Many attribute the lacklustre performance of Brand SA to the fact that we don’t have a distinct connection with a specific cultivar. With Pinotage and Chenin as the main contenders for this honour, many will agree to disagree on this topic.

You don’t have to be an international wine fundi to know New Zealand is famous for its Sauvignon Blanc, Australia for its Syrah and Chard, and Argentina for its Malbec. But nowhere is there a specific cultivar associated with Mzanzi. To make matters worse, many of our new Wise target markets don’t have the faintest idea of where South Africa is. As Johann de Wet of De Wetshof says, “You first need to sell the country before you even remotely touch base on brand and terroir.”


Let’s get one thing straight. The New Zealand wine industry didn’t make Sauvignon Blanc its go-to wine – Cloudy Bay did and the rest followed. Similarly Yellow Tail put Oz on the map, and Conha y Toro and Penaflor did likewise for Chile and Argentina respectively. You get my drift …

You either hate them or love them, but why did our industry’s Big Brothers never achieve this with a specific brand or cultivar? The balance sheet, talent and vineyards were all there! The point is, we need a brand with muscle, volume and world status, but currently we’re just competing against one another for shelf space and losing out in the process. The pie is definitely not getting any bigger.

So as we’re exceptionally good at adopting the ostrich approach, with heads firmly planted in the sand and fingers pointed at all the industry bodies and cultivar associations, perhaps we should make time for much-needed introspection. The good old days of single-channel marketing from SA Wine HQ in Paarl are long gone – much to my delight. Let’s face it, the solution should come from within our ranks, but you can merely lead the horse, not make it drink.

So be the change you want to see in the world. It’s not Chenin, Pinotage or Cape Town that will put us on the map, only the businesses themselves.

Three cheers for the Wolves and Porcupines for putting their heads on the Block and taking the road less travelled.

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