Monday, December 6, 2010

Pioneering towards more Corruption??!!!

After all the "feedback" that i received since my blog about Platter, i thought it would be a good idea to steer away fom wine for a bit. I dont want you guys to think i'm overly negative about the industry, because i am NOT, but there needs to be some 'tuning'. Anyway, so a while back some big companies were fined for fixing prices on bread and milk, i dont know the exact amount but R500mil rings a bell. So what's going to happen with this money and where does it actually go to? Excuse my ignorance or lack of information regarding this, but i wonder who actually knows where this money is going to. Let's say it is going into government pockets, what do they do with the money and how will the end consumer see any benefit from this?

My thoughts on this:
If they are fined R500mil then they must give back R500mil to the consumer who was over charged for many years and now STILL pays that inflated price! Use the monetary value and get the companies to discount the price of bread and milk UNTIL R500mil has been given back to the consumer. For instance: currently a bread cost R10, they should drop the price with 20% to R8 per loaf. This is a R2 saving which means for every 100000 loafs of bread they sell, R200000 will go off against the fine. Does this make sense? This accumulates over time until they reach R500mill WITH interest.When this day come they will have to be monitored regularly to manage inflation based increases of these products. Do you think that this is a fair option? Without going into it in too much detail it just seems right that us as consumers should benefit from this fine the most and the money shouldn't be used for anything else in SA.

Just imagine Consol, biggest and basically only glass supplier to the wine industry, goes and inflate prices per bottle...who is going to suffer most??

If any of you have other ideas about this topic, please let me know. It will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

Next time i will make it a bit more wine orientated, promise!!

Thanks for reading.

Colyn Truter
Twitter: colyntruter

Monday, November 22, 2010

Platter dont taste good!!!

After all the media hype and discussions about the new 2011 Platter Wine GUIDE and all the “amazing” 5-Star wines that they have selected this year I am going to write something I might regret, maybe shouldn’t do but have felt about writing for about 6 years since joining the wine industry. So in the spirit of all the Gibbs controversy I am also going to take a leap and give you my opinion (not the Burger Family from Rietvallei Estate) on Platter and why this “GUIDE”, yes GUIDE, is NOT good enough for such a competitive industry.

The Platter Guide (PG) is still, after so many years, so regional and Wine of Origin (WO) driven that it is not showing the wonderful wines from the Cape Winelands, but rather being so biased to certain producers and regions its worrying. Yes it is a sighted tasting and there have been so many discussions about sighted or blind tasting, but can none of these judges still taste the wines on merit?? I mean is it so difficult to use your ‘wine knowledge’, because that’s why you were appointed and chosen to be a judge, and judge the wine on merit and not where its from or by who it is produced?

NO consistency:
For some producers it is ONLY the consistency in ratings and not necessarily the wine. How can a producer keep scoring the same ratings every single vintage or maybe even a half star better than the previous one??? Then some people talk about this vintage being so tough, last vintage being amazing but the wines score the same. Wow, so South Africa doesn’t have vintage variations it seems??…or mainly on this side of the mountain I should say. By this side I mean Cape Town’s side of the Du Toitskloof Pass. It must be very difficult when you see the label in front of you and think, “geesh, I can’t give this wine less than 4*, I mean look who is the producer”. So the way I see it, if your Cab Sauv has scored 4.5* and you are located in the preferred Wine of Origin(WO) then you will have to put balsamic vinegar in the next vintage to score less than 4* in the following years guide. We bottled Wines for someone with their own brand, the same wine was rated 3.5* and 4 * in this new issue under different labels, interesting isnt it??

If anyone can come to me and say that this doesn’t play a role in the amount of stars you get awarded for your wines then I say bulls#@t. If your winery is situated in the preferred WO then you already have 2*, now all you need is a decent label, decent name and half good wine to get the other 2*, in total: 2*+2* = 4*
Half the problem here is that if the tasters go and have a look at the WO on the label of the specific wine it will probably (not always but a very good chance) state WO Western Cape!! Why, because they bought in grapes or wine to lift the quality and volume of what they can produce. This is why I have been so vocal and adamant about what an Estate Wine actually is and how tough it is to make sure that each vintage that you bottle is on par. There is a huge divide in the industry about WO and where your brand is located and this is hopefully changing with young, more open minded winemakers entering the industry. Unfortunately Platter will not change in the same way.   

