The tricky wine family tree

Monday, 9 September, 2013
Cassie du Plessis
In wine country, you find a quite foreign language is spoken and the outsider has to come to terms with words like “texture”, “tannins” and “terroir”. But when getting into the formal, organisational side, the going really gets tough, with even more challenging nomenclature – especially relating to the myriad of organisations that make this multi-faceted world go round.
Names like SAWIS, WOSA and BAWSI are bandied about at a mind-boggling rate, in most cases being acronyms containing the obvious letters “SA”, “C” for Cape and “V” or “W” for wine. But just try to figure out what these actually stand for and do, if you’re not familiar with some 40 bodies that try to gel the production and further ‘flow’ of 6 000 - 7 000 wines from close on 600 wineries and more than 1 000 wine businesses! Not easy.

Okay, for a start, you have at the hub of it all the two independent key role player organisations VinPro and Salba – “VinPro” derived from “wine” and “production” and SALBA, the acronym for SA Liquor Brandowners Association.

Generally speaking, these two are where the buck stops when it comes to overall industry responsibility and direction, for lack of one central umbrella organisation to co-ordinate and strategise the interests of South African wine. Actually, until quite recently there were the “three musketeers” (as the CEO’s were popularly referred to) at the helm, the third organisation having been Wine Cellars South Africa (WCSA) which merged with VinPro in July.

This is seen by industry analysts as a major step towards structural unity, at a time of severe economic and political pressure which requires cool and collected heads. What WCSA’s 56 members brought to this party, were the so-called “producer cellars” – previously referred to as “co-operative wineries” or “co-ops” –which produce 75% of the country’s wine and are now served by VinPro’s new Wine CellarsDivision.

VinPro this year celebrated 10 years of existence as a non-profit service and representative company for its 3 600 primary (on the land) wine grape producers (previously a KWV service division). Based in Paarl, where its new head office is now being constructed, it offers among others the following services: Consultation services in viticulture, soil science, GIS, agricultural-economics, general management, BEE; information transfer including WineLand magazine and the SA Wine Industry Directory, as well as the promotion of ethical trade, research and training. Also plant material supply and IT management systems via its subsidiaries Vititec and Farm Management Systems.

SALBA’s realms of responsibility also cover RTD’s (ready-to-drinks), brandy, and other spirit products, as its membership includes powerful companies that produce and distribute these products under major brand names.
At the same time, the satellite bodies sort of orbiting around VinPro and SALBA– with a large degree of shared board members and representatives – are the industry business units, namely SAWIS, Winetech, Wida and WOSA.
The former three of these derive their funding through the statutory levy for information, research and transformation, on all domestic wine production. WOSA, in turn, by the nature of its activities as the country’s generic wine promotion body on foreign shores, is funded by a levy proportional to the members’ volume exports. Functions of the business units:

SAWIS – South African Wine Industry Information and Systems. Based in Paarl, SAWIS is responsible for the collection, processing and dissemination of industry information – without sticking its neck out for interpretation and predictions. Also collects the industry levies for information, research, empowerment and transformation, export and for Ara (Industry Association for Responsible Alcohol Use) (which actually represents the broader liquor industry spectrum). SAWIS also handles the administration of the industry’s Wine of Origin Scheme, which is run by yet another organisation, the Wine and Spirit Board. SAWIS hosts the SA Wine Industry Information that features an online wine dictionary in three languages.

Winetech – The Wine Industry Network for Expertise and Technology is also based in Paarl and co-ordinates research, training and technology transfer in the industry in close collaboration with the various educational and research institutions.

WOSA – Wines of South Africa: Promotes the image of South African wines abroad to create a receptive environment for the products of its more than 500 wine exporter members. Based in Stellenbosch, it has representatives in Canada, Germany, Benelux, Sweden, Russia, the UK and USA. WOSA exhibits at the major wine expos across the globe and biennially graces our local shores with the Cape Wine Expo. This is aimed at visiting foreign trade and media to experience the variety that’s “in our nature”, right from the tiniest fynbos flower to the boldest indigenous Pinotage wine.
In terms of the levies that WOSA collect, they are all a Rand/cents value in relation to production or export volumes - the levy on production is varied for the various components/applications, while the export levy is 7.76 cents/litre on bulk and 10.95 cents/litre on packaged wine. This includes in both the latter cases 0.47 cents/litre to fund the Wine-on-Line information system of the industry in collaboration with the government.  

