Vinpro has announced that the South African wine grape harvest ‘may be somewhat smaller than last year’, reports Daily Maverick. Continue reading →
Wine writer Tshepang Molisana has been named the Veritas Young Wine Writer 2016, with an article entitled ‘A world class African vineyard‘. She won R15000. Continue reading →
Last night KWV was crowned as the king of the wine industry for the fifth year running, winning 5 Double Gold and 9 Gold Awards for its wines, more than any other winemaker. Nederburg (2 Double Golds and 11 Gold Awards) and Spier (2 Double Golds and 8 Gold Awards) followed in second and third place, respectively, awarded at one of the highlights of the wine industry, a function attended by about 400 wine industry staff and media, with their partners. Kanonkop won the Best Performance by Entry title for 10 wines or fewer entered, while KWV won the title for more than 10 wines entered. A total of 57 Double Gold, 157 Gold, 473 Silver, and 662 Bronze medals was awarded. A mix of local and international judges evaluated the entries.
Not only were the wines with their winemakers and related staff celebrated, so too was the 25th anniversary of the Veritas Awards. The highlight of the evening for me was seeing how many women Continue reading →
* South Africa’s 2015 wine harvest commenced two weeks earlier than usual, and was 1% smaller than in 2014, according to VinPro, representing 3000 grape growers and wine cellars. ‘The 2015 harvest had the earliest start in decades. Warm weather in August resulted in earlier bud break, after which a warm, dry and windy summer kept vineyard growth under control and accelerated ripening by approximately two weeks’, said Francois Viljoen, manager of VinPro’s Consultation Service. It has also been described as one of the ‘healthiest in years’, with almost no disease or rot. Record crops were achieved in Worcester.
* The Tourism Business Council of South Africa FNB Tourism Business Index reflects that the tourism industry is improving, with a score of 108 for the last quarter of 2014. A score of 100 is the norm. The Accommodation sector did even better, with an Index of 113, despite the impact of Ebola, and the Immigration Regulation changes introduced late last year. ‘Other Tourism‘ (e.g. transport, food and beverage) scored 104, lower than had been forecast for the quarter. The exchange rate has played a role in the improving Index. For the first quarter of this year an average Index of about 102 is expected.
* The Cape Winelands is experiencing its earliest harvest in 49 years, having started very early in the new year, almost a month earlier than last year. VinPro explains that three perfect winters with enough cold and sufficient rain, combined with an unusually warmer August, has led to the earlier harvest. A smaller harvest is expected this year, but is expected to be of a good quality. Winemakers are facing a challenge in their cellars in that many cultivars are ripening almost at the same time.
* Cycling in Cape Town is one of the best ways to see our city, writes the Los Angeles Times, describing Continue reading →
An unusual venue for the vertical tasting yesterday of the Doolhof Malbec wines in its Signatures of Doolhof range was Belthazar in the V&A Waterfront, where we tasted the five latest vintages of the wine, as well as some Argentinian and a French Malbec too.
Owner Dennis Kerrison welcomed us, after we had enjoyed oysters and Confrérie du Sabre d’Or champagne, explaining that they had planted Malbec with Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Petit Verdot, to create a Château Lafite style wine. In the process they discovered the quality Malbec they were producing, and bottled it as a stand alone wine. Dennis said that baboons and the southeaster create a low yield for the variety. The Kerrisons have celebrated the tenth year of owning Doolhof this year, and celebrated the estate’s 300th anniversary last year. Dennis introduced Rianie Strydom as their consultant cellarmaster. As winemaker Friedrich Kühn could not attend, the tasting was led by Rianie. Continue reading →
A study conducted by VinPro, a service organisation for 3600 South African wine producer members focusing on their commercial sustainability, shows that the increase in the new minimum wage by 52% will reduce the profitability of wine producers by 60%, ‘the sustainability of the industry now being under serious threat‘, reports Cape Business News.
An analysis of the impact of the daily minimum wage increase from R69 to R 105, resulting from recent farm labour unrest, revealed:
* The basic labour bill is currently R800 million per year
* The wage rate will increase labour costs from R7941 to R9815 per hectare
* Added to the increases in electricity, petrol and water, the minimum wage increase will lead to cost inflation of 15%
* This will result in a 60% decrease in profitability.
This will lead to wine farmers re-evaluating their cost structure, not just of labour, but also of all input costs, some already having announced that they will look at greater mechanisation. Smaller farms may go bankrupt. Medium and larger farms may merge, potentially leading to reduced employment. Empowerment projects, of which there are 52 in the wine industry, will be ‘seriously affected‘. Employment may in future have to be linked to performance and productivity assessments.
