While searching in vain for an air-conditioned restaurant in Cape Town city centre yesterday, I watched Jean Vincent Ridon’s brave inner city winery Signal Hill being dismembered in the R1-billion all singing, all dancing, Mandela Rhodes Place. The stainless steel tanks were all gone and the oak barrels had transformed into a pile of staves. The world’s only inner-city winery was no more after being open for barely a year. And Café Mao, my sushi destination, was closed too. What is happening?
SA wine marketers and barkers seem to have seriously lost their way. Tomorrow I report on the advice of WoSA, the exporter’s mouthpiece, to producers to forget America as an export destination and concentrate on defending their European market share. Advice leading US wine importer Andre Shearer calls “plain stupid.” With the Economist predicting the US will surpass France as the largest wine consuming nation later this year, abandoning the States sounds like a Hilary Clinton campaign strategy.
WoSA argue they lack the resources to seriously serve the US market and say that better results can be expected from Europe. But shouldn’t marketing begin at home? The collapse of Signal Hill throws questions marks at Cape Town’s membership of the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. With WoSA and the city using their limited resources to send operatives to international meetings and jamborees, aren’t we bluffing ourselves if such a high-profile initiative as Signal Hill does a Nationwide, a year after takeoff?