WIDA – Wine Industry Development Association: Initiates, facilitates,co-ordinates and monitors transformation – through economic empowerment, social upliftment and human capacity development.Draws its members from the key industry organisations as well as Rudnet, Nafu and Bawsi(Rural Development Network, National Farm Workers’ Union of SA and the Black Association of the Agricultural Sector).

This brings us to a grey and controversial area, also featuring Sawit, Wieta and, of late, the National Farm Workers Forum which developed out of the Drakenstein Farm Workers’ Union (a declared non-political organisation aiming to promote agriculture).

Labour and upliftment

SAWIT – the South African Wine Industry Trust, states its focus as driving empowerment, enablement and alignment of farm workers to share equitably in the growth and prosperity of the industry. It was formed in 1998 as a worker and industry representative organisation to handle the multi-million rand funds for development and research, emanating from KWV’s agreement with government when converting from a co-operative organisation to a company.

WIETA – The Agricultural Ethical Trade Initiative of South Africa – has been prominent in the news lately as a result of an increased drive for accreditation of the country’s wine farmers for fair and internationally acceptable labour practices.It recently introduced a Code of Good practice for its representatives, while the organisation’s membership has rapidly grown to some 600 and being flooded with accreditation applications.
The organisation last year introduced the world’s first industry-wide ethical seal for South African wines to promote fair labour practices and to highlight progress made among international trading partners. The seal testifies to fair and reasonable working conditions on farms.

Fairtrade Label South Africa – member of Fairtrade International, is a non-profit organisation which strives to alleviate poverty and empower small-scale farmers and disadvantaged workers primarily in Africa, by creating market opportunities for and increasing sales of Fairtrade-labelled products. This in association with Fairtrade Southern Africa Network, which represents producers within the global Fairtrade system.

BAWSI – Black Association of the Agricultural Sector – aims to “mobilise individuals and interested parties from historically disadvantaged South African communities”. Its methods of ’mobilisation’ and inciting and confrontational approach, however, are often seen as detrimental to the progress of the industry.
On the upliftment front, you also have the Association for Fairness in Trade (AFIT), a network of small farmers and workers producing for the international fair trade system and the Pebbles Project that enriches the lives of children from disadvantaged backgrounds, especially those affected by alcohol-abuse.

Other industry organisations, with names mostly self-explanatory:

•    African Vintners Alliance (AVA)
•    Cape Estate Wine Producers’ Association (CEWPA)
•    Cape Winemakers Guild (CWG)
•    Garagiste Movement
•    Independent Vignerons
•    Rootstock – a new generation-oriented wine industry forum (currently dormant)
•    South African Brandy Foundation
•    South African Cork Council (SACC)
•    South African National Wine Show Association (SANWSA) –
Runs SA Young Wine Show, eight regional young wine shows and Veritas Awards for “market-ready” wines)
•    South African Society for Enology and Viticulture (Sasev)
•    South African Wine Laboratories Association (SAWLA)
•    South African Wine Routes Forum – representatives of the 18 wine routes
•    SASEV - South African Society for Enology & Viticulture
•    Vine Improvement Association (VIA)
•    WWF-SA Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI)
•    EKOV: SKOP Training Programme

Wine cultivar associations:

•    Cape Port Producers Association (Cappa)
•    Chardonnay Forum
•    Chenin Blanc Association (CBA)
•    Just Riesling Association
•    Merlot Forum South Africa
•    Méthode Cap Classique Producers’ Association (MCCPA)
•    Muscadel SA
•    Pinotage Association
•    Pinot Noir Interest Group
•    Sauvignon Blanc Interest Group (SBIG)
•    Shiraz SA

Wine education and research

•    ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij – research facility at Stellenbosch for fruit technology, viticulture and oenology,under the Agricultural Research Council, a statutory parastatal.
•    Cape Peninsula University of Technology  (Wellington campus)
•    Cape Wine Academy (CWA)
•    Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, associated with Stellenbosch University
•    Institute of Cape Wine Masters
•    South African Agri Academy (SAAA)
•    Stellenbosch University, comprising:
      o    Department of Viticulture and Oenology
      o    Institute for Wine Biotechnology (IWBT)
     o    USB Executive Development  – US Business School Programme in Wine Marketing and Management
      o    Institute of Viticulture and Oenology(IVO), now being established
•    The Vineyard Academy
•    University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business – Postgraduate Diploma and Masters in Wine Business Management
•    Wine Tasting Academy
•    Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET)

General – SA Wine Industry Directory 2013/4 ,WineLand Publications
Industry Organogram – VinPro