Brand Confusion

Back in March, Drinks International released their list of the Top 50 Most Admired Wine Brands. This is an amazing marketing wheeze as the supplement is bursting with ads from the admired ones.

top50 Brand Confusion

There seems to be only one SA admired brand in the list – KWV – at #32 (up 3 places) – one place above Yellow Tail. There is a non committal comment “many have commented on the mirroring of wine and political and social change. It is only right then that it should be observed that KWV was formed in 1918, the year of Nelson Mandela’s birth. South Africa celebrated 300 years of winemaking heritage in 1955 and KWV has long since been recognised as an important part of this achievement. In 1997 these efforts were recognised when it won the President’s Award for export achievement.” Of course this is rubbish as the 300th anniversary was in 1959 and more recently, the 350th was celebrated in 2009.

In fact the whole list looks a bit odd, with Robert Mondavi ahead of Petrus and Casillerio del Diablo with its black plastic devil ahead of Ch. Latour. Really?

IMG 3544 615x819 Brand Confusion

Clearly quality is irrelevant for Drinks International, for if KWV was an athlete, its recent stellar show performances would have organizers calling for doping tests. So quality does not seem to have been the criterion for placement at #32. So how was the list compiled? By secret votes from an Academy of masters of wine, sommeliers, educators and journalists.

Cristina Alcalá, journalist/sommelier, Madrid
Andrew Caillard, auctioneer
Liz Donnelly, buying manager, Alliance Wine Co
Christian G.E. Schiller, blogger, Germany/US
Konstantinos Lazarakis MW
Jaroslav Pergl, writer, Barlife magazine
Paul Tudor MW
Hamish Anderson, sommelier, UK
Tony Aspler, consultant/journalist, Canada
Richard Bampfield MW, consultant/educator, UK
Gerard Basset, sommelier/hotelier, UK/France
Su Birch, consultant, South Africa
Philippe Boucheron, Journalist, UK
Miguel Chan, sommelier/blogger, SA
Sergi Cortes, journalist, Barcelona
Neil Courtier, wine educator & writer, Grape Sense
Erica Donoho, analyst, US
Simon Doyle, supplier, UK
Ramon Francàs Martorell, journalist/blogger
Louise Gordon, head sommelier, The Rib Room Bar & Restaurant
Brett Jones, consultant/educator
Evelyn Jones, senior buyer, The Vintry
Darrel Joseph, wine journalist, central & eastern Europe
Per Karlsson, journalist, Sweden
David Longfield, freelance journalist
Peter Marks MW, educator, US
Toni Massanés, director of Alicia foundation
Ashika Mathews, buyer, UK
Tuomas Meriluoto, importer/agent, Finland
Wendy Narby, educator
Anders Öhman, educator, Sweden
Marcel Orford-Williams, buyer, The Wine Society
Nicolas Papavero, marketer, France
Will Parker, freelance wine tutor, WineSwines
Peter Scudamore-Smith MW, consultant, Australia
Godfrey Spence, educator, UK
Cees van Casteren MW, journalist, Holland
Gary Westby, retailer, US
Ronn Wiegand MW MS, journalist, US
David Williams, journalist, UK

There seem to be two academicians from South Africa – Su Birch, described as a “consultant” and sommelier/blogger Miguel Chan. As Miguel works for a company that is owned by the same company that owns KWV, we can presumably rule him out.

So where does Su stand? After being prised out of the cushions of WOSA’s La-Z-Boy recliner, Su’s latest trick is to teach people business English for R50K a pop. Or rather to get Afrikaans-speaking winemakers like Boela Gerber, Andre van Rensburg, Adi Badenhorst, Callie Louw and David Sadie to teach students English, if the itinerary of her two week immersion program is anything to go buy.


Mon 9:00 – 10:00 Orientation Business English
10:00–10:30 Tea break Tea break
10:30–12:00 Business English Body language
12:00–14:00 Lunch on site Lunch on site
14:00 – 18:00 Winelands excursion: Groot Constantia & Cape Point Winelands excursion: Fairview & Spice Route
18:00–22:00 Dinner Cape Town Free evening
Tues 09:00–10:00 Wine vocabulary Business English
10:00–10:30 Tea break Tea break
10:30–12:00 Business English Presentation skills
12:00–14:00 Lunch on site Lunch on site
14:00–15:30 Business English Winelands excursion: Simonsig & Villiera
15:30–16:00 Tea break
16:00–17:00 Business English
18:00–22:00 Free evening Dinner in Cape Town
Wed 09:00–18:00 Winelands excursion: Swartland
– Mullineux
– Porseleinberg
– AA Badenhorst
– David Sadie Business English
Tea break
Marketing your winery
Lunch on site
Winelands excursion: Steenberg
& Klein Constantia
18:00–22:00 Dinner in Cape Town Free evening
Thurs 09:00–10:00 Business English Business English
10:00–10:30 Tea break Tea break
10:30–12:00 Business English Wine tourism
12:00–14:00 Lunch on site Lunch on site
14:00–18:00 Winelands excursion: Vergelegen & Waterkloof Winelands excursion: Delaire Graff & La Motte
18:00–22:00 Free evening Dinner in winelands
Fri 09:00–10:00 Business English Business English
10:00–10:30 Tea break Tea break
10:30–12:00 Negotiating skills Intercultural communication
12:00–14:00 Lunch on site Lunch on site
14:00–18:00 Winelands excursion: Babylonstoren & Backsberg Winelands excursion: Waterford & Spier
18:00–22:00 Dinner in winelands Free evening
The cost of the total package is R50 000 and includes airport transfers, accommodation, everything set out in the course schedule above, light lunches, tea and coffee, as well as dinner (except on the free evenings).

Su’s choice of winery destinations is most instructive. The Swartland get top billing. “A highlight of the programme is a full-day visit to meet the Independent Producers of the Swartland region, who are bringing old vines back to life and creating fabulous wines that are a true expression of the broad landscape of the Swartland.”

Not a single Co-op is on the program nor any Distell property – a company which produces most of the wine in SA. Nor is the premises of the most admired wine brand visited, either. In spite of one of the best restaurants in the Winelands, Harvest, being located on Laborie.

Confirming that the playing fields were far from level in Su’s 13 years of (mis)rule at WOSA. What a peculiar view of SA wine Su’s students will receive. Surely Vinpro cannot let this stand?