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WOSA Mega Tasting in London set to turn international wine fraternity on its head

WOSA Mega Tasting in London set to turn international wine fraternity on it's head 11 October 2005 by De Kock Communications

In a bold and decisive move, the South African wine industry is spending an estimated R7m to attend the showcase of country's wines in London this week, when several hundred wine buyers from the UK, Europe and North America are expected to converge on the trendy Old Billingsgate venue abutting the River Thames for the debut Mega Tasting exhibition co-ordinated by Wines of South Africa (WOSA).

In addition to an extensive sampling of wines from all South Africa's winegrowing regions, delegates will be treated to traditional South Africa fare, served in picnic boxes in a dramatic and lively departure from the more conventional sniff-and-spit trade tastings usually held for the international wine fraternity. And instead of bleak lines of trestle-tables, the exhibition venue will be richly decorated with indigenous Cape flora and giant-sized photographs of fynbos and other local plants.

The two-day exhibition on October 11 and 12 will feature over 280 South African producers, in what is probably the very biggest national generic tasting ever staged off-shore by a wine-producing country. "The enormous producer support from big and small wineries, corporates, co-operatives, independent boutique producers and garagistes, is a clear indication of the strong sense of unity and common purpose evident within the local wine industry," says WOSA CEO Su Birch.

"And it's being matched by widespread interest from the international wine trade. We have hundreds of bookings, not only from the UK, still the biggest wine market in the world in terms of spend, but also from across Europe, as well as from North America, Australia, India, Korea and even from African countries like Ghana and Lesotho. In addition to specialty wine shop and supermarket buyers, sommeliers, restaurateurs and wine writers, there's also a group of 60 hospitality students from Belgium who are coming to find out what all the excitement is about."

WOSA and the Department of Trade and Industry are together funding the participation of 12 BEE wineries in the October Mega Tasting. "We want as many players as possible to be part of this ground-breaking exhibition, and we are delighted by this strong presence of new vintners" she says.

"After a decade spent building recognition and respect in the global wine arena, South Africa is entering a new phase of development, one that reflects a greater maturity and confidence. We are holding our own in the UK with just under 10% share of the market in terms of value and volume and we continue to strengthen our position in countries like Sweden, Germany, Canada and the US but we have to work smarter and harder to keep on growing exports, particularly in value.

"By forming a united front, we have been able to find our collective voice and establish a unique positioning, based on the competitive advantage afforded by the abundant biodiversity of the Cape's winegrowing areas that makes for a rich variety of wines and wine styles."

"We are highlighting this diversity at the Mega Tasting, which replaces the conventional roadshow of smaller exhibitions taken across Europe, with a single, and what we hope will be a powerfully dramatic event designed to attract trade from right across Europe.

"We'll be arranging producers according to region instead of by importing agents as is usually done, to draw attention to the impact of location on the rich range of wine styles made at the Cape. The actual and photographic floral displays will further focus on the Cape's biodiversity, as will themed tastings of, for example, dessert wines, Pinotage, Chenin Blanc, wines created for on-consumption outlets and so on, each designed to underscore the enormous range and scope made possible by our wine-growing conditions.

"We are taking an audacious step and a calculated risk, but if we want to stand out in an international trading environment characterised by a global wine glut and a homogeneity of offerings, then we have to show ourselves to be a niched wine-producing country well positioned to offer interesting, exciting and different wines that are distinctly South African.

Birch says the new Brand South Africa positioning is not intended as a once-off initiative and will take time to be sufficiently widely understood by the market, with WOSA planning a series of activities and events to develop the messages conveyed at the Mega Tasting. "Biodiversity will be the hallmark of all our communications, from advertising campaigns, videos and brochures to events we host.



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