Monthly Archives: July 2017

TO BREAK A MINDSET

Breaking the mind-set that ‘Premium quality wine only came from classical European wine nations and the odd high end Napa Valley cult winery’, was never going to be easy. Neither for South Africa nor newer entrants to the premium wine markets like Chile and Argentina.

But one of the wonderful aspects of the fine wine end of the wine trade is that to change perceptions, you don’t need advertising, call centres or mass media marketing – you merely need credible people of influence to put wine in glasses, tell the appropriate ‘authentic’ story, and importantly, benchmark top local wines in order to befriend the consumer. Fine wine after all is normally bought on recommendation… more push than pull. That is, if you know what fine wine is?

The hand sell of premium SA reds and whites was seriously difficult in the early 2000s. Success relied on tight ranges of high quality top flight wines, plentiful support from winery owners and wine makers, and total belief from the merchant selling the wines. After all, wine in South Africa is still dominated by the volume driven cheap wine class which makes up 75% of bottled wine here. Only a proportion of the balance of 25% can actually be classified as fine wine.

Therefore, it is still a challenge for South Africa’s finest icon wineries to bed down the idea in consumer’s minds that the Cape’s finest could compete with the world’s best on a daily basis. While the quality of SA’s top wines improved, the more journalist were required to sit up, take notice and talk up the more expensive premium offerings from the Cape. But, did they? Have they got their act together? No doubt, consumer scepticism still prevails as consumers here and abroad is still only connecting with the usual commodity type of wines.

Hence the role of the South African Wine Index and its ‘Grand Wines Collection’, slowly laying the foundation for consumers in the broader market to start taking fine South African wines seriously. Today the category offers the most exciting value for money premium wines in the New World. Viva Africa! Your time has finally come.

THE SOUTH AFRICAN WINE INDUSTRY ENLIGHTENED ANEW

In 2009 SAWI started out by tracking outstanding achievements in fine wine making with its multi-vintage ‘Algorithm of Excellence’. In this long arduous quest, there were no footsteps to follow, so a road was embarked on which no one has pointed to as yet, but SAWi knew that success comes from changes in the way people think. In the process SAWi followed a goal that was definite and clear.
This brought up the result after 8 years culminating in its ‘Grand Wines Collection (GWC).

Those whose wines were taken up in the GWC are the ones that fight the good fight on a daily basis. In the process, they have taken over the custodianship of esprit or guardianship of the wine industry, being the ones putting in the hard yards day by day; and the renewed focus in the industry today is due to their cleverness and sustained vigour in excelling in winemaking.

While sharing in their achievements, one notice a common spirit amongst these performers, with lots of passion, perfection and pride in what they do, inspiring enthusiasm for those that are to follow. Such passion and care is enlightening the industry anew towards a brighter future.

The SAWi concept is a disruptor in the South African wine world which influences things in the space the industry here finds itself onto new brand building opportunities. The new message is about a noble course going forward. This means that the GWC belongs to a hereditary class with high social status; showing fine personal winemaking qualities. Could this be ascribed to some sort of disruption only or is it the start of the 4th revolution in winemaking terms here in SA?

Today, the message to the world out there is that South Africa has arrived in standing their ground amongst the world’s best in fine wine making as represented in the GWC. It is time to take note.

ESSENCE OF AN INDEX

THE SAWi WINE INDEX

Anyone old enough to appreciate South African wine has an opinion on the fermented grape: there’re probably as many wine writers and awards as there are wine makers. With well over eight thousand local wines, how do one decide what to drink?
Is choice based on the number of trophy stickers the bottle bears, Google what Christian Eedes drank last night or see how many stars the Platter Guide gave it? Or just based on pot luck?

Opinions are by nature, subjective. And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with subjectivity since we’re entitled to our preferences and opinions, it makes determining a reliable wine ‘standard’ difficult. National and international competitions are a starting point as these are generally blind tastings judged by a professional panel but even these have limitations: wine producers often have to pay to enter, limiting the sample size; scoring protocols differ and there’s no measure of a wine’s performance, year on year. And how on earth is the man in the wine shop meant to know which award trumps which?

Let’s illustrate by way of analogy: imagine you wish to invest your savings. Would you be comfortable buying shares based on a single reference point (i.e. company X won a gold medal in the 2010 Da Vinci Start-up Awards) or would you prefer information which tells you how company X performed over the last 5 years in relation to similar companies? The gold medal offers limited information as it relates to an isolated event in company X’s history while the latter offers greater insight into the relative performance of the company over a longer period and is thus more meaningful to your decision making process. Now the company operates within an industry with a known average index of 85 for example and X’s score is 90, you could safely conclude that this company is in the top percentile of the industry and is probably a good investment. This concept of an industry index allows the investor to determine the company’s comparative ‘value’ and forms the basis on which shares can be traded on stock markets.

So, what’s the answer in the case of wine choice?
An Index system process which:
– retrieves existing data and applies a specific formulation;
– finds precise values based on multiple criteria; and
– expresses a particular status (via a standard unit).
As such, an index is a single number, the result of a mathematical equation designed to aggregate a set of data effectively, allowing comparing like with like.
– this symbol affirms the state or condition of something in particular;
– a body of facts/information indicating whether a belief or proposition is true or valid;
– something serving as a visible/tangible representation of a fact or a state of quality.

Indices provide us with benchmarks, their usefulness evident in our daily life: from the CPI (Consumer Price Index) to GI (Glycemic Index) to BMI (Body Mass Index) to the Dow Jones Index. What if this could be applied to the wine industry? Perhaps finding the holy grail of great wine would finally be within reach.
‘An Index of Wine Excellence…’

This is the concept behind SAWi, the South African Wine Index, a score derived from a multi-phase algorithm to help wine lovers identify consistent excellence. Such scores take into account a specific wine’s best results over multiple vintages, national and international accolades won, proven record of quality as well as trophies and Top 10 listings. In other words, only accolades above a gold medal. As such, the collective wisdom of the judging panels, authoritative reviews and the wider wine industry is distilled into a single figure that drowns out much of the subjective noise, making it easy to distinguish truly extraordinary wines.

It has become particularly clear that all those making wine are excited by the potential a reliable, recognizable standard offers the industry. With a credible index as a benchmark, the true value of South African wines can now for the first time be gauged and celebrated. Most importantly, to be rolled out to the two top market segments namely wine enthusiasts and connoisseurs.

Having built out an eight year performance record for all SA Wines, a milestone was reached which enables SAWi to announce it’s ‘Grand Wines Collection’ (GWC) in 2016. This collection represents 400 wines which made the benchmark of 93/100 over a ten year adjudication period. It culminated in a world first wine cultivar ranking list from where unique sets of combined wine lots are offered to the above target market, with SAWi answering the calls of high profile private client individuals to help them to obtain good wine and to build up their private wine cellars. The GWC will be rolled out via unique wine lot compilations. A wine club affiliation process (with mainly wine enthusiasts as members) is well underway too.

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