Marthélize Tredoux: Less talk and more action required to move SA wine forward

By , 18 August 2017



WL_Seminar_sales_header-1024x227South Africa has been the next big thing for a frustratingly long time, without ever reaching its full potential.

This sentence is part of the introduction to the 2017 WineLand/Adams&Adams Seminar – the topic for this year being “Leader of the Pack”. The question formulated asks what will it take to finally switch SA wine from being the next big thing to an actual trendsetting market-leader, globally. An important question – but we’ll get to that in a moment.

I have been following the efforts of WineLand and VinPro in organizing and executing these seminars closely over the past three year. I was unable to attend the first one, but I was present last year where the discussion was all about “Igniting Innovation” (you can read my summary of events here) and I will also be attending this year.

In general, the seminars seems to have played out nicely. Ideally the format needs to be such  that enough substantive matter is  presented to attendees, while also allowing for enough interaction, discussion and/or debate to avoid it being just a one-way flow of information (from presenters to audience). The only way to break down the echo-chamber of organized opinion is to create a space for opinions to clash. At the same time, there needs to be structure to an open platform of discussion, otherwise it might never end.

This year’s program has three guest speakers and allows for a 90-minute panel discussion around the main topic. The guest speakers are brand strategist Andy Rice, director of the University of Stellenbosch Business School, Prof. Piet Naudé and entrepreneur Tebogo Mogashoa. The main panel discussion for the day will be chaired by Carlen Wahl and the panel will consist of Andrea Mullineux, Johann Loubser (MD of Delaire Graff), Marc Kent from Boekenhoutskloof, Rob Gower (senior wine buyer at Woolworths) and Kelly Thompson (partner at Adams&Adams).

So, last year the talk was around innovation – “…more specifically the creative mindsets and technologies that could rattle the cage and shape the future of the wine industry.” (that quote taken from the event description for last year). My top take-away was that there is a lot of lip service and not enough action, and that to move the wine industry forward in a real and measurable way, we need to be innovative in our thinking but also in our implementation of the ideas.

This year’s seminar seems to follow on that premise, accepting (and not inaccurately so) that the industry is innovating and that it is time to directly address the question many have been asking: if we’re really that great, why doesn’t the world seem to agree?

I’m oversimplifying, of course, but that is what it boils down to. We are making great strides in many different areas and yet we still find it difficult to trump countries like Argentina, Chile, New Zealand and Australia in important markets such as the USA and parts of Europe. We are overdue to take a good hard look at why this is.

My question before such events is – and will likely always be – how will this change our daily course of business? Talk is always cheap, but taking action takes effort, time and (usually) money. Let’s see what happens. I would urge anyone venturing big opinions and lots of talk to attend the seminar, so we can put some of those words into action.

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.


1 comment(s)

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    Tim James | 21 August 2017

    I’m never quite sure what locals want or expect? All South African wine to have the reputation of Sadie, Mullineux, etc? It’s not going to happen. Top Cape wine has an excellent international reputation now and there is no problem selling it. But cheap Cape wine gets cheaper and cheaper as big industry fights over access to the lowest shelves, because that seems to be an easier strategy than improving viticulture and winemaking.

    As far as I can see, SA wine has the reputation(s) it deserves. If you want to get New Zealand’s average price, then make the average quality as good as New Zealand’s. Because it undoubtedly isn’t. There is a lot of badly made South African wine out there, a lot of it off poorly managed vineyards. It’s not a matter of marketing.

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