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First Cape trims range as hard to make 'nice-tasting' low alcohol wines

Published:  08 July, 2014

Brand Phoenix has radically cut its First Cape lighter-style range admitting it's hard to make wines that taste good between 4% and 5.5%.

The company has had a "major change" away from a focus on lower alcohol wines - it had over 30 in its portfolio and now has just six. Managing director Greg Wilkins told that the category has a "natural ceiling" of around 1 million cases and simply wasn't big enough to sustain such a wide range.

"Fundamentally it's about making wines and wine-based products that taste well at between 4% to 5.5% and it's quite difficult to do. That's the reality. It only appeals to a relatively small sector of the market. The wines tend to be sweeter," Wilkins said.

There is currently "no way to replicate that mouth-feel" of a regular wine, he added.

First Cape has radically changed its focus away from lower alcohol winesThe opportunity to sell lower alcohol wines is smaller than initially indicated, says Brand Phoenix MDBrand Phoenix boss Greg Wilkins says the brand has cut its lower alcohol range from over 30 to just six, given the difficulty in making wines at under 5.5% abv that 'taste well'.

Coupled with inconsistencies in merchandising and the absence of any umbrella messaging on health benefits of drinking lighter-style wines, and the category's growth potential was further restricted, Wilkins said.

"All you can do is look at new categories as they open up and put your best foot forward and wait and see if the consumer falls on it. Ultimately for right here, right now, the consumer decided. The consumer is the arbiter."

But, Wilkins added that First Cape is more than happy with the six lighter style wines that remain in its portfolio. "There's a solid core of consumers who like wines from that category."

As for moving the stock on, Wilkins said it sold some lines off, and stopped producing others, but that since it had been planning to scale its lower alcohol listings right back from one year ago, it "had a period of time to manage them out of the business".

First Cape has now returned its focus to standard full-strength wines - and has repackaged its whole range in the last six to seven months.

Wilkins said the firm has gone back to its roots, and is expanding its range of wines available from South African and French giants Distell and Castel. Within the next couple of months these new lines should be available in stores, including an extension to the Nederburg brand.