That Shoprite/Checkers is the most dynamic force for wine marketing in SA is confirmed by an invitation to taste wines of the world next week, presented by impresario and importer Michael Fridjhon and giggling gourmet Jenny Morris. More than one wino told me that at Michael’s own WineX last year, the Checkers stall was the most dynamic, confirming that wine trade is all about give and take with imports now a vibrant part of the local scene. Although quite how vibrant they will remain after the recent weakness of the Rand, is moot. Sources claim that turnover at some Checkers stores runs to 30% imports and Oddbins lines, which is a serious challenge to big brand owners.
Soon to be WOSA ex-CEO Su Birch is now playing Samson in Sweden, attempting to pull down the temple of SA wine around her ears. She tweeted yesterday “good meeting at Systembolaget today. They are pleased that Vinpro is again supporting the Wieta audits. So is WOSA!” Pity that many farmers disagree or would if their representative body Vinpro gave them the promised chance to discuss Wieta and its role in last year’s suicidal farmworker strikes and to vote on a resumption of business as usual. Does Systembolaget realize they are being played for patsies?
There are angry mutterings from farmers on the Wrong Side of the Mountain over attempts by Vinpro to revive Wieta, the ethical trading initiative which exploded spectacularly in the November farmworker riots when Vinpro “placed a moratorium on its support of Wieta as an accreditation vehicle until further notice. Specific conditions were set before VinPro would reconsider supporting Wieta.”
The shock news that Michael Jordaan is closing out as head of FNB comes as no shock at all after the ANC attacked the bank over a TV ad in January and MJ’s chairman Sizwe Nxasana, collapsed faster than a tornado townhouse in Oklahoma with no visible support evident for the CEO by the time first responders appeared. But as builders in tornado alley say, as one door disintegrates, opportunities open up in the building supply trade. And nowhere are MJ’s talents more needed than at WOSA, the body charged with marketing wine, both overseas and locally. Ten reasons why MJ (below, in Riebeek-Kasteel) is the perfect candidate for CEO.
Now that the Franschhoek Literary Festival has put the RM Williams into the goolies of SA wine writing by wastepaperbasketing the 20 entries for the annual Franschhoek Wine Writers Prize this year, it looks like SA wine will increasingly have to rely on the likes of Guy Collins who writes on SA wine for Bloomberg from London. Picked up yesterday by Business Day in a major spread “SA wine industry set to beat export record” his numbers are more of a joke than the stats of corked wines at the recent Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show.
The sub-headline crows “growers raise a glass to another good year with exports rising 496 million litres” except the total volume was 460.9 million litres so the previous figure must have been -35.1 million litres. Perhaps consumers returning corked bottles?
The fortunes of top end SA wine in Europe are reflected in entries for this year’s Concours Mondial which are down over 20% to 184 while Australia’s are up by the same margin and New Zealand’s have rocketed over six fold. This for a competition widely regarded as the most credible and which has attracted a record number of entries this year: 8200 from 50 countries with 2500 from France alone. Which could explain why Fiona McDonald is the only other SA judge in Bratislava this year. But is SA wise to give CMB the cold shoulder and to follow the lead from WOSA which focuses on the UK market and competitions? The future for wine exports in Europe lies outside the traditional WOSA comfort zones with management seemingly stuck with SAA destinations to earn Voyager miles and to visit family and friends while claiming a handy per diem.
What a pity it was the Dutch and not the Portuguese who brought Bacchus to the southernmost tip nearly four centuries ago, for then in addition to Arinto, my favourite versatile white and Touriga Nacional, we’d also have regionality with teeth. Wine routes that certify wines regionally after they are tasted blind by a panel of local judges. Bulk exports from Alentejo? Fuggedaboutit as they say in the Big Apple.
Temperatures are soaring in Portugal and for once it’s not all brought on by global warming. Two UK-based wine personalities Sarah Ahmed and Jo Ahearne MW have approached ViniPortugal for help in selling a €300 pay-to-play advisory service for Portuguese producers wishing to export wine to the UK. While this is cheap by Michel Rolland standards (he told the Wall Street Journal his “annual retainer can run as high as $100,000 or even $250,000 a year”), the point made by Aníbal Coutinho, a leading Portuguese wine writer, is that the Ah-Ahs (as he calls) them cannot deliver.
“Welcome to paradise” says the maitre d’ at Vila Joya (who looks like Rupert Everett, below with Anibal Coutinho) and you believe him. For this is the Michelin ** domain of super chef Dieter Koschina, clinging to the edge of Europe on the Algarve coast of Portugal.
First an Argentinian Pope with Italian roots called Francis. And at 10am today, an Argentinian Queen of the Netherlands (below). Her name is most appropriate: Maxima, which will be the effect on Argentine wine sales in the Netherlands, a country with strong historic connections to the Cape. Heck for some months, Somerset West is home to more Dutch people than Amsterdam. Is SA wine really wise to partner with Argentina on a roll together with Chile in the upcoming Beautiful South Show in London in September, or is this another WOSA marketing flop in the making?