15, 2010 at 1:37 pm |
  16. Roy

    I lived in UK, Ireland and now China.
    Having been out of SA for 10 years I am not acquainted with current SA prices, however, my experience in buying (Mostly Red) wine in Ireland I paid between 115 – 170 Rand a bottle. For a Chilean Red, which would never disappoint me, I paid between 90 – 100 Rand a bottle.
    Here in China, I would buy SA wine if it was freely available, but I am just one person. The wine I drink here is a Great wall valued at around 35 a bottle (Though not in the same league!). The currency is almost 1-1.
    I rarely see a white wine here though, and the white wine (Called Bai jiu, meaning White/Bai Alcahol/jiu) As best as I can Translate, is actually more like a spirit. Not for the feint hearted and R5 upwards for a small bottle!
    This means that white wine is either not a player, or has loads of potential.
    Personally, if I wanted to impress guests, I would go for a Chilean red and a SA White as I really prefer the SA white wines to others on the market.

    October 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm |
  17. Diabetes Diet

    In my opinion you are not right. Let's discuss.

    October 19, 2010 at 5:44 am |
  18. Ann

    I cannot speak to whether or not the SA wine industry has missed marketing opportunities but I can speak to the beauty of many SA wines and sadly the lack of availability. Currently I live in the US and it is very difficult to find SA wines where one would traditionally find wines. I need to order mine through a wholesaler who specializes in wines from Australia, South Africa, and South America. He carries the best of the best and/or can order whatever I need. However, in terms of local availability, if I do find a SA wine, it is often a lower quality one. The 4 and 5 start SA wines are so beautiful that I wish more people were aware of them!!! If you find one, just remember to let the reds breathe a little longer than reds from other countries.
    Enjoy! Ann

    October 21, 2010 at 12:05 pm |
  19. Dave Murphy

    Selling cheap is the only way to make a footprint. But producers have to unify their attempts to enter. Higgeldy piggeldy marketing gets the results it, and they, deserve. Their wine deserves better. I find i prefer it wherever I go. Dave

    October 24, 2010 at 3:17 am |
  20. ewaoche y george

    the south african wine makers seems to neglect the african markets for the european markets thinking they could do better.i wonder if mtn and multi choice doing well in africa would have done well if they had also engaged the european markets

    October 24, 2010 at 3:50 am |
  21. Peter Strimenos

    SA wines are great, and the country takes pride in their wine unlike the French who did take pride years ago! Go to a restaurant in Paris now and ask for wine and they ask " red or white "! I love France so I am not being mean. In SA the wines are certified and a glass of wine is exactly one third of a bottle so you can buy a bottle or three glasses of wine for the same price!

    October 26, 2010 at 11:04 am |
  22. slouzer

    "Srong Rand" ?????? What are you on about, the Euro is like 10 to 1 the Pound like 16 to 1 and dollar like 6 to 1. Where do you come off talking about the strong rand?

    But yes our wies are great.

    November 1, 2010 at 1:38 pm |
  23. Chris

    South African wine in supermarkets like Tesco are of a terrible quality and I would rather support QUALITY wines from Australia and other countries.Cheap low class wines are destroying the South African wine brand. The brand has been destroyed and will take years to fix. This has been written from a loyal South African wine lover who no longer buys South African wine.

    November 3, 2010 at 11:34 am |
  24. Carno

    Yes the rand is strong – for the SA wine business to be profitable we need the ROX to be around R7.80-8/$, R9.8-10/Euro and R13.5-14/GBP.

