Coronavirus and SA wine: Donovan Rall of Rall Wines

By , 22 May 2020

Donovan Rall of Rall Wines.

The current conversation around Coronavirus and its effect on the South African wine industry is perhaps inevitably very emotionally charged.

We put the same set of questions to a variety of industry stakeholders with a view to obtaining a better understanding of what’s happening on the ground and also plotting a way forward. Here is how Donovan Rall of Rall Wines replied:

How badly has Coronavirus crisis impacted your business?
Until now we have not been affected too negatively but for any small business the coming months will be crucial and the knock-on effect will be bigger. Everyone selling wine has been impacted in some way and it’s yet to be seen when and if our local customers and importers will be in a position to commit to annual allocations when we release our new wines later next month.

How many wineries do you foresee closing as a result of the pandemic? What future for growers?
I want to say none but the reality is that there will be a number of wineries and brands that will struggle and that will, unfortunately, filter down to the growers. With a big harvest behind us and a lot more wine from the 2020 season to sell it will be difficult to catch up on lost sales. I can also imagine a lot of competition in the market through discounting and wineries trying to move bottled stock and bulk by any means possible to boost cashflow.

What plans do you have in place to get going again once restrictions are eased? How will doing business be different?
From the producers to the importers, distributors and retail, we have all been forced to rethink the way we sell wine. The one positive thing that will result from all of this is that we have a chance to work together to find new, previously unexplored avenues. Until the time restaurants and winebars are allowed to open again I can see a clear shift to direct customer sales. Consumers still want to drink wine in these troubled times, we just have to think of new ways of getting the wine to them.

Another change with international travel not being allowed in the foreseeable future for us would be to find more innovative and interesting ways of interacting with customers online than before.

What will the South African wine landscape look like after the pandemic? Will the industry recover quickly or will it be changed forever?
I don’t think the landscape will change that much and in the long term hopefully, we emerge stronger. The quality of the wines coming out of SA won’t change as long as we retain our focus and we continue with the progress we’ve made.

As far as a recovery goes, we have to be realistic. With most of the world heading for the worst recession in decades and consumers everywhere stretched financially it can’t possibly be quick but it will happen. I choose to remain positive because the one advantage we have always had is that South African wine consistently over delivers in quality for price and this is the one thing all wine lovers will be looking for in the months ahead.

Read other interviews:

Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards
Tertius Boshoff of Stellenrust
Boela Gerber of Groot Constantia
Gerard Holden of Holden Manz
Johan Kruger of Kruger Family Wines
Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines
Mike Ratcliffe of Vilafonté
Johan Reyneke of Reyneke Wines
David Sadie of David & Nadia
Eben Sadie of Sadie Family Wines
Lukas van Loggerenberg of Van Loggerenberg Wines
Michael White of Highlands Road


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