It’s time to take South African wine seriously

Premium South AfricaWhile South Africa has for many years been known as a producer of value for money wine, this New World country has set its sights on the premium end – and the UK market is drinking it up.

As a whole, South African wine has been growing in the On Trade, with volume sales up 5% year on year, while restaurants are registering even greater success, with sales in this sector up 17%. The growth is particularly notable for wines over £30, a category that’s up 133% in the On Trade.

This premium growth was also highlighted at the recent annual Nederburg Auction held in Paarl, where prices of the top South African wines reached an all-time high, with the price per litre realising a record of R740 (approximately £41).

While Chenin Blanc and Chenin blends are popular in the UK, it’s not the only grape on the rise – South African Shiraz grew 23%, while Cabernet Sauvignon is up 12%.

High Timber restaurant on the Thames is a top spot for South African wining and dining. Neleen Strauss explains that there has definitely been an increase in customers willing to spend more on South African wine. “Being known for such good value makes it easy to introduce guests to the fine and rare (and therefore more expensive) South African wines... even on the white side. I think most consumers take a keen interest and 90% of our customers ask about new wines, and then try them,” she says.

Graham Beck is one of South Africa’s foremost traditional sparkling wine (Methode Cap Classique) producers and Neleen explains that they’ve decided to list the entire range. “Their bubbles surpass almost everything in every price bracket, and they have the most passionate and wonderful Pieter Ferreira at the helm.”

Tomas Maunier, sales director at the Fazenda group, believes that South Africa has some amazing producers that are bringing very interesting wines to the market. “Creation is one of the country’s premium players, and we think their wines go extraordinarily well with our food offering. We have had a number of their wines available and they all sell very well.

“The Syrah Grenache is great with lean red meat, while the Sauvignon Blanc is ultra-refreshing and great for white meats or salads. The Viognier goes really well with spicy food and the Bordeaux-style blend can stand up to all our meats. The Pinot Noir is delicate but not shy, so it can play in such a wide spectrum that I would pair it with anything from white meats all the way to red meats.”

Antonio Roveda, head sommelier at the Savoy Grill on the Strand, strongly believes that South African wine has a big market in the UK. “Bibendum has a great offer and I’ve discovered a little hidden gem called De Trafford during my first trip to South Africa with Bibendum last year.

“The entire De Trafford range is remarkable – persistent quality and intensity without compromise. While the prices are a little above average, the wines are incredible, with a fantastic ageing potential – they are worth every single penny.”

Although a growing category, South African wine is in many instances still a hand-sell and there’s clearly more room for growth. Antonio believes that the best way to expose and sell South African wine is to give it more space in the ‘by the glass’ section and to sell it at competitive prices. For Neleen, the key is to sell the country – “sell the beauty of South Africa; this makes selling the wine easy.”

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20th September 2016

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