Bending Over Back-wards for a Hot Wine


Despite the plethora of wine marketing diplomas and advice available, this is a skill that largely relies on instinct alone. It simply cannot be taught. Successful wine marketing depends more on the gut-feel, knowledge of your environment and plain common-sense than a willingness to spend years in the classroom poring over spread-sheets and Xeroxed articles written by Australian GÇ£expertsGÇ¥ no-one has heard of. Just as no-one can teach you to taste wine, play brilliant air guitar or give a perfect French kiss, marketing wine is in the genes. You either have it, or you donGÇÖt.

It is therefore always a pleasure to see certain wine brands whose marketing is largely driven by instinct going stratospheric from year-to-year.

Take Four Cousins. Number one wine brand in South Africa. The Retiefs from Van Loveren produce the wine and conduct the marketing with an astoundingly easy nonchalance simply because they understood what they were doing from the outset, knew what wine they were producing and for which market. GÇ£Creating a lekker no-nonsense product and getting it to the customerGÇ¥ is about the sum of their marketing strategy.

Has it worked? As that linguistic giant and Springbok forward Boy Louw said to an opponent, mid-ruck: GÇ£Looks at the scoreboard.GÇ¥

Charles Back, he of Fairview and Spice Route, is possibly the best example of how a no-bullshit approach to creating a following for and selling your wines can reap rewards. His successes are legendary, and IGÇÖm not going to repeat the stories of the goats, cheeses, tourism-venues and tongue-in-cheek digs at French producers that have made Charles possibly the most influential marketer in the South African wine industry.

No, I just look at a bottle of wine bearing the name Chakalaka from his Spice Route wine empire and think: this really should not work, but hell it sure does.

Naming your wine after a fiery African vegetable concoction eaten with balls of porridge rolled by sweaty Zulu hands is not quite something the dons at UCT Graduate School of Business would encourage, would they now? Then there is the label which, well, is just this side of sluttish Afro-chic, kind of like the shirts WosaGÇÖs communication people wear when encouraged to go native.

Nice and white, but the font with those Sandton black diamond squiggles?

Add to this the fact that despite the garish name the wine sells for over R140 a bottle, and theoretically the wine called Chakalaka should have about as much chance of making it in the market as a Parma ham salesman has of getting out of Gaza with his scrotum intact.

But then again, this is a wine from Spice Route and Charles Back, so it does make it – and then some.

As far as the contents are concerned, the Chakalaka 2010 is a blend of six varietals, source of origin the Swartland, a wine region Charles had seen and conquered when the current Revolutionaries were still learning how to pronounce Mourv+¿dre.

Besides the latter (25%) the wine is made up of 37% Syrah, 25% 13% Carignan, 10% Tannat, 8% Grenache and 7% Petit Sirah. The wine spends five months in barrel as a blend after each component has matured individually for 14, with the oak component being French and American.

The result is what makes it such a fantastic wine in my book GÇô utter deliciousness.

Plush and mellow on the palate, but perked-up by flavours conveying a sensual sense of the exotic. Shiraz has the lead, smoky and meaty, but Mourv+¿dre and Grenache lend the wine a haunting presence, while Tannat and Petit Sirah sprinkle layer-upon-layer of absorbing spicy tunes.

Complex, yet not overpowering, the wine goes down with the kind of pleasure that makes one force yourself to keep your empty hand above the table when drinking it. Liquorice and cloves abound, while a typical bloody juiciness of classic Rh+¦ne-style wines leaves you in no two minds about the serious ambitiousness of this wine. All is offset by a fruit core of tuning-fork precision and desirable freshness.

A full package makes you wonder if wine marketing is actually a not no-brainer after all.



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