That WOSA CEO Su Birch is again seriously misguided to proclaim that WOSA is not anti-bulk wine is confirmed by top end Argentinian producers who are concerned that “bulk labels could diminish category’s prestige” according to Marven Shaken, publisher of US magazine Wine Spectator. SA bulk should be so lucky to be labeled!
Of course Argentina are in the most fortunate position of seeing growth in the USA in the $15-$25 segment at 41% from 2010 to 2011. SA’s bottled exports to America were 8.8 million litres last year, creeping up 6% to 9.3 this, while bulk exports have more than quadrupled from 3.3 to 13.6 million litres. Quality SA producers – and in particular the Estate Owner’s Association which periodically tries to regrow some cojones - should seriously think about resuscitating their own WOSA-free marketing initiative to the USA. WOSA’s annual R35 million translates into quite a few business class tickets, Stateside.
Argentina’s prestige category is driven by Malbec, with wines like the Achaval Ferrer Finca Bella Vista Malbec retailing for $120 (around R1000) a bottle. So who should carry the SA flag into battle? In whites, there is only one cultivar – Sauvignon Blanc – that exports more in bottle than bulk (16.4 million litres vs. 13.7). Chenin Blanc, the great white hope, is distinctly downscale with bulk sales of 43 million litres against bottled of 15.7 million or nearly 3 bulk to every bottle. Even Chardonnay bulk is double bottled exports.
In the red corner, the strongest candidate is Cabernet Sauvignon, with bottles more than double bulk (11:5) while Pinotage and Merlot are even-stevens. Shiraz is a marginal contender (7.9:7.6) although its base is smaller and there’s serious competition from Australia, #2 bottled exporter and #2 bulk shipper to the USA.
If every wine making nation believe they should not be producing bulk and concentrate on prestige labels, where are bulk wines meant to come from? Sad thing is, if the Achaval Ferrer single vineyard bottlings were Australian or Californian, they could double their current prices. (They wholly deserve their reputation, even the regular Malbec bottling is fantastic!) The question SA should ask itself, is this price discrimination at the top end the result of Argentina being regarded as a producer of bulk wine, or the result of Argentina being regarded as a producer of poor bulk wine?
Writing in my personal capacity, I think the time has arrived for Su to retire and make way for someone with fresh ideas to lead Wosa.