    There are a lot of misconceptions in the posts. 1) We (SA) market our wines globally including Africa, Far and Middle East, Eastern Europe, China etc. Just because a country has a massive population does not neccsarily translate into export sales, this can be for various reasons, i.e. religion (Indonisia has a population of over 240Mil, 86% of which is Muslim and won't touch wine), protective trade through taxes and duties (or the 3tier system in the US), small or negiligable wine consumption per capita(India consumes less in the whole country than a 1 sizeable Co-Operative produce in SA), histroric connection (Francophone Africa), produces own wine (Try selling SA wine in Italy), etc, etc. Point is it is not easy and takes a lot of money and resources to market globally – lot of producers simply do not have the money. It is myth that wineries are 'rolling in it' – it is all an illusion.
    Our own company export wine to 30 countries – this inlcudes developing markets like Rwanda, Uganda, Tanzania, Nigeria, Ghana, Kenya and also'niche markets' like the Gulf, Russia, Poland etc. It takes time.
    SA wines after 16yrs are still the young kids on the block and it is a bit unfair to compare us to Chile, Australia and Argentina who has had much more time in the international market. In this short space of time we have done exceedingly well – from 99Mil Litres in 1996 to 390mil Litres in 2009. In Sweden SA wine is the top imported wine by volume and retail prices compare well with our other new world competitors.
    My rant on the UK – SA wine producers have been (willingly) taken for suckers in the UK by the multiple retailers (supermarkets) These chains continue to drive down the price and offer such deals as 3 for 10GBP or Buy one get one free etc. In deals like this the retail price point is GBP3.33/bottle, of this GBP2.86 is Duty&Vat, this leaves GBP0.47 for the retailer margin (which they will always make – listing fees are also applicable at aroung GBP10K per wine), shipping and at the end the producer. Guess who lose. And no – my sums are not wrong, there are some ways to cross subsidize etc but it comes down to the fact that some producers are giving away wine below cost in the hope to build 'Brand Equity' which is a pipe dream as the average punter will just buy the next wine on promotion and the retailer will show you on your merry way if you don't run a promotion

    Last note – Roland, I have also been a Sommelier in the UK. Big difference selling a couple of bottles over a table one on one to a customer and selling containers to customers you see maximum 3 times a year and consumers you will never meet. I don't always agree with WOSA but some of your comments seem uninformed.

    November 3, 2010 at 2:56 pm |
  25. mjs

    they use cheap labour to make wine and the working conditions are poor

    November 5, 2010 at 9:46 am |
  26. Jean

    I live in California.... and I can get good SA wines easily. The Chilean, Italian and Argentinian wines seem cheaper though.

    November 6, 2010 at 6:11 am |
  27. Robert

    South African wines have been sold and marketed globally for decades already. Even before the change of government South African wines could be found abroad. The only pity is, in my opinion, is that some of the very best South African wines are never seen for sale beyond its borders.

    November 8, 2010 at 12:47 pm |
  28. Evert de Vries

    The perception is that SA keeps the best of it's production for itself, but despite not having lived in SA since '92, I still buy SA wines in preference to other countries' wines – about 60% of my consumption is SA'n. However, dips in quality have seen me try other countries wines more and more and that %age steadily erodes

    In the UK where I live SA wines are similarly priced, or perhaps a fraction more expensive than say Australian. The supermarkets here are not good to suppliers – as noted in other comments above, and well known for sharp practices. Nevertheless it has been good at last to see some Nederburgs and Douglas Greens lately.

    South African speciality shops here are extremely uncompetitive, price wise (for anything) and I simply won't bother with them. Postage on top of the bottle/case price simply makes it senseless

    Please SA, put your best quality stock into the international market. use internet marketing wisely and copiously and let's see what you are really capable of.

    November 9, 2010 at 1:04 pm |
  29. IC

    I will dispute mjs' comment, "they use cheap labour to make wine and the working conditions are poor", I moved from the UK to South Africa and live in the wine producing area of Stellenbosch. The wages paid are regulated by unions and a lot of the estates provide a higher standard of accomodation for their workers than one sees in the slum areas that the South African government are supposed to be improving.
    I would also like to comment that there are a great many more producers than Nederburg and KWV. These two are more well known internationally due to market penetration and low whole sale pricing.
    Other wine producers worth mentioning would be Warwick, Morrisons, Klien Constantia, La Motte (which is the ninth biggest wine producer in the world), Beyerskloof etc, etc, etc.
    The UK market is hindered by the high prices inflicted on it citizens by the companies selling produce to the public. They don't call it "rip of Britain" for nothing.
    Lastly, although more people drink beer in SA than wine the amount of wine consumed is a lot higher per head of population than in the UK.
    There is even a restaurant in Cape Town which is reputed to have the worlds biggest wine list and the vast majority of wines on this list are South African.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:41 am |
  30. Marek Dawidowicz

    Hi Robyn,

    After living in Japan in 2006, my brother and I started a small South African wine exporting company specifically to Asia. The opportunities that are present across Asia are enormous, and we have had a fantastic response since we launched.

    All I can say is that we cannot count on our big South African wine producers to be the only ones who carry the flag internationally. It needs to be the combined force of entrepreneurs, distributors and negotiants, local consulates and SA wine lovers who will carry the message of South African wines globally.

    That is what we are trying to do, one small step at a time.



    November 14, 2010 at 9:20 pm |
  31. Hallie

    At last! Someone who undersdtnas! Thanks for posting!

    June 1, 2011 at 4:44 am |
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