Winemakers eager to crack black market

2012-09-09 15:33

Johannesburg - South Africa's wine-makers are still trying to break into the black market, they said at the recent Soweto Wine Festival.

More black consumers were drinking wine, but it still did not amount to a "big change", said Boekenhoutskloof Winery sales manager Innocent 

"We do see change, but it's not that big change we're looking for," he said.

"Today (at the festival) they are drinking wine, but tomorrow they'll be drinking beer."

Bon Courage representative Spikkels Senekal agreed. There was "a huge market" of black drinkers, but they usually opted for beer and whiskey, with wine consumption adding up to "very little."

There was "a lot of room for growth," he said.

Festival co-owner Marilyn Cooper said the wineries had found that participants this year - the eighth year of the festival - were more knowledgeable than in the past.

"When we started, people didn't really know about wine. Now they know a great deal."

The expansion of the market was "a process", she said. "I promise you that by next year (black people will) be drinking more wine."

Wine drinking was "part of a lifestyle you acquire", she said, and argued that the wine market could not be broken up demographically.

"You can't say this is a black market and this is a white market. That's the old South Africa. You cannot break this market up into black consumers and white markets."

Cooper said the key for wine-makers to get more black consumers would be to take their business to black consumers - in the same way the wine festival did.

"You don't see that anywhere else: white people behind the counter selling to black people."
Her partner Mnikelo Mangciphu owned wine shops in Soweto and the Johannesburg CBD and has recently opened a shop in Gugulethu, outside Cape Town, she said.

Some wine-makers at the festival said that while expanding the black market was important, it was only part of the equation. Black ownership of wineries remained an issue.

Although many wine brands were owned by black companies, they did not own their own vineyards and had to purchase wine in bulk from established vintners, said Vernon Henn, the general manager of Thandi, one of the country's three black-owned wineries (they own their own land and vineyards).

Henn said wineries were capital intensive and "cash hungry", and that new entrants to the industry faced an uphill battle.

Thandi had struggled for shelf-space in shops, as retailers were uncertain whether it had the funds to promote itself.

"We don't have all the funds to please the buyer," Henn said.

He also took the government to task for not helping to do more to help small, black producers of wine.

The wine served at Parliamentary events seemed to come only from the nation's large producers, he said.

Cooper agreed that transformation had largely been limited to brands.

"I don't want to lie to you. wine-making in the Cape is owned by whites," she said. "In 20-years, we've got three (black-owned companies) who actually own the land."

She said most wineries became profitable only in their second or third generations.

"It's an expensive business. How much wine at R35 a bottle do you have to sell just to repay your loan?" she asked.

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  • chanki.modise - 2012-09-09 16:02

    Ya right we been drink beers for ages try indians brothers and sister you will fine market there

      jpstrauss - 2012-09-09 16:20

      Keeping it classy, ne! But seriously, stay true to yourself and don't let an outsider tell you what should or should not be deemed classy.

      sanesh.allopi - 2012-09-09 16:34

      With all due respect my friend : it's going to be as difficult moving Indian people away from Scotch, Brandy or Cane. I've actually found that the only wines palattable to a whiskey drinker (yeah - I guess that means me) costs far too much to be a monthly staple. Pity : because it would probably be a healthier option.

  • susanna.smit.7 - 2012-09-09 16:15

    Winemakers will have to up their game. Too much additives in the wine and the brothers and sisters I know, don't like having their food and drink messed with.

  • colin.dovey - 2012-09-09 16:55

    They could perhaps look at the aspect that a glass of red wine can be good for your health, in moderation, every evening......

  • jean.ridon - 2012-09-09 17:14

    As long as we do not change the land act from 1970, and allow emerging grape farmers to be able to purchase, or rent for long terms, small surfaces of land, this will only remain a big players industry. The soft transformation of the wine industry will only take place with appropriate land control regulation, allowing new wineries to control their vineyards, without forcing them to buy big farms, or compete at crazy prices for land sought after by gentleman farmers. Nothing has changed since 94 in this regard. Changing the land act will cost nothing, will protect private property, and make sure that the land is more productive... It just requires a political will.

  • paul.john.790256 - 2012-09-09 17:54

    Wine Estates are in general VERY ARROGANT. The sales teams are mostly white that does not have a clue on how to sell to blacks, or quite frankly, sell wine in general. Even in retail stores, most of the buyers and wine managers are not white, but coloured and black. The wine estate sales teams can't even make an impression at retail store level. If you want to capture a market, then hire people that understands that market. Blacks don't drive to wine farms for tasting in general. It is far too intimidating. Sales staff need to understand their market. Good Luck.

      trevor.myburgh.12 - 2012-09-10 08:02

      @paul.john.790256 You have it so right it be the most ignorant people that is giving you the dislike. I am black and love wine been to a winery on Saturday not only did the sales person did the ignore thing, but also spoke to me with contempt. Very sad

      susanna.smit.7 - 2012-09-10 09:42

      I used to conduct wine tastings and I have learned black people in general don't like having their food and drink messed with. Additives are a big no-no and I think winemakers of bigger commercial wineries will have to up their game. Also the black people who do visit wineries always have more disposable income. Therefore I for one have always rushed to assist these customers first!

      Parenthesis Syrah - 2013-06-27 05:01

      your the customer .....Report that incident to the owners and see what happens when it results in a loss of sales. There job is to sell the wines and if it got around that one particular label wasn't friendly to a certain race it could and most likely would be the end of that label

  • jmatebane - 2012-09-10 01:15

    I wish I was there.

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