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Generics respond to the pandemic: Wines of South Africa

Published:  23 April, 2020

In the fifth of our series on responses by the generics to the Covid-19 pandemic, Andrew Catchpole talks to Jo Wehring, gin aficionado and UK market manager, WoSA.

What does work look like during lockdown?

We are still up and running. Claudia Pritchard, PR manager, is on maternity leave but I am working from home, mainly Monday to Thursday.

The main focus has been communicating to the UK importers and trade press the situation in South Africa with regard to banned exports and production, answering queries and trying to ensure that clear factual information is shared with the trade.

We are also feeding back to producers, via our quarterly report, the current situation in the UK market. We have been revising budgets to ensure that we have sufficient funding and adapting our plans to accommodate the changes brought about by Covid-19.

In terms of planned events, initiatives and campaigns, what have you shifted and to when?

We have to be very cautious about committing any funds at this point, so have not booked a venue for our main UK trade tasting on 17 September – as a result we are not selling space to producers or importers yet. We do hope to be able to run a tasting but we’re not committing to the scale until we are certain that events will be able to take place.

We have The South African Wine Festival planned for 14 to 20 September (with the trade tasting as part of that). Again, our plan is that this will go ahead but details of the events and activity will have to be assessed closer to the time.

What other initiatives or new strategies might we see as we emerge post lockdown?

Our hope is to be able to run the planned activity, The South African Wine Festival, but perhaps with some changes to the activities. If necessary we can place greater emphasis on on-line activity. We hope to be able to support the independent wine merchants in promoting South Africa at that time. We have been trying to highlight South African wines available in UK retailers via social media, especially where there are any promotions, so we ask the trade to tag us if there’s anything we can share.

Do you foresee any changes with regard to how the producers you represent might approach this market post the pandemic?

Many producers have taken to social media to run virtual tastings and events, which seems to have really lifted the awareness of our winemakers. It also gives new content for education. I expect we’ll see much more of that, even when the need is lessened.

We are aware that the situation for South African wines is tough right now. We have a great quality harvest just in but so many challenges around getting wines to the key export markets. At present we are still unable to export wines.

We may have a lot of work to do post-pandemic but we believe South Africa will come back fighting. We hope that the fantastic image that has been built for our wines, especially in markets such as the UK, will help us. There is such a lot of passion for South Africa in the UK wine trade, our producers will be looking for any opportunities to engage with consumers and keep telling their wonderful stories.