The South African wine industry is under great pressure, especially the higher priced wines, owing to the poor state of the economy, winemaker and director of Durbanville-based wine farm Klein Roosboom Karin de Villiers tells Engineering News.
She explains that wine farms producing cheaper wines are doing better than high-end producers and only when the economy recovers will the state of the industry improve.
“Wine farms should expand into wine tourism, for which there is a large market in South Africa, to help promote the industry and generate income, as well as focus on educating people about winemaking and the science behind it,” De Villiers notes.
She says wine is a culture and wine producers enjoy educating people about it and promoting drinking it responsibly.
“To survive, wine farms need to produce wine of excellent quality. However, the nutrients and chemicals used in grape production and labour costs have become more expensive, which makes it difficult to produce good-quality wine at a profit.
“For example, in 2001, we were paid R7 000/t of red grapes. Currently, we get less than that and it is 12 years later,” De Villiers points out.
She further notes that, to cut costs, producers try to prune vines in a way that produces more grapes; however, as soon as the focus shifts to quantity, the quality of the grapes plummet.
“Wine producers are considering mechanisation, as labour comprises 41% of their total expenses each year. The higher the cost of labour, the harder it is to maintain the quality of the grapes.
“Klein Roosboom tries to maintain the quality of its grapes because once you start producing grapes of varying quality, it is difficult to return to the market as a reputable wine producer,” she notes.
Winemakers’ biggest potential for growth, notes De Villiers, lies in diversifying their businesses.
“They should open tasting rooms, restaurants and bed and breakfasts to attract people to their farms. There are few winemakers who can still survive by producing grapes alone,” she states.
Meanwhile, De Villiers believes that the Control of Marketing of Alcohol Beverages Bill will not affect the country’s wine industry at all.
“The only major facet it will affect is the sponsorship of events. If you look in magazines and listen to the radio, there are not many advertisements that promote wine. Wine is a culture that people decide to join. People at the high-end of the market are not really influenced by advertising,” she says.
De Villiers adds that wine producers, such as Nederburg, which sponsors the reality cooking television programme, Master Chef South Africa, will most likely be influenced, but smaller wine farms and boutique wine farms will not.
Sauvignon Blanc Festival
The Sauvignon Blanc festival was held in Durbanville, in the Western Cape, last month and Klein Roosboom was one of the 12 farms that participated in the three-day event.
De Villiers explains that the festival was started 12 years ago by the Durbanville Wine Valley Association and includes all the farms that produce wine grapes in the Durbanville area.
“The entire weekend is dedicated to celebrate the new vintage of Sauvignon Blanc. Every participating farm has its own theme and way of running the festival for that weekend,” she says.
Since Klein Roosboom joined the festival and the Durbanville Wine Valley Association, the farm has registered an increase in sales.
“The festival draws new people to the farm – they become friends, family and followers of the wine and the farm.
“In 2014, the farm will be 300 years old and we are planning a large celebration, where we will celebrate the farm’s French heritage. We plan to build a small Eiffel Tower, which we will put up in winter. It will be illuminated at night to start drawing attention to the celebration,” she concludes.