Mixed Messages from WOSA

The weekly WOSA newsletter from CEO Su Birch starts with a hilarious rhetorical question from wine commentator Robert Joseph, a figure of fond memory for SA producers from his days running Christine Cashmore’s popular wine competitions. “Is the UK the wine world’s Afghanistan (i.e. the unwinnable war)?” A question guaranteed to drive a passing teetotal Taliban into a wild orgy of fatwas.

The previous day, Su popped up in Business Day painting a grim future for exports: “There was some impetus in some new countries because of the World Cup but now that the World Cup is gone, we might struggle this year.”

w11 Mixed Messages from WOSA

Her WOSA pep talk spins the exact opposite message: “We exported an additional 12-million litres of packaged wine this past year to countries other than the UK. So there is progress on many fronts.” Am I the only one confused by these mixed signals?

Also unusual was WOSA getting involved in the local market, with Su claiming “we might see local growth this year as the economy continues to recover.” A view probably not shared by many retailers or restaurateurs, with a major producer holding an emergency conference at the end of last year to address the dire state of the local market.

The problem of sluggish local fine wine sales is largely a structural one: over the last decade there has been massive emigration from the (mainly white) middle class who are fine wine’s main consumers while black people continue to drink beer and spirits.

Producers are certainly trying their best to offload stock locally, with many restaurateurs reporting incredible deals on offer from producers who used to focus mainly on the export market. Will they remain loyal to their suppliers who looked after them in the good times? If the price is right, of course not!