Was last week’s Beautiful South show in London the swansong of departing WOSA CEO Su Birch as she rides off into a Kalk Bay retirement after 13 years at the head of the generic marketing body? Or was it the start of a glittering new career as international marketing maven of CASA, a new wine entity comprising Chile, Argentina and SA? Mi CASA es Su CASA as they say in Spain. Talk about the Moor’s last sigh!
It was with a hearty pinch of salt I took the news that Su was angling to become head of CASA as she told incredulous diners at last month’s Absa Top Ten Pinotage lunch in Switzerbosch. After WOSA’s woeful performance, would any SA producer use her marketing services as her UK mouthpiece Drinks Business reports today “Birch intends to take ‘a brief sabbatical’ and then focus on developing marketing plans for a range of clients?”
CASA is a silly idea. Showcasing SA Sauvignon Blanc in the same place at the same time to the same buyers as Chilean Sauvignon is suicidal. Ditto for Argentinian Malbec up against Pinotage. Selling quality wine is not a bun fight in a bazaar. It’s all about terroir and a common terroir between SA and South America disappeared 150 million years ago when Gondwanaland broke up. If SA should be aligned with anyone, it should be Australia and New Zealand through a common colonial heritage.
Heck throw in Canada and call it Empire Reunited which will play well with Little Englanders and retired colonels in cummerbunds, if you can prise them away from their pink gins. CASA is a house built on sand. Don’t touch with a proverbial barge pole. It is probably Su’s silliest marketing idea ever.
But has Su done a deal to go quietly that will see incoming CEO Siobhán Thompson forced to support CASA? It certainly looks that way as Su’s hit man, Andre Morgenthal, issued WOSA Newsflash #4 today (four flashes in a year confirms the cosy marketing milieu of WOSA Stellenbosch) which was an ode to Su.
“South Africa, Argentina and Chile broke with tradition last week and collaborated in presenting a wine trade show in London, attended by over 350 wineries from the 3 countries. Su Birch, outgoing CEO of Wines of South Africa, initiator of the idea…”
Why is WOSA using scarce industry funds to boost the career of an outgoing CEO? This newsflash is corked and may be one of the first things Siobhán investigates when she takes over the CEO’s La-Z-Boy recliner and SAA Platinum Voyager card in November, a month behind schedule as Su hangs on until the end of the year to arrange her future career. Thank heavens the Su Scandals look set to run and run or Bacchanalian blogging would become boring beyond belief.
Just Drinks reveals that CASA will be trading as “Stretch” as in “Andre, tell my stretch limo to pick me up at the Waldorf at 3.” Great name for press releases too: “stretch marksTM”