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South Africa beckons Aus suppliers

The South African wine industry has asserted itself as a strong global player in the New World market. The South African wine industry is eagerly embracing technology and innovative equipment to help match its global competitors, a point which should be of interest to Australian wine industry suppliers.

Existing Australian suppliers with markets in South Africa are already discovering good prospects in the areas of vineyard, fermentation and cellaring/bottling.

Greg Hull, Senior Trade Commissioner Sub-Sahara Africa for the Australian Trade Commission transferred to Johannesburg in January this year. Hull says there are significant opportunities for supply and indeed closer co-operation between the Australian and South African industries.

“South Africa has tended to look to Europe for wine technology enhancement. However, compared to Australia where the industry is highly concentrated and two or three corporate entities dominate market share, the South African industry is more fragmented. In structural terms, the South African industry could be said to represent the situation in Australia a decade or more ago, dominated by small holdings. The exception is probably KWV, originally a cooperative of growers established in 1918 to help stabilise the South African industry, but now a large listed public entity that dominates the export marketing of wine and brandy from South Africa.”

“The South African grower has traditionally looked to the local market and industry to support them. They have been somewhat protectionist, even parochial, in this regard. That said, today the South African wine industry is finding a renewed vibrancy. The South African Government and others in the industry have activated a range of promotional initiatives. An increasing number of vignerons are extremely international in their outlook; they utilise the latest technology, train staff overseas and are assertive in their marketing outlook. There is a rapidly growing organic and environmental consciousness as well.” Hull added.

There are eight primary wine regions in South Africa, including Worcester, Paarl, Stellenbosch, Malmesbury, Robertson, Olifants River, Orange River and Little Karoo. Areas under vines include non-bearing red vines with 3852ha, with 41,985ha of bearing vines. White non-bearing vines total 8867ha with 47,441ha of white bearing vines.

Hull noted that all types of vineyard and winery mechanical equipment are required; however it is experienced labour that is desperately needed but as elsewhere in the wine world, is expensive, accounting for 43% of annual running expenses. Only 40% of the harvest is harvested mechanically.

“Several wineries are using equipment at the very forefront of technology. A number have cellar door layouts especially oriented around educating the public about wine that would shame Australia!” Hull said.

“Most wineries charge a tasting fee, waived if the visitor purchases. However the bulk of wineries are small holdings, many not even opening to the public. Equipment varies enormously, but on balance the industry is probably not as technologically advanced as in Australia.”

“South African wine could be expected to become increasingly competitive on world markets over the near future, especially given the recent significant depreciation of the rand. Even on the domestic retail market, reasonable quality Chardonnays, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Shiraz can be found at around the $AUD 8–10 price mark (approximately 50–70 rand). Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot and some wooded Chardonnay appear at higher price points. Then finally, there is ‘Pinotage’, a uniquely South African red wine which has many local adherents,” Hull said.

WISA’s on a South African mission Wine Industry Suppliers Australia (WISA) in conjunction with Austrade is planning a trade mission to South Africa later this year to inform the South African wine industry about Australia’s wine technology and supplies. Both Austrade and WISA believe there are good prospects in South Africa and predict the mission could potentially increase business for Australian wine technology suppliers. The mission will assist suppliers in developing initial relationships with potential customers, relevant officials and industry representatives, as well as gaining awareness of the South African market. For more information and to express your interest in the trade mission contact Sylvie Clarke on (08) 8231 2091 or ">w.

This article first appeared in the June issue of Australian & New Zealand Grapegrower & Winemaker — the best-value wine industry trade publication available and the biggest-selling magazine in Australasia.

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