It’s become a mega cliché to point out that the times, they are a changing. But it’s no less true for all that. This year saw exports of bulk wine overtake bottled shipments for the first time in over a century, taking us back to the days when SA vino left Table Bay in barrels, very often fortified with spirit for the voyage to Europe. The latest export figures confirm that bulk is on a roll, up 36% year to year end October while bottle departures tanked 11%. It’s a weird statistical anomaly that SA now also exports 36% more bulk than bottled.
But probably less well known is that it’s whites that are flying – up 28% – while red is actually declining – down 3.5%. White exports have overtaken red and SA now ships 22% more white overseas than red, whereas last year, red led white by 8%. These are reversals of historic proportion akin to swapping the North with the South pole.
Could the complexion of SA drinkers be changing too? Certainly the most dynamic wine shows – Gugulethu and Soweto – are held in previously dark suburbs while consumer initiatives, like Mark Norrish’s Ultra Liquors 100 Women, 100 Wines earlier this month featured over 50% black divas who didn’t just drink Four Cousins, judging by the results.
Last month, new broom at Spar, Mark Robinson, darkened the complexion of the decade-old tasting panel at the Orange River Winemaker of the Year Competition by including glamorous Ntsiki Biyela (above) among the judges while recent Spar print ads featured tasting notes from Andrew Chigorimba.
Certainly the way wine is reported is changing rapidly. With Business Day announcing retrenchments this week while Naspers reported bumper profits from its internet activities, it doesn’t take a Warren Buffet to predict that it will be digital media that will shift stock, going forward.