Bless the wines down in Africa
It may come as a surprise that since 1992 South African wine exports have increased by almost 1200%. The world is finally taking note of this region's great potential
11 February 2009
At a glance: South African wine
- In 2007 South Africa’s total wine exports amounted to around 272 million litres
- Since 1992 South African wine exports have increased by almost 1200%
- South Africa produces more than 3% of the world’s wine
- Nederburg claimed South Africa’s only gold medal at the 2008 Sweet Wine Challenge in Australia
- Golden Kann Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon were short-listed at the NoffLA Gold Star awards last September
- Arniston Bay is going under screw cap, as part of its new look for 2009
In 2007, South Africa’s total wine exports amounted to around 272 million litres. It produces more than 3% of the world’s wine, which makes it the ninth largest producer in the world.
In Ireland the region is on the rise also, mirroring trends elsewhere, and driving this growth is undoubtedly the leap in quality which has occurred over the last number of years. Since the early 1990s South African winemakers have increased investment in modernising and experimenting, leading to the discovery that the region is capable of producing very good old world style varietals. The likes of grenache, syrah and others that dominate Mediterranean wine regions are especially happy in the hot climate of the Cape.
Thanks to this period of innovation and development, South Africa now boasts a reputation for increasinglly good shiraz and Rhône-style wines, which are available for very good value too, especially when compared with offerings from other regions.
Similarly, the Cape produces a variety of different styles of Chardonnay, which is improving all the time too. In the new world tradition, it makes big, rich warm climate fruit wines, and from cooler parts it can produce more restrained and elegant examples, closer in style to Burgundy. In addition, sauvignon blanc of the calibre found in New Zealand is starting to emerge now also.
However, it is still the unique pinotage that is the signature of South Africa’s wine industry. With it’s unusual earthy flavours it attracts a following of particular wine-lovers, especially in its home country where some excellent examples sell for mystifyingly low prices.
Chenin blanc also continues to reign supreme among South African white wines, although it more often appears in a blend than as a single varietal, which is probably a good thing considering the potential of some of these pairings. Through experimentation modern winemakers have come up with a range of styles from refreshing chenin-sauvignon mixes to richer, more full-bodied chenin-chardonnay blends, sometimes enhanced by varying degrees with malolactic fermentation.
Certain South African regions are also becoming known for their particularly higher quality, namely Stellenbosch and Constantia, which are also probably two of the better-known areas. However, cooler climate spots such as Walker Bay have started to attract attention in recent times and much is expected from their vineyards, especially for fine varietals like pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
At Nederburg, a team of skilled professionals oversees every aspect of production from start to finish, from tending the vines and harvesting the grapes to blending and maturing the wines. It is a journey that offers great challenges and continuous rewards, and results in a product of assured quality.
In 2008 the brand was honoured at a number of prestigious awards. This included one gold and 10 silver medals, and six top scores at the 2008 International Wine and Spirit Competition in London; one of the world’s most respected shows. Last year saw Nederburg top even its own record as South Africa’s most decorated winery. The winning streak culminated in 29 medals at the 2008 Veritas Awards, the highest number won by any winery at the show.
Furthermore, cellarmaster Razvan Macici and his team also took South Africa’s only gold medal at the 2008 Sweet Wine Challenge in Australia, and earned the biggest cache of Grand d’Or medals at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards. All of these awards reaffirm Nederburg’s premier status across wine styles and tiers.
Something for every taste
Gleeson has a very comprehensive South African range, including Stony Cape, which represents its entry point offering, right up to Vergelegen, its South African pièce-de-résistance. Consistently the most awarded winery in the entire Cape, Vergelegen is especially famous for its outstanding cabernet and has become a tourist attraction in itself for visitors to the region.
On the next tier up from entry point, False Bay offers style and value for money, making it “the best value offering on the off-trade scene…and when we promote down to €8.99 we defy anyone to point out anything better,” says Gleeson.
False Bay blends the warmth and ripeness of the Southern hemisphere with the classical wine making methods of old school Europe. It is as far from a modern, technical wine as you can get, although sadly this is lost on most people – trade and consumers alike – except for those who have met winemaker Paul Boutinot and tasted the wines with him.
In support of these great wines, Gleeson has a range of promotional activity planned for 2009. “False Bay will be featuring as our ‘Wine of the Month’ in June of this year (the €40.70 x6 at 5+1 offer mentioned above which allows for the every day €10.99 price to be lowered to €8.99). False Bay is beautifully and classically packaged which means it tends to sell off shelf fairly naturally anyway, but when on promotion it really does fly.”
In addition, Gleeson will be running similarly good value deals on Stony Cape (down from €9.49 to €7.99) and a Lourensford Five Heirs (€48.98 (3+1) offer on 2008 vintage whites.)
Since taking on the Golden Kaan range in summer 2008, Ampersand has had great success promoting the South African brand, focusing on growing distribution for four of the most popular varietals with Irish consumers: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon.
Golden Kaan’s internationally acclaimed and award winning wines are crafted from selected wine growers in the Western Cape of South Africa and the brand is currently recognised as one of the most noticed and accepted South African newcomers over the past few years. The quality of the range has also been recognised within the Irish trade, as the cabernet sauvignon and the sauvignon blanc were short-listed at the Gold Star National Off-Licence Awards last September.
Golden Kaan wines have a promotional RSP of €7.99 which is supported by bottle collars and in-store posters.
Arniston Bay is getting a new look for 2009. The new packaging is expected to differentiate the wine from its South African competitors, stand out more on shelf, appeal to a wider audience and encourage repeat purchasing.
The new packaging gives it a premium feel that is designed to be eye catching and appealing to the Irish consumer. It is also moving to screw cap format which is increasingly popular because of its ease of use, re-sealability, and elimination of ‘cork taint’ and premature oxidisation. In addition to the new bottle packaging, the Arniston Bay outer case also comes in a perforated format. Easily converted into a cut case display it is ideal for promotion at any time.
Marketing manager at FindlaterGrants, Rosemary Lyster comments: “Arniston Bay has been such an innovative brand since its launch in Ireland. Its move to convenience packs/pouches for example was a fantastic sales driver, particularly in the summer months. We are confident the changes we are implementing this year will also be successful in driving sales and attracting new customers.”
In praise of shiraz
Two Oceans, one of South Africa’s most widely distributed wine brands not only continues to swell sales in key markets but has come home with an A-grade report card from one of the world’s most influential wine critics. Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate had high praise for Two Oceans Shiraz, saying: “Amazing value shames the international cast of inexpensive but miserable bottlings of syrah that have flooded the marketplace in recent years.” Parker went on to describe the wine as “soft, generously juicy, and surprisingly polished-textured,” and “dominated by ripe black raspberry fruit, with notes of chocolate, black pepper.”
The Two Oceans varietals are characterised by their concentrated fruit aromas on the nose and lively, mouth-filling flavours. Wines with charm and character that allow them to be enjoyed young but with the necessary structure to develop in the bottle.
Also distributed by Febvre & Co, Drostdy-Hof embodies the essence of the Cape more than any other South African wine. The Drostdy-Hof range is well known for its inviting flavours and upfront fruitiness; they are accessible, friendly and congenial wines.
For more information on Febvre’s South African ranges phone 01 2161400.