In praise of market fragmentation

October 6, 2015
by Christian
in Opinion & Analysis
with 7 Comments
Eendevanger Chenin Blanc 2013

Last bottle in the house.

One of the most important reasons I love wine is that, like popular music, it defies consolidation as an industry. If buying toothpaste comes down to a choice between Aquafresh, Colgate and maybe one or two others, the same is emphatically not the case when it comes to wine – over 7 000 current-release wines by more than 900 producers in South Africa alone.

A night out last with friends and we started with Saltare Brut Nature before Eendevanger Chenin Blanc 2013 and Thorne & Daughters Rocking Horse 2014 at inner-city wine bar Publik.

On to dinner at Bistrot Bizerca and is so often the case, the wine which offers best quality relative to price is out of stock – Jordan The Outlier Sauvignon Blanc 2013 in this instance. Instead, we opted for Yardstick Chardonnay 2012 followed by Raats Old Vine Chenin Blanc 2009 and Dorrance Cuvée Ameena Syrah 2011. And to think that some people can spend an entire evening drinking the same commercial lager…

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  1. JeremyOctober 7, 2015 at 4:14 pmReply

    One presumes politically then, that you do not support the big wine distributor/seller in Stellenbosch ? Their top executives also have three holiday homes…..

    • ChristianOctober 7, 2015 at 4:43 pmReplyAuthor

      Hi Jeremy, When it comes to Distell specifically but all SA’s big producer/wholesalers to some extent, I would argue that they are not fulfilling their leadership mandate when it comes to either best production practices or building a meaningful domestic wine culture.

      It’s a complex world – I have a Samsung smart phone as I work in digital media, I drive a Honda CRV as I need to get about in the winelands, I bank with Standard. I’d love to get “off the grid” but it’s not really practical. At least I can make a conscious decision not to drink or endorse chocolate/coffee Pinotage…

  2. NeilOctober 7, 2015 at 10:37 amReply

    That’s a crazy comment Christian and I’m really sorry that I scrolled down to the comments because I actually enjoy the site, articles and comments are usually balance as well. Each beverage has its place – give me a Castle Lite next to the pool or after working in the garden ahead of a glass of wine any day of the week. Your comment is reprehensible because of what it says about a very select part of the wine community to which I previously didn’t think you subscribed.

    • ChristianOctober 7, 2015 at 11:48 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Neil, I apologise if I cause offence and I certainly don’t want to be seen to be placing wine on a pedestal above all other alcoholic beverages. It’s just that if I’m going to have something “next to the pool or after working in the garden”, I can think of any number of products to drink before I get to Castle Lite – gin and tonic and craft beer being particular favourites. I certainly drank my fair share of commercial beer in my 20s and am still not completely adverse to Windhoek Lager. My point is political as much as anything – buy from the entrepreneur trying to make something authentic and you’re helping pay a bond or send kids to school; buy a SAB-Miller product and you’re helping a corporate executive with his third holiday home.

      • KwispedoorOctober 7, 2015 at 12:17 pm

        Valid comment regarding a generally “commercial” choice (Backstreet Boys, Castle Lite, etc.) and something a bit more interesting (Tom Waits, Robson’s East Coast Ale, etc.)

        Consume the more interesting thing and you will almost always be in the minority. That does not automatically mean that you’re elitist or snobbish. Also, one should never summarily assume that the masses who drink Castle Light and listen to Celine Dion are brainless or uninteresting.

        Of course, “in matters of taste there’s no dispute”, but I think most people get the gist of what you say, Christian. This is a specialist wine forum and most of your readers will also gravitate towards the more interesting stuff (it doesn’t have to be expensive – the Wolftrap White being a case in point).

  3. JeremyOctober 7, 2015 at 6:48 amReply

    Let’s have some credibility here. Do you think wine is not commercial?

    • ChristianOctober 7, 2015 at 7:47 amReplyAuthor

      Hi Jeremy, Commercial considerations of course come into wine production and for most producers are probably over-riding. What I think is worth celebrating, however are those that refuse to see wine as merely a commodity and approach it more as cultural artifact taking into account things like historical legacy, custodianship of the land and the production of something consumable worthy of contemplation but at a fair price. Castle Lite is reprehensible not only because it doesn’t taste very good but because of what it says about our society.

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