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South African wines 'gaining momentum' in UK market

Published:  15 September, 2014

The hard work put into growing the UK market by South African producers is beginning to pay off, but the country still needs to bring prices in line with market, says Wines of South Africa.

Speaking at last week's Beautiful South Tasting in London, which saw hosts of producers from South Africa, Chile and Argentina come together to show their wines at London's Kensington Olympia, Jo Wehring, WOSA's UK market manager, told that "this year has been very exciting for South Africa". "It's the combination of a couple of years of people interested in South Africa - it's gathered enough momentum and we're now getting recognition for our top end wines that we weren't getting seven, eight or nine years ago."

She said the "whole combination of quality, better understanding of vineyard sites and the spirit of nurturing young talent" was giving new life to the category.

Wehring said that such activity wasn't confined to boutique firms, adding that larger companies are creating new branding and labels too. There has also been a "bit of a shift" on the part of independent wine merchants, who are now also achieving success with South Africa. "It's really interesting, as we weren't seeing that historically."

"In the UK we still need to get to a point where our average price is in line with the market. We need to do more at £5 to £7. What's happening at the premium end creates interest in the rest of the category," she added.

As for new trends, Wehring said there were a greater number of Sauvignon Blanc blends, as well as more blending across regions and varietals, as winemakers began to source parcels from different areas. "There's a lot of unexpected, new quirky things in the spirit of the new generation."

Singling out the online sales channel, South Africa has achieved strong growth of more than 20% in the six months to the end of December 2013, according to figures collected from across eight retailers including Tesco Wine By The Case, Majestic, Laithwaites and the Wine Society.

Tim Wilson, managing director of the Wilson Drinks Report, which compiled the data, said: "Online is the only channel showing real growth for still wine at the moment. South African wines did particularly well, especially in the critical Q4 trading period. Argentina are also well up, but at the moment it seems that Chile is missing the online boat, especially in red wine."