Softening the Judges:
Call it what you like but this is also a huge issue. Some producers being able to spoil their judge before the actual tasting of their wines for PG starts and in some instances the judges actually go to the winery to taste. No need to submit samples we will come to you or wait, why don’t we do dinner Saturday and we can chat about the wines you are submitting this year. Is this fair? NO, not according to me, because this is where the mind games start. If you think I am making this up, think again, all these things and more are happening except few will admit it. Bribery is what they call it in certain places.

Why am I saying all this?
The industry needs to be educated by something like Platter not “played” by it. There is NOTHING fair in Platter, but they expect producers to walk into a client who doesn’t really know anything about wine but believes that Platter will be his Magic 8-ball to see whether he can list this wine. Only to find that it is 3 stars…”sorry man but I only want 4 star Wines on my wine list”? Now how do I convince this guy other than telling him that Platter is a glorified telephone directory with info about the producers and maps to see where each producer is situated and the ratings are not worth the paper it’s printed on. A person once came to my stand to taste our Esteanna 2007 that scored 4 Stars, but I told him to forget about Platter rating, taste the wine and tell me what you think…he bought it because he learned more about the wine, where we are and what we do. At least I could tell one person NOT to trust in Platter, but I can only hope that more people will also do that. OH and before I forget, there was a wine rated in the 2011 Platter that we don’t even do anymore and didn’t submit samples, can someone tell me how that works?

It sounds like Sour Grapes hey? Damn right, because I know the quality of producers outside of Stellenbosch, Durbanville and Paarl and of places that the industry used to see as the factory of their brands and quite frankly will never talk about Top Quality coming from these regions, because guess what, that’s where they get all their wines from and if they were to compliment the wines then they will have to pay more next year and that isn’t clever business practice is it?
For some time now i have wondered, what if i dont submit any of my wines to Platter for tasting but just list all my details and wines that we do while stating, Not Tasted. Do you think we will lose listings or sales if we dont have a Platter rating?  

I am asking anyone reading this blog to reply to me and inform me of ANY natural, dry wine, (not dessert of fortified) that has received 5 Stars in Platter from the Robertson Wine Valley in the history of Platter.
Unfortunately I cannot confirm any so please help me with this and I am open to anyone that can inform me of any 5 Star Wines from the “other side of the mountain”.

Thanks for reading, I hope i didnt shock you too much.

Colyn The Leg Truter
Twitter:  colyntruter

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Wine Advertising should change!! Part 1

How many people think that Sport Supporters only drink beer and spirits? How many of you think that of rugby, soccer and cricket supporters?? If you do, then I disagree with all of you. The CEO down to a cleaner in a company all support sport and most of the times even the same team. They watch exactly the same match on TV and see the same advertisements or Ad-Scrolls in the stadium. So, in sport you do cover most LSM groups don’t you? The one thing that has been a great interest of mine has always been customer behaviour and brand recognition/building. Marketers get bombarded with magazine, websites, programs etc etc every week to advertise in their publications and how beneficial it will be for your brand because the publication targets LSM 8-10?? Personally I think it is mostly a waist of money.

Now think of this…what LSM’s support sport and let’s use rugby as an example? I honestly don’t think that it is just a certain LSM group and I don’t think that it you can quantify it that way. South Africa has seen first hand how sport can unite people, bring cultures together and break barriers that were almost impossible before. Did you also see the growth of black supporters in the stands at Loftus Versfeld after their Super 14 games in Soweto?? Did you see that for a VERY AFRIKAANS team and culture within the Bulls they have broken down walls that have been there before! Now they have built up a loyal and interested black supporters base that would never have been there if they didn’t take that opportunity to go to Soweto earlier this year. Whether you like the Bulls or not, they have done an amazing job and although the IRB and SARU keep talking about taking the game to the people, you can’t do any better than what the Bulls have done. They converted supporters!!!
What am I getting at? Well, why can’t the wine industry break down these barriers that we have surrounding us. Wine, the ultimate rich man’s drink, made for occasional drinking and not ‘partying’, a sophisticated drink for the discerning consumer. I say bull-dust!!! If the wine industry really wants to sell more wine, if they want to create a new market segment and grow a loyal customer base then we have to be more adventurous, climb out of our shell and make use of the opportunities that is right in front of us and go to “Soccer City”. (This is an example and I am not at all referring to the black diamonds/black market here, I am referring to it as the NON-Wine drinking public=”soccer city”)

We have so much to offer, more than the whisky’s and brandies of the world. In wine you have an offering of white and dry, off-dry, semi-sweet, natural sweet, red with all these tastes and on top of that even a sweet dessert wine!! Now correct me if I am wrong, but no brandy or whisky distiller has this offering?? You do or you don’t drink whisky, point! So what are our challenges? Make wine more accessible to the consumer, make it OK to drink wine at any occasion, make it OK to drink sweeter rather than drier and make it OK to put some ice in your red or white wine.
Any whisky brand has a young, easy drinking whisky that is made to enjoy with a mixer and ice, then they have a mid range, maybe a 5-10 year that is made to savour a bit more, but can still be mixed with water/soda and then for the connoisseur and real fundi of whisky they have the 20-30 year old whisky that only a small amount of people can buy and will enjoy. The majority of whisky drinkers buy the young cheaper style that they can enjoy every night and then for the special occasion they might open a very old one to have after a meal. The same goes for the brandy/cognac companies that has the same offering.

On the wine side we (the industry) have exactly the same offering: Our John B range for the consumer who drinks a glass every day, doesn’t want to spend to much but enjoys a good glass of wine. We have the Classic Estate Range that is enjoyed by people looking for something a bit more serious, still not too expensive but enjoyable on its own or with a meal. Then we round it off with our Special Select Range which is made in smaller quantities, made to age really well and aimed at the wine connoisseur and someone enjoying a rare and special wine. Can you see the similarity?? For the first time in many years you can buy two bottles of good quality wine for less than twelve beers. Isn’t this a wonderful opportunity for us? Now why do we always advertise wine as this really special product that should only be enjoyed at certain times and by people driving Jaguar’s?? The Spirit and Beer guys have done a sterling job in drawing consumers to their brands across the spectrum of what they have to offer. I really think that it is time for our wine marketers/advertising companies to open our eyes and start to be different, change people’s perception on how to enjoy wine. Don’t think out the box, think outside the glass!!!!

Follow me on twitter: colyntruter

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What is an Estate Wine actually???

In recent times I have come across so many people talking about wine brands as "Estate Wine" and basically referring to any wine as an Estate product...which it is NOT.

So what classifies a wine to be bottled as an Estate Wine?

“All the vineyards have to be on the same land that the wine cellar is built, bordering the cellar and other vineyards with no separation. Only the grapes from these vineyards can be used to be bottled under an Estate Wine Label i.e if you own a property 1km away that does not border the vineyards and cellar on your Estate then these grapes can not be used as Estate Wine. ALL THE PROCESSES OF WINEMAKING needs to take place ON the Estate and in your Cellar. You are not allowed to move the wine from the Estate and then bring it back onto the property at any time. This means that the growing, making, maturing and bottling of an Estate Wine needs to take place on the Wine Estate property”  

It might sound very confusing, but it is actually very simple and the Wine and Spirits Board is very strict with this legislation. When you buy a bottle of wine again, please have a look at the “Wine of Origin”, if it states “Wine of Origin Western Cape or Coastal Region” then you know that some of these grapes or wine was brought in from outside of the wine region. It can still be “Wine of Origin Robertson” if I bring in grapes or wine from within my wine region, but it cannot be Estate Wine then.

