South Africa’s wine consumption grew from 6.1% in 2011 to 7.2% in 2012, owing to increased consumption by black South Africans, states CEO of official wine education body in South Africa the Cape Wine Academy and Cape wine master Marilyn Cooper.
“Consumption decreased because there wasn’t a culture of wine drinking among black people, white people were leaving the country and young people were drinking alcopops such as Brutal Fruit,” she notes.
Cooper says the yearly Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival, which was held in September and will celebrate its tenth anniversary next year, is one of the reasons why wine consumption has risen in the black community.
“Before 1994, people in townships were not allowed to drink alcohol, except the drinking of beer in beer halls. There was no promotion of alcohol and no promotion of wine,” she says, adding that the festival aims to promote a culture of drinking wine in black communities.
This year’s festival, which is sponsored by Tops at Spar and managed by the Cape Wine Academy, attracted 8 813 people over three evenings and included a new venue layout and additional lifestyle elements to close the gap between wine and lifestyle, Cooper adds.
“Wine is a lifestyle product that people aspire to and can be intimidating for new drinkers. The Cape Wine Academy teaches people about wine, but people in the townships were not aware that the academy existed, so we decided to bring the wine to the people.
The Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival attracted 1 500 people during its first year and more than 8 000 people attended this year’s event, with the number growing each year,” she notes.
Cooper says the festival is aimed at two different target markets – the more experienced wine drinkers, who have been drinking wine for some time and are more exploratory in what they want to taste, and the new market, who predominantly drinks sweet wine.
“When people start drinking wine they tend to prefer sweet wines. They move on to dry white wine, then red,” says Cooper.
She notes that from 70 to 100 local farms exhibit at the festival, which also promotes tourism.
“Durban Tourism, Ezemvelo and South African National Parks also take part in the festival. Last year, we named the event the Soweto Wine and Lifestyle Festival, in case we will not be allowed to mention wine in the name of future events, owing to the new laws regarding alcohol advertising,” she points out, adding that the ban on alcohol advertising is one of the biggest challenges the industry currently faces.
Cooper explains that the Control of Marketing of Alcohol Beverages Bill, which has been approved by Cabinet but has not yet been gazetted, does not indicate how much focus will be placed on generic terms such as wine, which is why the festival decided to incorporate the word ‘lifestyle’ into its name.
As a result of the Bill, the wine industry faces marketing challenges. “Scotch whisky brand Johnnie Walker, for example, has discontinued the use of the word alcohol in its advertising campaigns,” she notes, adding that Johnnie Walker has managed to successfully convince people to associate its brand name with whisky.
“Larger companies in the alcohol industry have larger budgets and are ahead of the winery industry with regard to advertising and market- ing, which is also a challenge,” she states.
Meanwhile, Cooper notes that most wine- makers in South Africa export because it is more profitable, but that can change if a culture of drinking wine is introduced to a suitable market.
“There is a wine shop in Soweto called Morara Wine Emporium, which is doing well, and various wine distributors have since opened shops in Soweto to cater for that market,” she concludes.