Cape Wine 2015: Opening day full of optimism and interest

Capturing the prevailing mood of optimism, WOSA chairman Michael Jordaan in his opening address at Cape Wine on Tuesday, September 15, said he believed the local industry, that offered "the perfect blend of tradition and innovation" was now at the tipping point where all the cumulative innovations in the wine industry would soon start showing themselves in fascinating new ways.

The Cape Town International Convention Centre has been thronging with visitors, eager to taste what he means, at this, the biggest wine exhibition of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere. While there has been a strong turnout from traditional markets in Europe, and a bigger contingent from North America, (especially and reassuringly from the US), the biggest percentages in growth have come from Asia and Africa.

"Of course, that's from a lower base than three years ago, when we last held our show," explains WOSA CEO Siobhan Thompson, "but it is encouraging to see that the enthusiasm for the South African category is becoming more widespread. We're also thrilled to see the jump in the numbers of sommeliers attending this year."

Delegates, she confirms, have arrived from across the world. "From Angola and Australia to Zimbabwe, and just about everything in between. It's great to see we even have people here from Brazil and Chile."

Asia is particularly well-represented with visitors from China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Korea, South Korea, Macau, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Taiwan.

Wine Intelligence, in its recent Compass Report 2015-16, identified Japan ahead of China as a market of major significance for wine producers worldwide, ranking it the third most important after the US and Germany. So it was interesting to hear perceptions of its potential for South African producers, particularly given that our wines are not especially well known in the Land of the Rising Sun.

Yet Masamitsu Yoshino, publisher and director of specialist trade beverage magazine Wands Review is upbeat. Last year, South African imports to Japan rose by 19,3% on 2013, according to Japan's Ministry of Finance. The country has now overtaken Germany to become the eighth biggest supplier of wine to Japan and there is certainly opportunity to further entrench its presence, he believes. South Africa's value-for-money proposition makes it ideally positioned to play in the mid-price market, particularly the Yen 2 000 to Yen 3 000 price band (approximately R230 to R345).

Yoshino says South Africa's profile as a wine-producing country has risen, following its hosting of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but there is still substantial scope for expanding visibility. As wine drinkers in Japan are conversant with the popular French varietals, many of which South Africa produces, we have a good base from which to grow. He adds that, generally speaking, our wines with their European elegance are styled to suit washoku (Japanese cuisine).

With close to 300 Japanese consumers having completed their training in South African wine via WOSA, there are now more potential ambassadors to introduce the fast-growing Japanese market to what we produce.

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