It’s all about timing

Tuesday, 6 July, 2004
Kim Maxwell
Nothing irritates South Africans more than getting caught up in red tape. Yet makers of fortified beverages and spirits will have to deal with plenty of it over the next few years, while phasing out terms such as 'sherry', 'port', 'grappa' and 'ouzo' in export markets.

Thanks to an arrangement between the European Union (EU) and the South African government (which has buoyed local coffers nicely), producers will soon be obliged to introduce different terms on labels for export and domestic consumers. Yet there is confusion amongst producers about what has to be done when.

According to a Department of Agriculture spokesperson, in a TDCA (Trade Development and Co-operation between EU member states and SA) deal of 1 January 2000, South Africa agreed that all European geographical indications of wine styles relating to Denominations of Origin - in non-EU export markets such as USA and Canada - will be phased out by 1 January 2005. This applies to the terms 'port' and 'sherry'.

By 1 January 2012, South Africa must also phase out 'port' or 'sherry' terms or style indications in the domestic market. This applies to South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland. Under existing legislation, South Africa cannot use the terms 'port' or 'sherry' on fortified exports to the UK and EU member countries.

Alcoholic beverages 'ouzo' and 'grappa' fall under a different Wine & Spirit Board agreement. Since a 30 January 2002 Trade in Spirits agreement between the European Community and South Africa, the terms 'grappa' and 'ouzo' must be phased out for domestic and export use in South Africa by 2007.

Giorgio Dalla Cia is preparing for phase-out by printing an easily-modified label for the family 'grappa'. The current label design features 'Dalla Cia Grappa' above the letter 'G'. The future label is identical, but loses 'Grappa' from the description.

Noting that the local Port Producer's Association is struggling to find an acceptable alternative name, Villiera went the whole hog with the recent release of 'Fired Earth 2000 Bottled Late' fortified red wine. In eye-catching packaging, the black bottle has an extra-long neck with bright red tag. The packaging talks about 'warming the heart' and could even be linked to their entry-level 'Down to Earth' concept.

JP Bredell made a packaging-friendly change back in 1995. They introduced 'Cape Vintage' with no reference of the word 'port' on their label in 1995, while their 'Late Bottled Vintage' made its debut with the 1996 vintage. Marketing representative Donald Keys says they wanted to remove any reference to port from their bottle for export and domestic markets. And as he puts it, it's better to get in early with change, than wait for change to be enforced.