Ultra pulls the plug on BVG

It’s a sad day for SA wine consumers with the news that Ultra Liquors is to end their annual sponsorship of the Best Value Wine Guide [BVG] published by RamsayMedia SA. Let’s hope this does not mean the end of the guide as it fills an important niche in the petrified forest of dead tree publications. It is also something of a strategic flagship title for Ramsay, now owned by Caxtons, who must be the most profitable media group in SA thanks to their local knock-and-drop publications which are surely the most cost effective route to the consumers’ cellar for producers.

bvg Ultra pulls the plug on BVG

The blind tasted BVG provides an ethical alternative to the Platter sighted wine guide which is controlled by Diners Club director Reg Lascaris who has substantial wine brand action of his own. The management and sighted tasters on Platter have more conflicts of interest than a chameleon sleeping on a box of smarties and quite how Diners owner Standard Bank can tolerate this is beyond belief.

The BVG starts from the point of view that price is important. A position shared by most consumers and largely ignored by Platter. Our own weekly Good Value Guru Soirée blind tastings which start on the 24th under the chairmanship of BVG veteran Winnie Bowman, will at least keep the value flag flying as scores will be accompanied by a quality value price. Available on the interwebs, they will at least provide a reality check for Platter visualizations. Updated weekly, they will more current. Available for free, they will be better priced. Tasted blind, they will be more honest. Three features that should provide healthy competition for Reg.

As Mark Norrish, Wine GM at Ultra noted, “what we are especially proud of is the fact that Ultra Liquors increased this publication from 10,000 copies to 80,000 copies in the space of 4 years.” Circulation of the BVG is on the up while Platter numbers are in a death spiral with last year’s print run less than half the BVG number. How will Standard explain this to their shareholders and employees they retrench as their business goes electronic? Quite why a major bank even owns a sighted wine guide is a mystery. Surely five star Reg should pay for his own marketing?

Let’s hope BVG does not bite the bullet as this cottage industry provides three days of gainful employment for nine wine judges, some with young families to feed. Plus writing the tasting notes was pretty much full-time employment for one freelancer.

“What has Mark got up his sleeve for 2014?” His reply to the question was “Plenty, watch this space!”