SA wine proves its worth

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

The talk in wine circles has always been that the French are snobbishly dismissive of anyone who claims to make good wine - apart from them, that is.

That might have once been the case but the good news for South Africa is that it is now muscling in on the very competitive international wine market.

According to Wines of South Africa (Wosa) chief executive Su Birch, local wine exports have been breaking all records and, in defiance of the international economic slowdown, sales are soaring ahead.

Over 363million litres were sold off-shore during the 12 months to July 2008, an increase of 27percent on the previous 12 months. "This is way ahead of the originally anticipated target of 300million litres a year we were hoping to achieve by 2010," Birch said.

Speaking a few weeks before September's Nedbank Cape Wine 2008, South Africa's biggest ever wine exhibition, hosted by Wosa and targeting the international and local wine trade, she said: "The momentum appears to be continuing, despite even tougher trading conditions since the start of this year.

"Export volumes are up 31percent for the first seven months of 2008, thanks not only to a weaker rand and the continued strength of big brands in markets such as the UK, Sweden and Canada, but also the emergence of buyers in developing markets such as Angola and southeast Asia.

"These robust sales are also an indication, we believe, of South Africa's capacity to offer original, expressive and interesting wines of good value across the pricing spectrum."

She said exports had also been fuelled by rising rosé sales, up 60percent on the previous year, as local producers successfully catered to the thirst for pink wines on international markets.

What was most significant about the export levels reached, said Birch, was that sales had occurred across a far wider geographic reach than ever before, to reduce the country's dependence on any single market. "Whereas in 2003, the UK and the Netherlands accounted for 72percentof all South Africa's packaged wine exports, today the same countries - together with Sweden, Germany, Denmark and the US - make up the same percentage in sales.

"At the same time, there is growing interest in our wines from countries in Africa and the East."