Young Wine Show 2004 – stating the case for internal marketing

Friday, 3 September, 2004
Jeanine Wardman
8 Regions, 190 producers, 2203 wines, one coveted trophy. The annual Young Wine Show never fails to excite, even if only within the winemaking fraternity itself. But what is the competition's raison d'etre and what do the results mean? Jeanine Wardman reports.

'The Young Wine Show is alive and well' Chairman of the SANW, Duimpie Baily, told those assembled in the Ballroom of the Cape Town International Convention Centre on Saturday 28 August 2004. Judging by the number of wines entered, the 500+ guests in their most formal attire, representing producers from Klawer to Upington to Calitzdorp, and the contemporary elegance of the venue and its setting, one would be hard-pressed not to agree.

As an internal competition with no, or at least very little, commercial relevance (wines are from the current vintage and not necessarily market-ready), the Young Wine Show is scrutinized every year as critics ponder its right to existence.

Anticipating this, Duimpie Baily called the Young Wine Show a 'barometer' with which producers evaluate themselves. He quoted from the Show's constitution and said that the competition exists to instill local pride amongst producers and promote continuous quality improvement by way of friendly rivalry.

Most producers share these sentiments and judging by the amount of press releases that reached WineNews over the past two weeks - even the regional results were heavily publicized - the competition is of value and its results are certainly communicated.

'The Young Wine Show is making a comeback. More and more estates are entering the competition every year,' Jaco Potgieter from Douglas Green Bellingham says.

Pieter Carstens from Slanghoek emphasizes that the Young Wine Show's results need to be interpreted by the media so as to make it more easily digestible and relevant to consumers and the trade. 'The Young Wine Show is an excellent measure of a producer's and a region's overall quality and the consistency thereof. I believe the Show's real value lies in the opportunity it offers the wine trade, especially bulk buyers, to identify producers and regions that consistently perform within categories and then to build this information into their annual buying portfolio.'

Kath Simm from boutique producer, Whalehaven feels that though the Young Wine Show is not a marketing tool as such it is invaluable to small producers in gauging performance against industry standards. 'Competitions and wine judging are often criticized, though as a small producer we are very dependent on the feedback these provide.'

The General Smuts Trophy has helped put producers, regions and cultivars on the radar screens of the wine trade over the years. The Show led South Africa's sudden surge to Sauvignon Blanc fame by awarding the Smuts Trophy to this variety in 1999, 2000 and 2002.  In the last instance the award pulled Roodezandt from bulk-producing obscurity and challenged deeply-entrenched views about the cooperative cellar in general and its ability to compete with the most exclusive of estates.

General Smuts Trophy holder for 2004, Kobie Viljoen (awarded to Spier Shiraz), reckons a new generation of winemakers have seized the Young Wine Show not only as a major promoter of healthy internal rivalry and high-quality wines, but also because the Show's results point out aspects of wine production that fail in meeting industry standards and expectations and lack in performance. 'The General Smuts Trophy is a heavyweight in a literal and figurative sense. I have received numerous phone calls from my peers this week urging me to keep the cup polished to a neat shine as it may decorate their wineries next year!'

Is the Young Wine Show an entirely self-serving exercise culminating in a rah-rah session of winemakers patting themselves on the back far from the glaring eye of the wine consumer and if so, is that really all that bad?

At the awards ceremony it was obvious that winemakers were patting each other (and noticably their viticultural counterparts), rather than themselves, on the back. The South African wine industry has played catch up with the rest of the world's established wine producers at such a pace this past decade that it's easy to forget about celebrating amongst ourselves every once in a while.

The fact is there's a lot to be said for the virtues of internal marketing. Keep that cup polished, Kobie!

Congratulations to the 2004 South African National Young Wine Show trophy winners!

For the complete results go to: