Thursday, February 24, 2011

Where is the cool climates of the Cape Winelands?

The temperatures in summer can go well above 40*C in the Cape Winelands. During the last six years, since I started working for Rietvallei Estate, there has always been this stigma/myth about Robertson being too HOT. I finished my last three years of High School in Robertson (not going to give my age away) and my parents lived there till 2006 so I have enough experience about living in the Robertson Valley. Since 1999 I have lived in Stellenbosch, with a two year break in 2003 and 2004 when I played rugby in Canada and New Zealand. So I would say that my point of reference in this topic should be fairly trustworthy from a personal experience point of view.

I realise that the old wine "regime" always had this idea that Robertson was too hot to produce good quality wine and they always made sure it was talked about because they bought a lot of their bulk wine from the Breede River Valley producers (Robertson, Worcester, Rawsonville, Bonnievale, Montagu, Ashton etc). Unfortunately this also transferred into the general consumers mind and even media write about this, because that is what was said. So what do we do with the perception that Robertson is too HOT? Well let's start with this: When people say this, it is as if Paarl, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch and Durbanville (PFSD) are NOT HOT. The way they talk about the heat in Robertson almost sounds like it is the only place that heats up.

My office is in Stellenbosch and I can tell you that the heat definitely didn’t spare anyone anywhere in the Western Cape. Those of you reading this and living in and around PFSD will agree, but the worst of all is that the nights are warm as well which makes for sleep deprivation. I spoke with a couple of Airconditioning companies during January and they were flooded with orders. Even GAME stores in the Western Cape SOLD out of their airconditioner special weeks before it was supposed to end. Do I have a point, you bet I do! Look at these figures from three out of the twelve weather stations in the Robertson Valley: (there is a lot more data available)


Robertson
Bonnievale
La Chasseur
January
Max
Min
Max
Min
Max
Min
4
38.8
16.0
37.8
17.4
39.9
16.8
5
37.5
18.2
36.7
17.1
39.3
20.0
6
38.0
19.5
36.7
19.4
39.7
17.0
7
40.5
15.5
39.4
15.5
41.4
17.1
8
34.8
13.7
33.1
15.3
36.3
16.2
9
31.3
19.6
30.1
19.6
31.6
19.2
12
34.3
13.2
33.7
13.5
35.5
15.1
15
34.0
16.1
32.5
15.3
36.1
15.4
16
32.4
13.2
32.8
13.7
31.9
14.3
18
35.0
18.0
33.8
14.6
37.3
15.5
19
35.8
17.6
34.1
18.6
36.0
17.0
21
31.6
14.0
29.8
15.6
33.5
16.7
24
31.5
14.6
30.3
15.9
32.6
17.2
25
35.0
19.8
34.0
19.5
35.4
19.8
26
33.5
16.7
32.0
16.1
35.1
18.1
28
30.5
15.3
29.6
13.9
31.6
15.0
29
34.4
14.4
33.1
15.0
37.0
18.0
30
30.8
14.5
30.3
15.1
32.6
16.8
31
30.8
16.3
30.1
15.9
32.0
15.1
19
34.24
16.12
33.15
16.16
35.5
16.9

We all remember that first week in January where the temperature soared over 40*C. But look at how cool the nights were in Robertson after a day of sweltering heat. Up to 25*C fluctuations in temperature!!!! During 19 days over 30*C there is an average fluctuation between Max and Min Temperatures of around 18*C. I can tell you that during that first week in January my house was 34*C at 2am for more than one night...and I don’t live in Robertson. Apart from this there was also many days where the Max Temperature was in the low twenties with a day or two around 21*C.

Without going into too much detail in the advantages of these low temperatures at night for the grapes, winemakers and viticulturists I can tell you that it is a huge contributor to the colouring of the grapes. The cooler temperatures also helps the vines to rejuvenate themselves and recover from the day's heat a lot quicker than in warmer temperatures. Very much like a marathon athlete or rugby player that needs an ice bath to help with the recovery of their muscles.

So is Robertson a warm climate producing area?? Sorry but I disagree, even if there was a GAME in Robertson, their airconditioners would not have been sold out, because you can actually sleep at night with only a fan or without it. It is not as if Robertson is 40*C and other regions are 25*C. When it is HOT in the Cape Winelands it is HOT everywhere, but which area cools off the most? There is a lot more data that the weather stations capture, but I wanted to show all of you that the perception of Robertson being too HOT or much HOTTER than the rest is FALSE.

I hope you enjoyed this article…

Take Care

Colyn “The Leg” Truter
Twitter:           colyntruter
                        rietvalleiwines
Email:              colyn@rietvallei.co.za
Facebook:        rietvalleiestate  

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

What to do on a small Marketing Budget...

