SA Chenin pricing low in the UK ...

Friday, 30 April, 2004
Fran Botha
... but the message about good quality is spreading
Chenin Blanc pricing in the UK market is amongst the lowest but the upside is that the quality message is spreading.

This was the strongest message received from local and international commentators at the Chenin Blanc seminar at Cape Wine 2004. The success of raising the profile of South African Chenin Blanc in the local market has not spilled over to England, it seems.

While delegates attending Cape Wine’s Chenin Blanc seminar enjoyed a host of leading wines mostly priced above the key £5 a bottle price point, this is not the case with most of South Africa’s Chenin exports that appear on supermarket shelves.

Commenting on dry Chenin Blancs, Master of Wine, Richard Kelly said ‘no-one has one on the shelf at over £5 per bottle, and none of the ones they do have are exceptional. If you look at that price point in the UK, there is nothing but ‘dros’.’

Of the leading Chenins presented, only Kleine Zalze Bush Vine Chenin 2003 and Kanu Chenin 2003 came in at £4.99, while Wellington’s fresh and fruity style 2003 is offered at £2.99. Speaking about the UK market, Kelly said the trade was ‘fairly depressing’ in terms of Chenin Blanc, especially in supermarket chains.

‘UK high street wine chain, Majestic, has only two Chenins listed despite the fact that they have about 100 stores and Waitrose, also with about 100 stores, is no better with only one Chenin listed. But, I suppose the good news is that the message is spreading.’

Commenting on the price point between £5.00 and £9.99, Kelly said this presented the biggest challenge to South African producers. Jeff Grier, winemaker at Villiera who chaired the event said, ‘the potential is starting to develop and some producers have already had some success at higher price points in the European market’.

A recent report of retailing trends in the UK called What Fires What, saw most supermarket chains saying that they would be increasing their listings of higher priced wines. Said Kelly, ‘this can only be good for Chenin Blanc, but the feeling I have is that other varietals are going to lead the way.’

Speaking about the local market Grier said the success story of Chenin Blanc had been achieved through continuous quality enhancement. ‘Chenin is now seen alongside some of the best wines of the world. It is performing across a spectrum of price points, and especially at the top.’

Also attending the seminar, Allison Bonnett, manager of the Rendez-vous du Chenin, said the competition would be run again this year and that she was hoping that the number of entries would double from last year’s 214 wines.

‘Two new countries have shown interest, so hopefully we will get entries from Chenin producers in Madagascar and Spain this year,’ she said.