Taking stock of the recent wine industry seminar laid on by Wineland (magazine) and legal raptors Adams&Adams, it is apparent that communication within the South African vinous fraternity has never been better – both ways. Organiser Edo Heyns pulled together a collection of engaging and relevant panellists to present certain industry aspects, while ample time was given for the audience to question and join the discussion.
The presentations ranged from viticulture to marketing; international trade to wine styles representative of South Africa, with all presenters being well-briefed and prepared. The setting in a pretty spiff conference facility on Allée Bleue estate rounded off the feeling of professionalism and the fact that communication and an inclusive approach to sharing knowledge is now a fundamental part of the industry.
Geoff Harvey, marketing manager for Vinimark, underscored the value of collective marketing. While not a new concept, the role successful groupings of like-minded producers and wine regions can play in getting their message, ethos and thinking across to the benefit of the components of said grouping, cannot be emphasised enough. This is where regional wine routes – formal and informal – as well as the collective bodies representing varietal wines and different styles of production need to realise that a large part of their producers’ success is in their hands.
The challenge, however, is identifying the key messages these groupings wish to convey and then finding effective ways of doing the talking.
For me the next step would be to have some practical platform where these different groupings are led and assisted in finding their voice and identifying these “stories” that were alluded to in every second sentence. Now that communication and marketing is accepted as an industry cornerstone, a more strategic and foresighted approach to determining the content and structure of the collective spiel is required, as well as the conveying thereof.
Speaking on the same panel, it was good to hear Siobhan Thompson form Wosa brushing aside a thought from the audience that bodies like Piwosa and the Cape Vintner Classification would act as divisive obstacles to Wosa’s inclusive efforts. Not at all, Siobhan said, stating that Piwosa and CVC had been nothing that supportive of Wosa and the co-operation is an accepted given.
André Shearer from Cape Classics in America made a very valid point that too many people seem to forget, too often.
The reason that the local wine industry finds it tough going States-side, Shearer said from the floor, has nothing to do with a lack of press coverage or ratings. The problem is that South African wine stands alone in attempting to capture the imagination of the market there. Without greater efforts to market South Africa as a country in order to establish recognition and acceptance of the national identity, Brand SA Wine is going to remain nothing more than a cute oddity instead of riding in the wake of a powerful cohesive message which has a firm holistic presence.
The legal eagles spoke on international trademarks and international trading, with Jessica Axelson from Adams&Adams highlighting the need to harness products and production methods into stricter legal parameters. For her, Méthode Cap Classique was a case in point where the product has a few loosely constructed guidelines not conducive to the category’s premium objectives. The fact that any grape variety can be used in its making, for example, belittles the Cap Classique image by making it a “free for all” with limited protection of the collective brand.
After the seminar, the question “what now?” is being bandied about – as usual. While action is needed, this is not going to be instant gratification. The value of seminars such as these lies in the opening of minds in a multi-faceted and diverse industry without many text-books telling you how to go about creating success. Enough thinking and strategizing, and action will follow.
The inclusive nature of these seminars and the energy it creates is where the value lies. We are building it. And they will come.
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