China: where did it all go wrong for SA?

SA wine export numbers to China for the year to end November are out and they’re shocking. Down 7% from 5.5 to 5.1 million litres, against an overall positive upwards trend of 18%. While SA exports are booming in bulk everywhere, except China, bottled sales to the Middle Kingdom are up 5% from 4.4 to 4.7 million, mostly Hein Koegelenberg’s L’Huguenot and Distell’s Obikwa served on Cathay Pacific. When you share initial’s with China’s most dynamic entrepôt, as Hein (below) does with Hong Kong, looking east comes naturally.

hk 300x270 China: where did it all go wrong for SA?

2012 was supposed to be the year SA tamed the Chinese dragon – certainly WOSA were out in force at Vin Expo in Hong Kong in June and the savviest marketer in the Winelands, Dana Buys, hired a full time Vrede en Lust employee in Guandong Province. WOSA CEO and 48th most powerful Woman in Wine, Su Birch, summed up Vinexpo Hong Kong: “China has become the Holy Grail of global wine marketing and WOSA could have sold three times the space we were allocated at Vinexpo despite the fact that it cost the wineries 44% more to be there” and called the show “a glamfest.”

So what went wrong? Faced with an open goal, it looks like SA wine dropped the ball and producers may wish to quiz Su on the poor performance in the East. WOSA’s latest brainwave is to team up with our strongest competitors Chile and Argentina at a joint generic show called The Beautiful South, with the appropriate abbreviation BS, in London next year.

As Su commented after Hong Kong “we need to find more dynamic and less expensive ways to grow [the UK market] for South Africa.” Totally missing the point that the game has now shifted to China. As Dana says “we won’t be [at BS] as we don’t actively target the UK & European markets.” A sensible New Year’s resolution for SA producers rather than the colonial dreams of Su, which are sure to end in tears.