The month of February is normally very crazy for me, because it is the month I have to finish my planning and hand in my budget for the year. This made me wonder what other Marketing people view as important to their brands, how do they break it down and what effect the economy has had. You must remember that even though I am working for a Family Owned Estate, with NO other means of income other than wine, we have to compete with all the BIG players in the market i.e Distell, DGB etc. I sometimes find myself (without being arrogant about it because I am sure there are lots of you that feel the same) looking at certain brands, not always wine related, wishing I had a little bit of their budget to do it differently and better.

So how does a small operation actually do it?

You have to find ways to reach the consumer other than advertising. Wine is a product that people need to drink, taste and experience. A wonderful Ad campaign in a glossy magazine or on TV is not going to sell me any wine if people have never seen or tasted it before. Sure, if we are talking about a newly launched, mass volume brand, that’s a different story, but I am talking about a small to medium size winery that needs to compete. ANSWER: meet the consumer, talk to the consumer, drink with the consumer and let them hear your story…PUT BOTTLES ON THE TABLE (BOTT). As soon as you have done this you have influenced someone directly. Tasting with the winemaker or owner will make the wine taste 100 times better.

How do you do this? There is so many platforms that you can use these days to get to consumers and sell your wine directly, it is all about where you want to be and who you want to sell to. If you only have 1000x6 of a wine/varietal, you can sell that directly to consumers at various events within the space of a year or less. I am not saying go to every possible wine show…look for something out of the ordinary that is not necessarily wine related.
People want to discover new “gems” of wine. There are people out there that thrive on presenting a new wine to their friends at a dinner or braai. It doesn’t matter if they found it at a winery in the middle of nowhere, if it tastes good and great value they want to show it off. This is the kind of people that will buy cases and not bottles and they are the best marketing/advertising that you will ever have…BOTT.

Give wine away: Working in product is the cheapest way for any brand. I don’t know anyone that will say no to a bottle of FREE wine, do you? The chance of the person drinking that bottle in the near future is very good and his memory of you will stick with him. Plus, they will most probably share it with friends and talk about the wine…Jackpot!! Now of course I am assuming that it is a decent bottle of wine and not plonk J Use your wine to leverage and communicate with people, whether it is a shop that wants a discount or tasting samples or people buying wine from you at a fair or wine show. DON’T DROP YOUR PRICE, GIVE AWAY FREE WINE.

Stay true to who you are and what your brand stands for! If you have a small, old and primitive tasting room, don’t go and build a tasting room that looks like an Art Gallery. It doesn’t suit your brand and it definitely will not suit you. People want to experience your property for what it is and learn about the heritage of it. They don’t always want to stand there and look at mirrors, glass and shiny stuff. Friends of mine in Chicago are huge and loyal supporters of Sullivan Vineyards in Napa, California. Why? Because when they walked onto the property the first time, the tasting room was a small shed, the counter was an old door placed on two barrels and Mr Sullivan presented his wines to them. They will be Sullivan Ambassadors for the rest of their lives.

"Creativity and perfection in all realms of living is what the Sullivans' strive for. We don't stop when we put the brush down, but continue throughout our lives, in winemaking, cooking, in friendships. It creates a mystical essence. That's what we are about."

-Jim Sullivan

Even though this might have been 20-30 years ago, it doesn’t mean that people don’t still want it. I firmly believe that they are all searching for this unique experience that you don’t find anywhere else.
Our tasting room at Rietvallei Estate is an old Water Reservoir that used to supply water to the cellar. It carries the story of the Burger Family inside, gives you the feeling of what the Estate is all about. Most of all it tells the story behind the wines that you are going to taste and that is what we want to have in the first place. A glass, glittering space would not correlate with our heritage and what we stand for.


The Social Media phenomenon: It will go on for some time and I don’t think it is something that’s going to change soon. You have to make yourself aware of what’s happening, how to use it and who is using it. Consumers are getting a lot of recommendations and information from people on Twitter and Facebook and just like certain animals, don’t we all like to follow?

So what am I saying, how do you need to do it?

1.      Meet your consumers and interact with them. They need to hear your story first hand.
2.      You have to try and sell your wine yourself, don’t appoint someone and shift the responsibility. Be in the market as much as possible.
3.      Work with your product rather than discounting your wine.
4.      Put Wine on Tables: A Free bottle of wine on the right table might be the best thing that could’ve happened to you.
5.      There are a lot of new faces in the media/PR and social media sector that reaches large groups of avid wine drinkers and socialites. Expose your product to them…

I am sure there are many other things that you can do that I couldn’t fit in here. Once you have reached the stage when your brand is big enough to use a broader platform of media then you can do it with clever and different campaigns. Dont always think that what the Marketers in the Industry have done in the past is what you need to do. Be different but give the same and correct message. When you are small, new and unknown I suggest work WITH your products rather than spending money on media that will not help you. Currently I am busy with a very exciting idea for our John B Range that might be the first in the wine industry. It is not necessarily going to cost me an arm and a leg, but I really believe that it could be very effective. Stay tuned for more…

Colyn The Leg Truter
Twitter:            colyntruter or/and rietvalleiwines
Email:               colyn@rietvallei.co.za
Facebook:        Rietvallei Estate