Marthélize Tredoux: SA wine needs to boost its sex appeal

In January of this year, our industry was told point blank that as far as the world is concerned, our image isn’t sexy. Brand SA isn’t sexy. Our wines aren’t thought of as sexy. An unfortunate sentiment. But not surprising. I’ve seen what the world sees. I’ve seen what we pump out to the globe en masse. It’s as sexy and enticing as a waterlogged Labradoodle – not entirely unappealing but shapeless, damp and a little dejected.

The Wine Show

Cast of The Wine Show.

Yesterday, my eyes were treated to a rare delight when I was introduced to a new series that will be released later this year on ITV: The Wine Show. An unassuming title. Simple. Efficient. A show about wine. Fair enough. But, dear reader, the trailer for this show – this visual amuse-bouche – is delicious, delectable and whet more than just my appetite for wine. Feast your eyes here.

A quick synopsis: Matthew Goode (from The Good Wife and Downton Abbey) and Matthew Rhys (Brothers & Sisters and The Americans) are preposterously charming, dapper British actors who host a 13-episode series wherein they explore wines of the world. They aren’t connoisseurs and have no formal training in wine – self-professed amateurs. To help them along, they are assisted and guided by a team of wine experts who travel the globe (d bring back all kinds of unusual delights for the Matthews to indulge in and wittily banter about.

Alas, as the giddy rush of seeing these resplendent specimens dedicate themselves to my favourite subject subsided, my mood turned dark.

You see, dear reader, I realized just then that the British have just made learning about wine drop-dead sexy. Suave, engaging and soft-on-the-eyes presenters combined with rich content and stunning cinematography is a knockout combination. They’ve gone and done something that we will simply never be able to do.

Now, I understand that money is the first and most obvious “Yes, but” here. Budget, budget, budget. Many average British TV series make their way internationally purely because of the distribution network already in place. Compared to local… Well. Let’s not compare local to anything and rather just say we did.

But even so – even taking into account the bigger budgets, the might GBP versus the sniveling ZAR and the devilishly handsome actors – I’m left despondent at the thought that we can’t give enough of a damn to produce something (even if on a smaller scale) that at least strives to be nearly as brilliant.

And you know WHY we will probably never create something on par with that level? Yes. It does circle back to the money, but perhaps not in the way you think. From what I see on the little bit of local TV that I do watch, I can only assume that we are incapable of producing mainstream media of any remarkable quality without peppering it with vulgar advertising and marketing and branding and more selling and ugly, naked commercialism at very turn and in every ad break. There is seemingly no room and certainly no money to simply create something spectacular, simply for the sake of making something magnificent. There is always an urgent push to ram a product/experience/app/service down the viewer’s throat every two minutes.

And THAT is why we’re not sexy. Yes, wine is a business. Yes, we want to sell wine. But do our wine brands have to be consumed with the obviousness of it all? Slapping more logos over a product does not a better brand make.

It’s like we don’t even know what sexy means. How can we be sexy if we don’t recognize it unless it gets in our face? Don’t be so obvious. Don’t put it all out there. We need allure. We need to show some style. Less comfy pants and granny panties, more silk stockings and suspenders. In a world of Kim “I have nothing to wear” Kardashians, we need to be Monica Belluci.

  • Marthélize Tredoux is the co-owner and editor at Incogvino. By day, she helps SA wineries sell their wine in the USA. She won the Veritas Young Wine Writers Competition in 2013.

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4 Comments

  1. Tom PriorMarch 11, 2016 at 6:46 pmReply

    Ha, well 2 sides to the accent argument. I heard plenty of brilliant story tellers at Swartland Revolution with pretty tidy Afrikaans accents who would do great on tv. However, that is the makers and I know you are referring to the standard of tv presenting here. That can be cut out with a Chefs Table format, and it was exactly this chat I was having with a production someone on Tuesday with regard to a wine show they are plotting.
    Just for arguments sake, outside the home counties back in Blighty (my homeland), there will be many who see the ‘dapper’ Wine Show presenters as a couple of privileged ex public school boy w***… (ahem) actors, quaffing good plonk from their Tuscan villa.
    So even these accents may not do any good in converting the beer drinkers up north to wine!
    Although everyone loves Downton… and they have wine – http://www.downtonabbeywine.com/

    • MarthelizeMarch 14, 2016 at 9:24 amReply

      I hear what you’re saying about the storytellers. I love nothing more than to listen to the greats tell us their best (Duimpie, Danie de Wet, Jan Boland). It’s very niche though, good for segments but not for a whole show maybe.
      Totally get your point about the poncy accents too – who you choose to present/represent relies vastly on your audience and who you’re targeting (would Northern beer drinkers be watching ANY kind of wine show anyway? :) )
      Look, I know it’s SUPER easy for me to be all critical and opinionated while at the same time not knowing much about what it takes to put together an ace wine show – but I know two things: 1) I fall into a pretty big chunk of wine consumer (female, Millennial, educated but not somm level, broad tastes, expendable income AND watch lots of media be it online or TV) and 2) I know what I don’t like. And not many of the local productions fall into what I consider “great success”.
      But that’s just me.

  2. MarthelizeMarch 10, 2016 at 12:43 pmReply

    Hi Tom

    Oz & James’ Big Wine Adventure is such a treat. I saw an article describing The Wine Show as “Top Gear for wine snobs” and I can’t be more excited.

    Chef’s Table is magnificent. I think you’re onto a seriously good point here – for SA format, taking a presenter out of it and leaving the narrative as a more organic part of the story is probably perfect. Not everyone feels the same adulation towards local SA “celebrities” (I use the term VERY loosely) and frankly, most of the presenting comes across as forced and annoying.

    Perhaps we need to face that we’ve all grown used to smooth British and American narration and that the wrong Saffa English voice just won’t cut the mustard. Let’s not even get into Afrikaans vs English (especially the verrie Afrikaans Inglis).

    But there are incredibly creative are ways around it – why aren’t they being explored?

    Oh yeah. Right. Money.

  3. Tom PriorMarch 10, 2016 at 10:02 amReply

    Hi Marthelize, looking forward to this show after playing Oz & Jame’s Big wine adventure on repeat the last few years… this looks beautifully shot and a bit of fun. Have you watched Chef’s Table on Netflix? This show is all about story telling from 6 different Chefs and stunning visual. I’d like to see a show in this format about wine and some of the farmers/winemakers over here. Take the presenters out of the equation. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qQ8Htm4jAGc

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Wine magazine was published from October 1993 until September 2011 & now lives on in digital form as Winemag.co.za. We cover everything to do with SA fine wine.

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