In about two weeks’ time, representatives from all walks of the wine industry will descend upon Spier for this year’s Adams & Adams Wineland Seminar. The 2016 topic is “Igniting Innovation”. As per the introduction on the website: “This year’s…seminar puts the spotlight on innovation and more specifically the creative mindsets and technologies that could rattle the cage and shape the future of the wine industry.”
Doesn’t that sound exciting?
But before we look ahead to the seminar, let’s refresh our memories to that other wine industry staple event – the VinPro Information Day. The 2016 theme was “Changing the Wine Game”. I wrote about it here, ultimately wondering if we would be capable of implementing the change we love to talk about. Take-aways from the information day were sobering and highlighted the need for high-level goals to be translated into ground-up strategies. I also very pointedly remarked that if we aren’t studious about putting our words into very specific actions, we would be faced with an uncomfortable feeling of déjà vu come 2017.
Now we are heading to what seems to be the midway-ish checkpoint for the year with the Wineland Seminar. Whether by design or not, the topics of these two events converge quite neatly: Changing the wine game would surely require innovation.
Back to my definition at the top. Innovation is all about change and as I lamented (apparently rather confusingly) in my previous piece, change is not something we are particularly good at as an industry. This is not to say we haven’t made great strides in terms of improving quality, style and the overall image of our wines (both locally and internationally). I never purported that we are incapable of change. We’re just resistant to it.
Changing the status quo is not a thought experiment. Once we’ve had the lightbulb moments and fleshed out the strategies, things need to happen. But implementation is tricky and comes with its own challenges. Are the high-level goals clear to everyone in the team? Or does it fail to filter through to the people on the ground, doing the work, making the changes? Is there a lack of coordination between the sales and marketing sides? Or are budgeting and management issues interfering with the innovation we’re so desperately pushing (or seeking?).
In short, I see a whole lot of lip service and not nearly enough action. If our ideas are that good (and to be clear, I think that they are), we have to be more aggressive in asking why we’re still struggling with issues like pricing, profitability, US market share and overall wine image.
We also need to start connecting the dots. For example: in January, we were told point blank that on the international wine stage, South African wine is not considered sexy. We’re not cool. We are the awkward middle child – not quite Old World but not the coolest of the cool new kids either. What have we been doing in the past seven months to change that? Where’s the progress? Where’s the red lipstick and black Louboutins? Are we really still pottering around in beige pants and orange Crocs?
Change does not happen overnight. Of course seven-and-a-bit months isn’t nearly enough to transform our image and solve our problems. But I have to ask. Someone has to keep pressing the issue. Show us the progress. We want to know what’s been happening.
I look forward to the Winelands Seminar this year. I’ll be the annoying one in the front row, incessantly asking questions and furiously making notes.
- 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.