A professional obituary of sorts for retired WOSA CEO Su Birch (63) appeared in Die Burger yesterday. Under the damning headline SA overseas wine image a weak point Nellie Brand-Jonker quotes Stephen Rannekleiv of Rabobank on the reason exports of bottled SA wine didn’t rise during Su’s cruel decade plus occupation of the La-Z-Boy recliner at WOSA in Dorp Street in the Town of Trees.
“Rannekleiv het aan Sake24 gesê dit is omdat Suid-Afrikaanse wyn nie ’n duidelike beeld het nie.” SA wine lacks a clear image. Lucky for Su that Nellie’s message is in Afrikaans and will not easily jump from the Platteland to the Platterland where Su is already as popular as a pork chop at a kosher picnic. Although the English language foreign press would be unlikely to diss a former golden goose who laid them so many freebees to the Cape for cage shark diving and rounds of golf.
Rabobbie has identified the USA, China and Canada as the best potential wine export markets for the next decade and in those markets, SA wine is an unknown quantity, a WOSA office in New York notwithstanding. Heck, exports to China were down last year 5%, bulk shipments included.
Along with the keys to the private executive facilities, Su has passed her successor Siobhan Thompson a poisoned chalice. Corked, you might say, by a decade of ignorance and stubborness and high handed lèse-majesté that placed Su in First Class while her salary providers struggled in economy on the flight to ProWein. “No business class tickets were available as Su booked too late” according to my fly on the wall in WOSA.
Steveo was speaking at the recent R700-a-ticket Nerdbank Vinpoo Open Day and his comments were echoed by Mike Veseth from The Wine Economist who said that WOSA’s much trumpeted biodiversity strategy “was nie suksesvol nie” (bombed) probably because everyone has climbed onto the green bandwagon.
One Collective Winery on the Platter two star side of the mountain admitted that WOSA and SAWIS last year cost them R1.6 million. When will the worms turn?
The task facing Siobhan is how to turn the giant papsak of SA wine around. Siobhan may want to start with a vigorous spring clean of Su’s deadwood and professional tafelschuimers.