How SA first entered the US wine market

Monday, 29 July, 2013
Michael Fridjhon, moneyweb
Almost on the day that George Bush Snr announced the lifting of sanctions against South Africa in 1991, a couple of South Africans - who knew more about the catwalk and the movie industry than they did about grapes – decided to enter the wine trade.
Andre Shearer had been living and working in Germany with his wife Ange: they were on a film shoot in Las Vegas when George Bush Snr made his announcement. The idea of presenting South African wines – unknown in the US up to that point because of sanctions – came to them as an epiphany. They contacted the embassy in Washington, arranged to freight in the tasting samples, and were directed to the New York Consulate General. From this tasting (followed almost immediately by one to the Society of Wine Educators' annual meeting) they created the opportunity out of which Cape Classics Inc. was born.

In the game ahead of other potential importers, they were able to approach many of the country's best known estates and offer them access to the US. South African producers – with no experience of international markets – naïvely granted Shearer (who had little wine knowledge and no commercial track record) exclusive rights to their wines.

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