Wine Shows that Keep Showing

The tuxedos are being aired and pearls polished, for this is now the official awards season in the South African wine industry. With the invitations flocking into my in-box with greater frequency than unsolicited photographs of Melania Trump and requests for trinchado recipes, I am reflecting on the status of wine shows. Again.

Two are standing out – one old and one new.

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Producers Should Demand more from Wine Shows

Each year my clients and I sit down and discuss the merits of entering wine competitions in general, and then go through the list of shows on offer before making a decision on which to enter. If any.

Things are becoming more selective in this regard. First, entries fees could see a fairly range-heavy producer forking out R30 000 on four local competitions. What for? Well, for pride and honour, that is one. And then for the marketing punt that serious competitions give wines.

As my mate Thys Louw from Diemersdal Estate likes to remind me when I talk to him about the new trends in wine marketing: “Nothing sells wine like a double gold sticker on the bottle. Period.”

This undeniable commercial interest embedded in wine competitions makes me wonder why many shows are so slack in following through. For most competitions, you enter and you pay. And if you are lucky at the judging you are invited to an awards ceremony – for which on most occasions you have to pay to attend. And then, you win a gong, and then you pay for the honour of being able to buy a few thousands stickers to decorate your bottles.

So besides the bling on the bottle and a bit of hype from your marketing division – if you have one – what’s in it for the producer, except bragging rights?

It has been interesting to note recent developments in the Michelangelo International Wine and Spirits Awards. They follow most of the usual rigmarole outlined above, but since last year have shown an almost obsessive eagerness to tie-up the competition with retailers and other outlets so as to “add value”.

First, to add further impetus for entrants by getting wine sellers to stock the Michelangelo winners, the producers of whom would take an increase in sales above the nice warm feeling that comes with winning a medal.

And secondly, by aligning the competition with accessible outlets, the consumer is now able to easily access ranges of awarded wines that generally remain in some lofty realm of unapproachability.

A few weeks back Checkers, the retail giant that knows what booze means to its bottom-line, announced that it is sourcing Michelangelo’s winning wines and spirits for stocking in its ubiquitous stores. And at the week-end SAA came on board, saying it is using the Michelangelo selection to choose wines for on-flight lists as well as in its lounges.

From the periphery this development is going to shake-up South African wine competitions, most who have rested on their laurels assuming wine producers deem the honour of recognition enough reason for entering a show.

Not any more it ain’t. Take it from us on the wine marketing side, the bang is going to have to bet bigger to get wineries spending the bucks on entries, parties and stickers.

New time for showtime, it is.

Let’s Go Merlot

South Africa has a number of wine groupings each representing and promoting specific grape cultivars, the activities of whom vary from blossoming and busy to cold and dormant. On the blossoming side, the Merlot Forum is headed up by an energetic bunch of wine makers keen to underscore the fact that Merlot is not only South Africa’s most-consumed red cultivar, but also one deserving a reputation as a variety of quality.

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Customer Leads Debate on Wine Pricing

While contributing towards economic realities, this collective wailing about South African wine being too cheap is a one-sided affair. For in this call for higher prices, fair remuneration and a premium image, those calling for a pricier proposition are not including the interests of the most important part of the wine industry, namely the customer.

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Madeira: Tasting the Dream on an Island Far Away

To go tasting Madeira wine, you stop in downtown Funchal, capital of this magical volcanic island in the Atlantic and closer to Africa than it is to Portugal. Jacaranda trees are in full mauve bloom, and grassy public spaces show bright with red and yellow and pink flowers which add to the realisation that Madeira is a garden island where nature, soil, sea and growth are vital, and the earth is looked on by the inhabitants with pride.

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Wines Worth Burning the Wallet For

Anyone with a nose to the local wine industry will have heard industry pundits, propagandists and prophets implying that this country’s wines are undervalued. Which is nothing more than a euphemism hinting that local and international consumers should be paying bigger for South African wines, and producers should be charging more.

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