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Despite challenges, SA wines increasingly globally acclaimed

By Sue Segar

Despite many challenges in recent years, South African wines continue to receive global recognition for their high quality, according to Wines of South Africa (WoSA), the export marketing council for the SA wine industry.

“Wine critics, and consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the positive reputation and quality of South African wine, and we’re consistently getting international recognition through competitions.” said Maryna Calow, communications manager for WoSA.

“The positive swing is that South Africa’s wine quality has never been better. We are using this reputation to position ourselves, especially in international markets.”

WoSA represents all SA producers of wine who export their products, with over 500 producers on its database.

The local wine industry has, suffered substantial turmoil, due to a number of factors, including the economic crisis.  

“From 2015 to 2018 we had an extensive drought, causing the volume of production to decrease, and impacting on volumes of exports, followed by COVID, with the banning of alcohol sales locally, and a ban of export for five weeks which leading to a surplus of wine stock making it tricky to negotiate on price,” another blow to our sector is the war between Russia and Ukraine having a major impact on our input costs. We are further hampered by loadshedding and producers are now investing heavily in alternative energy sources to keep businesses running due to load shedding “This is a challenge unique to SA, even though the economic climate is globally affecting wine regions around the world, this really affects us on ground level on the global market the financial sustainability of our industry is currently volatile. “Simply put we’ve seen our industry shrink significantly from about 102 000 hectares in 2006 to below 90 000 hectares in 2022, mainly because of financial viability. A lot of vineyards have been uprooted and farmers have replaced them with berries, apples, pears, nuts and citrus.” 

A further challenge, she added, is “in light of climate change where we hear from European importers and agents who used to import from South Africa, Argentina, Chile and other countries, are now purchasing from within the EU due to lowering of carbon footprint.

 Focusing on the positives is the quality versus the cost of SA wine. “Two varietals doing well for South Africa are Pinotage and Chenin Blanc. Pinotage, our proudly SA red varietal, is going from strength to strength, “Chenin Blanc is doing incredibly well for SA.  We have the most Chenin Blanc plantings in the world – about 17 500 hectares.

“Another category is Cap Classique, our sparkling wine equivalent to French champagne, which is of a high quality and fetches good prices.

“Wine tourism is a strong element for the wine industry, with most wineries having tasting rooms, a restaurant, delicatessen and accommodation facilities where offerings are rich and compare very favourably against our international counterparts.”

Calow paid warm tribute to South Africa’s wine industry, “On the environment, we were the first in world to introduce a system called IPW – Integrated Production of Wine, a voluntary system that’s been adopted by 95% of the players in the SA wine industry. Other countries have since followed suit. It stands for vineyard and cellar practises that are as environmentally friendly as possible, in terms of herbicides, water use etc.”

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