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SA selling out rather than selling up?

By , 14 June 2011



Received this email from a wine enthusiast (name known) based in London concerned that South Africa is still not succeeding in getting its export offering  right:

“Recently it was announced that Distell has taken a stake in Brand Phoenix which started First Cape wines with the Newton-Johnsons and some of the co-ops. Now I am in London and was aghast at Sainsbury’s recently to see First Cape offering Australian wine! But it get worse: I now see they are offering a First Cape 5.5% abv sparkling wine aperitif concocted at some anonymous D-number in Germany…

I am sure the N-Js would be horrified (I gather they are no longer involved) but it does seem to me to be dreadful prostitution of a (hitherto) well-regarded brand in the UK.

On a recent trip to the Lake District we picked up some 3-for-£10 Chenin under the label Wagontree and I was horrified to see it was bulk-shipped and bottled by Fosters EMEA, Twickenham. Also on the shelves I have seen Lindeman’s Cape Wines [this originally an Australian brand]…

Is nothing sacred?”

There is a feeling among informed observers that the quality of South African wine at all levels of the market has never been better and yet often the feedback from  international consumers is that they are still left disappointed. What gives?


2 comment(s)

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    Peter F May | 15 June 2011

    First Cape expanding into wines from other countries is part of a trend. Thinking is that if you have a brand with a good reputation you can expand your offering without having to create and publicise a new brand. As your correspondent notes, Lindemans brand now is on non-Oz wines, Gallo’s Blossom Hill brand which was originally California wine now includes Italian and other countries. Thinking is that consumers of these wines are not concerened with the country of origin.

    3 wines for £10?? With wine tax and 20% VAT on top?? WagonTree brand is at http://www.wagon-tree.com/ One way to cut costs to the bone is to ship in bulk. If SA wants to control quality then it could ban export of bulk wines, but that isn’t going to happen.I hate bulk-shipped, EU-bottled wines and won’t buy them if I can help it – although increasing amounts of restaurant wines are these wines. However – although it is done purely to cut costs bulk shipping is being marketed as ‘green’ and ‘saving CO2’ and etc. I was disappointed to find Beyerskloof white label Pinotage is now bulk shipped to UK for bottling…
    SA is not the only country whose wines are increasingly being bulk shipped.

    Dieter | 15 June 2011

    ABV is what gives, for me at least. And SA’s not the only culprit here.
    I’ve just returned from SA and during my short stay I found myself passing on old favourites after giving one or two cloying 14% Chardonnays and Chenins at entry-level a try and for the first time I returned with no bottles in my luggage for fear of what the 14,5% plus flagships would be like.
    I also gathered that complaints about high ABV from Europe are dismissed in some quarters as a health hype. I find riper, high alcohol wines quite unfriendly to food and unfortunately our weather does not allow the more robust fares like braais as frequently which suit these wines better.

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