Is Wieta in trouble?

Is WIETA, the WOSA-backed ethical trading initiative in competition with international brand FAIRTRADE for the hearts and consciences of consumers, in trouble? A recent circular to farmers from Vinpro boss Rico Basson rings serious alarm bells. Rico writes that 88 wines now carry the WIETA sticker after it was launched in May last year. Well given that 1800 wines were submitted to Veritas this year, we’re talking not even 5% of Veritas wines, which are far from all the labels produced in SA.

Swedish wine solidarity Is Wieta in trouble?

The bombshell that Earthbound organic wines from Cape Legends, marketing arm of the largest SA producer Distell, are FAIRTRADE accredited will not convince producers of Rico’s statement that WIETA is Kosher. There are five wines in the Earthbound range which is already 6% of the WIETA tally from one brand. Given the marketing resources of Distell, the likely huge success of this range will leave WIETA in the shade.

Exhibit “B” is the rise and rise of WOSA-supported bulk exports, up 8150% to Italy and 196557% to Spain according to Vinpro. Could the Spanish surge be the reason for the story in Drinks Business “for the first half of this year, Spanish wine imports in China were up 40.3% by volume to around 1.59 million litres and 43.8% by value to more than US$48.7 million. As a result, Spain confirmed its position as the third largest exporter of bottled wines to China, following France and Australia, according to the latest figures published by the Chinese Duties and Excise authorities.” Meanwhile exports of bottled SA wine to China are in free fall – down 17% this year.

Meanwhile the Italian increase was explained by a call from Deep Throat on the wrong side of the mountain. Seems that the extra wine, up from 255,390 litres last year to over 21 million litres this, is all off to Sweden. Seems that outgoing WOSA CEO Su Birch persuaded Swedish liquor monopoly Systemblowyournose to insist that wines destined for the land of Björn Borg and ABBA be WIETA accredited. Of course no other country need supply ethically traded wine, especially not Italy. Bulk wine leaves SA for Italy which has had a couple of disastrous vintages in a row, is sweetened up and re-exported to Sweden. Hard to imagine this happening in Italy but Deep Throat swears its true.

So it’s déjà vu all over again and the merry old sanctions busting days of yore when KWV was run by groot kannone from Denel specializing in breaking European laws and making a few bar for themselves in the process. If this is true, how ironic then that WIETA, put in place as a power base for Su and to help the poor-end of SA wine, is having the reverse effect. The industry needs urgently to stir its stumps and investigate the matter for it is beyond shocking.  A job for Rico, perhaps?

What are the WOSA board doing about this? What is Vinpro’s position? Should WIETA be closed down before brand SA becomes a bulk category? Has WOSA succeeded in destroying SA fine wine after 13 years of trying?