South Africa increases wine shipments to the US

South Africa’s economy is in a gloomy place, on the brink of recession with rising unemployment, but the wine industry there is a very different story.

It is now the seventh largest world producer, and exports are booming.

Ntsiki Biyela is South Africa’s first black female wine maker. This is her 12th harvest, but she didn’t always enjoy drinking wine. She had to be converted when she first started out.

This is true for the rest of South Africa.

Rico Basson, a managing director of Vinpro, says that South Africa has an extremely low consumption of wine, 6 liters per capita, but consumes 60 liters of beer.

Representing four percent of global output, more than half of South Africa’s wine is destined for the export market. So winemakers like Ntsiki are turning international and chasing new connections, including in the United States.

In the past decade, China has been the hottest market but duty-free access to the United States under a trade agreement means South African wine makers can cash in on higher margins by finding their way to the United States’ most developed palates.

“We have a good market in California, Texas and New York,” Dave Lello, the owner of Stellekaya, said. “Last year we grew by 60% in Texas. We probably make about 50% more gross margin going overseas than we do locally.”