Coronavirus and SA wine: Duncan Savage of Savage Wines

By , 27 May 2020

Duncan Savage of Savage 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 Duncan Savage of Savage Wines replied:

How badly has Coronavirus crisis impacted your business?
The timing for Savage has been alright as most of our current release wines were sold prior to the lockdown. The big challenge lies ahead. Wine above R200/bottle could be deemed a luxury and with less disposable income around the world, luxury good sales will drop. Much of it is about the ‘pipeline’ being emptied on the other end. Wine shops, restaurants. etc are not moving what’s on their shelves or in their stores. I don’t know how those poor guys are going to survive this madness and without them much of our business doesn’t exist. It’s easy to pack wine into a container or delivery van and feel good about a sale, but if it’s not moving at the other end orders will soon dry up.

How many wineries do you foresee closing as a result of the pandemic?
No idea but there will be a few, both big and small. Take big producers with high overheads reliant on their local trade, cellar door and farm restaurant – I don’t know how they will survive or at least keep staff employed.

What plans do you have in place to get going again once restrictions are eased? How will doing business be different?
The approach will be more direct in nature for us and many other businesses. The wine industry and restaurant/retail trade will need to work together to build a sustainable future. We are working hard on various strategies, the liquor landscape is going to be very different in the years to come. The uncertainty is what makes this whole thing so difficult.

What will the South African wine landscape look like after the pandemic? Will the industry recover quickly or will it be changed forever?
It’s going to change for sure, if we thought vines were coming out the ground fast over the last few years, it’s only going to get worse. There is lots of bulk around at present so prices will drop, the farmer is going to lose unless teamed up with the right producers/marketers. The temporary ban on exports has meant many producers would have lost shelf space which is verydifficult to recover.  All this combined with our unreliable rainfall doesn’t bode well for the short term. Sorry to sound negative but it’s difficult to see the silver lining.

Read other interviews:

Chris Alheit of Alheit Vineyards
Tertius Boshoff of Stellenrust
Paul Clüver of Paul Cluver Wine Estate
Boela Gerber of Groot Constantia
Anthony Hamilton Russell of Hamilton Russell Vineyards
Gerard Holden of Holden Manz
Johan Kruger of Kruger Family Wines
Bruwer Raats of Raats Family Wines
Donovan Rall of Rall 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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