5 Things I Learnt about the South African Wine Industry During Lockdown

  • Our Wines are Brilliant. And I can’t live without them. During levels one and two I made a fair dent into my stash of French, Italian, Australian, New Zealand and Portugal offerings. Very exciting, indeed, with some great wines. Yet, I always found myself going back to that Cape dimension I found lacking. The bright citrus and chiming diversity of our Chardonnay. The muscular refinement of Cabernet Sauvignon with that hit of fynbos not found anywhere else. Life-affirming Sauvignon Blanc offering texture and complexity along with zingy freshness. With more time to ponder, reflect and appreciate without distraction, I have become an even greater patriot of Brand SA than before.

  • Logistics Fail. When the sluice-gates opened, wineries now had to get those hard-won on-line orders to customers nation-wide. Yup – it was great to see the local public finally settling into the groove of ordering on-line. But a lot of wine brands got dinged in the reputation stakes on account of courier services unable to do what they are supposed to do: Deliver. As I am writing, my wine order to Gauteng – which has still not arrived after two weeks – has now been put out for another week. This is 2020, folks. If a wine is ordered, and the customer has paid the delivery-fee to boot, we really don’t care about your excuses of “overwhelmed couriers”, “unexpected demand” and so forth. Simple reality is, your name is Winery X, and you failed to deliver. Finish and klaar. The South African industry cannot expect to grow its commercial on-line presence on this kind of service. The state of this aspect of logistics needs to be addressed. Pronto.
Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Cyril Ramaphosa, not going to make Wine Personalities of the Year.
  • The Government is Not a Friend: This needs no explaining. The authorities have it in for us. Even Western Cape Premier Alan Winde, usually a friend of the wine industry, is gnarling and showing fangs at us, his reason being the increased rate of crime following the opening of liquor stores. Here the wine industry has to address one of its main faults resulting in this aggression from the authorities: The continued selling of cheap, rotgut wine into the market. Wine is the cheapest booze around, with some producers putting wine in plastic containers on shelf at R14 a litre. And selling it to the poorest of the poor living in urban ghettos and the impoverished rural wasteland. The authorities are aware of this. It must go. The industry must take a stand. Once and for all. And I know the wine bodies are aware of it.
  • Spirit: During the hard lockdown I made many a visit to the winelands of Stellenbosch, Paarl, Breedekloof and Robertson. Despite the despair created by the certifiable insanity of the lockdown regulations, wine-folk were making the best of the situation…. Looking forward. Planning a renewed marketing tact for this world of theirs that had changed forever. Soul-searching, introspection aimed at positive outcome. With that ever-present sense of humour and offering of hospitality. Cometh the hour, cometh the man and woman. Our wine people remain one of the industry’s finest and most valuable resources.

  • Technology: The wave of talk-shops and presentations via Zoom and other platforms started as the cellars closed, and its popularity has made live digital communication here to stay. It is therefore of the utmost importance that representatives of a winery appearing on-screen, for all the world to see, realise they are not making a whatsapp video for their cousin’s wine club in Koekenaap. Winemaker, marketer….you are your brand, and everyone’s watching. And can track what you are saying and how you say it from all around the world. Some wine-folk are naturals in the communication department. Most need to be prepared to appear professional, speak clearly and message concisely. Add this to your marketing mix. Not everyone wants to do it, but like dentist visits and tax-returns, there’s no way escaping it.


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8 thoughts on “5 Things I Learnt about the South African Wine Industry During Lockdown

  1. Love your blog! I was one of the unfortunate souls caught within wine halfway through lockdown. Now I rejoice with my 30 cases delivered in Pretoria last week already. With a few more en route. Proud to say all from our lovely local wine farms.

    Never again will I not have wine (revolutionary fist in the air!)

  2. Very true comment about delivery times once orders have been placed. I offered a winery a solution to their delays, a trusted friend with a bakkie, and yet they continue to choose couriers who are so far behind !! Pathetic and frustrating for those of us waiting for wines at home

    1. I work for a large company and from our side things are processed and sent out as fast as possible. We are solely dependent on couriers who are not running at capacity. A simple solution for big producers is not on the cards right now. We are all trying to survive, honour orders and keep our customer base satisfied. Nobody is slacking. And nobody is definitely “pathetic”.

  3. Spot-on soos altyd! Laat my terug dink en wonder. Ja die goedkoop wyn gaan nog n duur prys van die bedryf eis

  4. Could agree more South African wines are uniquely not to be missed in anyone’s cellar, no matter how modest. Summer is here in Italy and ai long for a zingy SB or a gorgeous chenin… My vidt in November before the lock down hit… Reminded me how much I miss the
    cape winemakers

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