On Monday evening I rubbed shoulders with Mike Veseth, a wine economist from the USA he said, and keynote speaker at the Nederburg Auction yesterday. We were sharing a table at the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Green Tie Event to celebrate the opening of CapeWine 2012. His address to the elite of the wine industry at the Nederburg Wine Auction must have made WOSA proud of its ‘Cape Wine Braai Masters‘ book, regularly slated by Neil Pendock, in recommending to the South African wine industry to ‘make every day National Braai Day – they will toast your success with your own wonderful wine’, and so win the ‘Wine Wars‘ in the USA.
Veseth based his talk on the book he published last year, entitled ‘Wine Wars’, and reflected on how to apply its principles to the marketing of South African wines in the USA. ‘Terroirism’, according to Veseth, or ‘somewhereness’, creating a link to time and place, is the key to a successful wine industry, and selling wine in the USA.
Veseth showered praise on South African wines, yet said that the ‘Wine War’ for our local wines will not be an easy one in the USA, calling for strategy and tactics, and some luck, as one goes into the marketing battle, given that the USA market is ‘crowded, intensely competitive, and structurally difficult to penetrate’, in part due to globalisation.
To market South African wine successfully in the USA the wine brands need to connect personally with wine influencers. Marketing the wines as ‘South African‘ will not be successful. Each varietal must be marketed against others in the category. Wine labels should be the arsenal of the wine marketer, and not country of origin. Pushing a ‘signature varietal‘ like Pinotage or Chenin Blanc for the country is like a ‘one note samba’, Veseth said.
New well-to-do wine American drinkers, which Veseth calls ‘Millennials’, have an open book on South African wines, and ‘are not just buying a wine, they are building an identity’. Their brand purchases are lifestyle related. To reach them, a marketing communication mix of story-telling, social media, and ‘first person wine experiences’ by the wine farms and their American distributors, with WOSA ‘shaping perceptions’, is recommended. It is in this context that Veseth recommended the Braai as a cultural marketing weapon, reflecting our country’s culture, and helping to create the connectedness to the consumer. The Braai is part of South Africa’s food culture, but also is a reflection of South African’s ‘generosity and hospitality’, a braai invitation ‘opening your heart and your hearth to them’. An ‘Afrocentric winelands braai’, says Veseth, ‘can be a gateway to a fuller appreciation of South African culture and lifestyle and to the diverse wines that have evolved along with it’!
Making every day National Braai Day is the way to win the Wine Wars in the USA, Veseth concluded!
POSTSCRIPT 2/10: At the recent Chenin Blanc Association ‘Cape Chenin Unveiled’ seminar, Ken Forrester asked Allan Mullins of Woolworths why the retailer’s 8-page Heritage Day Sunday Times ‘Everyday is Braai Day at Woolies’ insert did not contain a single bottle of wine. Mr Mullins was very diplomatic in his reply, saying that he would have a word with his Marketing department. He did not appear to be happy with this state of affairs.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage