It was Michael Jordaan’s birthday on Friday – he turned 46 – and contrary to tradition, it is SA wine that is hoping for a birthday present from him. The best gift would be the news that he’ll become chairman of WOSA, the accident-prone generic marketing body for SA wine overseas. A new CEO was appointed late last year but precious little seems to have changed from the disastrous reign of Su Birch that lasted well over a decade and felt much longer.
These kind of jobs, both chairman and CEO, should be like the US presidency. Appointment for four years and if a good job is done, another four with no extensions. Michael is well placed to give WOSA some direction. He started off as a banker – a good qualification given the obsessive love bankers lavish on wine – and as Kosher Afrikaans Aristocracy, he is well placed to tackle the super-egos that constitute the inner circle of SA wine.
He now chairs the social media operation Mxit for two other bankers, Paul Harris and GT Ferreira, which is also totally in sync with modern wine as the interwebs have totally replaced dead-tree media as the channel in which information about wine is disseminated. As magazine and newspaper circulations plummet like proverbial stones, blogs, tweets and apps will increasingly make all the running. Smart wines for smart phones and vice versa.
The first task for chairman Jordaan should be to merge WOSA with the SA Brandy Foundation as the industry simply cannot afford the current wasteful duplication of resources. Next, a serious strategy should be decided on the reaction of SA wine and brandy to bulk exports of wine and spirit. WIETA and Fair Trade also need urgent attention, as does the antagonistic stance of central, provincial and city governments to alcohol. But perhaps most important of all is that fermented and distilled grape juice needs to be marketed to the whole of SA and not just traditional consumers.
Mighty Michael is the only candidate on the event horizon to make a start on the biggest challenges to Bacchus since phylloxera.