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.