Rico Basson, Executive Director of VinPro, concluded: ‘It is critical that a strategic framework be urgently formulated within which the wine industry, government and other role players can consider social, economic, and environmental factors for future sustainability: if not, many wine producers may abandon the industry’.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter:@WhaleCottage
South Africa’s wine industry has made great strides in the past ten years, from being a bulk exporter of ‘cheap and cheerful’ wines to being on the ‘brink of breaking into the international fine wine spotlight’, wrote Mike Ratcliffe, owner of Warrick Wine Estate, in the Sunday Times recently.
Ratcliffe writes that the bulk export of low cost South African wines damaged our country’s image as a wine-producing country, but that this is being turned around, with excellent quality wines being exported. He ascribes the success of the wine industry to the folloiwng:
* tackling the reputation and improving the quality, for example, of a cultivar such as Pinotage, which was ‘mocked in global circles’. Ratcliffe praises the industry’s ability to accept criticism (however UK wine writer Rebecca Gibbs experienced the opposite in a Pinotage workshop at CapeWine 2012).
* The young up and coming winemakers are innovating, and ‘breaking down barriers and pushing the envelope of experimentation’, and challenging region and variety. The older guard and wine co-operatives are changing ‘their business models and driving quality innovations’.
* South African wines are as good and some even better than their international counterparts, and are being recognised by international wine buyers and wine drinkers. This was confirmed at CapeWine 2012, where heaps of praise was showered upon the South African wine industry. This is making winemakers more confident about their wines.
* The industry is producing more quality wines, and the prices of these wines are increasing, as more of them are exported.
* More co-operative marketing is taking place, CapeWine 2012 having been the most excellent showcase of our country’s top wines. Despite their differences, ‘the wine industry is presenting a strong and united front’.
Alongside Ratcliffe’s article was one entitled ‘Wine farms look wobbly’, sad to see after the euphoria created for our wine industry at CapeWines 2012. Quoting a report by VinPro and Winetech, it shared that high costs are slashing profits, the cost per hectare having increased by 61% to over R30000 in the past 7 years, mainly due to electricity, fuel and water cost increases. Income has dropped from R1 per 750 ml bottle in 2004 to 38 cents now. Some optimism about the forthcoming harvest has been expressed, a larger harvest leading to better profit. Wine production is expected to grow by 7% this year, to 1,1 billion gross litres. Bulk wine exports grew by 26% and bottled wine exports dropped by 9%. Exports increased by 7%, and domestic sales by 4% in the past year. Wine farmers are surviving the downward profitability trend by diversifying into other forms of farming, and by adding wine tourism attractions to their farms.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage
The Weekend Argus this past weekend screamed in its front page story:”Cape Wine farms fight to survive”, telling the sad story of how hard wine farms have been hit by the state of the economy, the poor exchange rate, and the rising costs in running the businesses. The article quotes Jan Booysen of Winetech in saying that it is the worst year in the ’40 years since I’ve been in the industry‘.
Reflective of the impact of the tough economic times is that more than 100 wine farms are for sale in the Stellenbosch region alone, with price tags ranging from R4 – R200 million, reportedly with few buyers. Prestigious and long-established wine farms such as Simonsig, Kanonkop, and Delheim are reported to be in a ‘serious predicament‘, according to VinPro, an organisation representing 4000 wine producers. Added to the average loss of R6000 per hectare, wine exports have dropped by 25 % this year alone, but also every year in the past four years, this year being the largest drop. The strong Rand and the economic crunch in Germany and the UK have led to lower prices achieved for South African wines overseas. Domestic wine sales have increased by 3 %, but this is not enough to counter the export losses.
At a Vinpro meeting last week Francois Malan of Simonsig expressed the concern about the potential impact of Walmart’s take-over of Massmart, and the potential dumping of cheap overseas wines onto the local market. A survey has shown that wine farmers have made R36000 income per hectare this year, but the costs run at an average of R37000 per hectare. To stay in business, the wine farms need to generate an income of R50000 per hectare. Farms smaller than 60 hectares appear to be in greatest trouble.
POSTSCRIPT 15/11: The Weekend Argus published two reactions to its original article of a week prior. VinPro Executive Director Jos le Roux sent a Letter to the Editor, denying that Delheim, Simonsig and Kanonkop were named at a meeting as wine estates that were in trouble. He did however acknowledge that many wine farmers are under ‘severe financial pressure’. An article reported on a request of a government subsidy for ‘primary wine producers‘, due to the financial crisis, and specifically the cost of housing farm workers, suggests Francois Malan, one of the Simonsig owners. The report states that the wine industry provides 275000 jobs and generates R15 billion per annum to the Western Cape economy.
Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com Twitter: @WhaleCottage