Post Cape Wine 2004 (1)

Wednesday, 5 May, 2004
Andy Zimmerman
Andy Zimmerman looks at the state of the industry
In this long letter, Andy Zimmerman reflects on the state of the nation – and the marketing of Brand South Africa. Because of space constraints we have divided the letter into two.

Cape wine 2004 has passed. It was indeed a great showcase of SA wines to the world. This success will hopefully result in many new buyers carrying SA wines in their range internationally. From this experience we can see that we need more exposure in the market.

Of importance is the image building of price brackets of shelf prices higher then £7 (others might argue that £5 is more realistic). This is essential for South Africa to make a quality image footprint in international markets. To date we have made an impression internationally mainly by selling bulk. Through this we have been able to sell volumes rather than create the much-needed image for South African wines.

Walking the gangways of Cape Wine I came across a large number of our ‘smaller’ farms of South Africa who have, according to their FOB price list, the most offerings in the ‘better wine’ category.

This is potentially a winning formula - so the question arises, how do we get these wines on the shelf internationally and once there how do they create an image for our industry? Surely track record, ratings and, most of all, exposure will help play a role.

As we are all aware it takes at least 5 to 10 years for smaller producers to build a name and image for themselves if all goes according to plan ... experience has shown us that this will not, and has not, happened overnight for any producers of note. This means the same for Thelema, Kanonkop, Rust en Vrede, Neil Ellis, Graham Beck and others (they are all more than 10 years old) and have had their fair share of Wine Spectator and Robert Parker ratings.

There is an opportunity for producers to play a role in building the image of brand South Africa as niche players.

We are all in agreement that before image there must be quality and consistency. This started in South Africa almost 10 years ago with the recognition of better work in the vineyards and the modernization of cellars.

Coupled with this is the branding. Larger producers have synched this with the balance of sound investment in quality and marketing (Charles Back is a case in point).

What is required is a combination of quantities at the desired price and quality levels, and another part of clever marketing, investment in brands and markets, which are part of creating a brand. For the smaller producers we call it a name in the market - since a brand is big on multiple price levels and a production of 1 000 ton plus are necessary for doing so.

And there are cellars that live more on the created brand than on the wine quality they deliver these days. Surprisingly it still works on the sales front. Whether you do it right or not at all has the same effect.

I feel sorry for the guys who are more subsistence driven who invest in what they can touch: ergo cellars, equipment, vineyards ... but marketing expenses you can rarely touch and the immediate effect of a change in sales does not come as quickly as when you are paying a bill for a tank.

In the near future, some producers will stand in their cellars with their new tanks, which will be full. Is this the desired position any wine producer wants to be in?

This article continues and will appear on tomorrow.

By: Andy Zimmermann