SA winemakers wine and dine the US market

A heavyweight block of South African winemakers and owners have returned from the USA after a two week tour taking aim at key markets Chicago, Boston, New York and Washington DC and targeting influential US wine industry figures.

The trip, organised by New York based importer Cape Classics, took winery representatives including Abrie Beeslaar and Deidre Taylor of Kanonkop, Emil den Dulk of De Toren, Carl van der Merwe of DeMorgenzon, Brad Paton of Buitenverwachting, Luke O’Cuinneagain of Glenelly, Gavin Slabbert of Raats Family Wines, Peter de Wet of Excelsior, Henry Kotzé of Morgenster and Thomas Webb of Thelema, through key US markets to showcase their wines to consumers and members of the trade.

Highlights included: a private dinner with Wine Spectator at South African restaurant Kaia in NYC; a “flagship” lunch at Chicago’s popular Naha restaurant with key regional buyers, including America’s first female Master Sommelier Madeline Triffon; a sold out consumer wine dinner hosted by Gavin Slabbert of Raats Family Wines and Luke O’Cuinneagain of Glenelly at NYC’s Corkamorimcork SA winemakers wine and dine the US market
by Amorim Cork
buzz, winebar and educational center founded by Master Sommelier Laura Maniec.

“These tours are a collective mission to build the great wines of South Africa into a visible, sought after, and financially successful wine category in America.” said Rob Bradshaw, president and COO of Cape Classics. “The category is still being built here, and in a competitive marketplace face-to-face interaction between winery and customer is crucial.”

Capitalising on the popularity of the barbeque and the increased interest in South African fare in the US, Cape Classics hosted braais in New York and Boston for trade members to “meet and greet” winery representatives over food and wine. Traditional cuisine was grilled on sight including braaibroodjies, boerewors, and peri peri shrimp, while attendees tasted through the extensive lineup of wines.

“As a selling opportunity, the braais worked very well,” said Kanonkop’s Beeslaar. “A braai is the new golf course!”

Reflecting on the tour, Den Dulk of De Toren said he remained excited by the potential, of the US market while O’Cuinneagain said the best part was seeing the enthusiasm guests had for South African wine. Van der Merwe of DeMorgenzon agreed: “Americans remain enthusiastic about discovering South Africa, but the challenge remains to convince customers to recognise the quality and actually deplete shelf stock.”

Bradshaw said the tour was part of Cape Classics strategy to raise the level of noise around South African wines: “With every passing day the news gets louder and the consumer learns a little more. The stories the winemakers tell and the time they share converts one buyer at a time and, like compound interest, that force can grow powerfully.”