There is a lot of old wineries that used to be Estate’s but after being bought up by bigger companies and conglomerates it has only become Wine Brands like any other because they source their wines and grapes from elsewhere and don’t grow all of it themselves. South Africa does have some strict laws when it comes to how we grow, make and bottle wine but this is one term that has become extremely generalised. Hopefully this will also make you realise that an Estate producer is limited by each vintage in terms of what the vintage gives them. If the quality or volume is down then they have to make work with what they got. They cannot suddenly buy in wine or grapes from elsewhere to make the vintage a bit better. Therefore the Estate producers are under more pressure to compete on a global stage with brands that are sourcing their wines from all over the Cape Winelands,
This definitely differentiates an Estate Wine from a normal wine brand and shows the uniqueness and efforts that has been put in to make each vintage consistent and of Top Quality. The other reality the industry face is that some brands are very strong no matter if they are an Estate or not and the consumer doesn’t always understand the dynamics of what I just mentioned and quite frankly i think a lot of people in the industry doesn't either. But what does Estate Owners do to communicate that to the consumers?? I can only hope that at each opportunity they get they inform them of what it actually took to produce the bottle of wine that they just tasted.

Having Estate Wines are probably the closest that South Africa will get to the French Appelations, Left and Right Banks and whatever else. To me as an Estate Wine producer it does make a huge difference in the market place because not only am I competing with huge wine companies but this is also our only bread and butter!!! So next time you shop around…have a look at what the label says.

The Leg...

Monday, October 25, 2010

Why is Wine X in JHB so much better than in Cape Town??

This week will be the first time in i think 5 years that we, Rietvallei Estate, will have a stand at the Wine X in JHB. Why? Because since 2009 we have completed our Special Select Range of Wines and we do need the exposure for these wines. Is a show like Wine X the place to do this? It definitely has debates for a yes and no answer, but i wanted to take a chance this year and see what the Wine X in JHB is all about and according to many sales figures, the people do buy wine at the show. Besides the fact that consumers in Gauteng has a lot more spending money than anywhere else in South Africa, why is the Wine X in Sandton so much better than in Cape Town??

Easy, people in CT are too spoilt for choice for 12 months of the year and this includes the Trade as well as the normal consumer. The restaurateur in Cape Town is bombarded with wine farms trying to spoil them, sending samples, big lunch or dinners and a trip to the winery which is sometimes only 20minutes away. During the year each wine farm tries his best to build relationships and grow business through direct and personal contact with establishments which isnt as easy to do in Gauteng or Durban or anywhere else. However, there is also a snobism factor in CT which there isnt necessarily in Gauteng. This part of the business is most frustating because the Trade does not want to give smaller, newer and lesser known brands the opportunity to be listed in their shop or restaurant.

I will go as far as to say that the Trade are more snobbish than the consumers, who are actually more willing to experiment and try out new wines and producers. They could so easily have a wine list of wonderful Gems that few people might have seen, but NO they want the "big, expensive" names on their list. Including this is also the fact that there are just soo many wine festivals in and around the Western Cape that the Wine X in Cape Town has just become another 'drinking spree' and unfortunately it isnt on a wine farm, but in a big old hall!!! People want to drive out to Darling, Robertson or Breede Kloof to see where the wines are actually made while relaxing with a bottle of wine in the stunning Cape Winelands and Constantia, Durbanville and Stellenbosch is on their doorstep anyway. So the "special price" that they have for the wines at the show is not going to convince me to buy it if i can get the wines year round anyway.

In short this is why i think Wine Shows have become a bit too much in recent years in the Western Cape, but i am very excited to see what Wine X Sandton has in store this week...Wednesday-Friday, Sandton Convention Centre here we come.

Stay Classy...

First Blog for The Leg...send this to all your friends and interested wine people

Dear All,

This is my first blog and something that i have been wanting to do for so long to discuss and chat about the South African Wine Industry, but sometimes also some everyday stuff that we encounter.. Hopefully i will be able to send you interesting news and ideas regularly without being a pain in the ass.

This blog is for me to be as honest as possible and share my feelings and thoughts about the SA Wine Industry and how we can make it better and learn from other's mistakes. So, i am excited and look forward to hear your thoughts and opinions as well...

Chat soon..

Colyn The Leg Truter