News / Africa

South Africa Cultivates Wine Market

A couple at the WineX Wine Festival in Sandton samples the red wine from Leopard's Leap, a winery on the Western Cape of South Africa, October 2012. (VOA/Peter Cox)
A couple at the WineX Wine Festival in Sandton samples the red wine from Leopard's Leap, a winery on the Western Cape of South Africa, October 2012. (VOA/Peter Cox)
South Africa is the world's seventh-largest wine-producing country.  As the wine industry has grown, there has been a growing focus on expanding the country's wine-drinking customer base.
Youth appeal

A high-end winery on the Western Cape of South Africa, Stellenzicht, has launched a new wine called Red ESCape.  The bottle label shows a cartoon-like USB cable that runs between computers, modems, grapes, satellite dishes and wine barrels.
Assistant winemaker Natalee Botha says the idea is to appeal to a broader and younger audience.
"We decided to make it more accessible for the public.  Do something funky with the label," she said.

The wine was marketed at the WineX festival in Sandton, a wealthy suburb of Johannesburg.
"It is funny," said Botha. "I had a guy from Sandton last night that told me, 'This is Sandton, honey, something like this is not going to work here.'  And I thought to myself, he has to remember that this whole country is not Sandton."

Black middle class

As South Africa's wine industry matures, Botha says wineries are looking to expand their customer base, trotting out new labels that will appeal to a broader cross-section of the country.

"The whole idea is that I want everyone to drink wine.  I want everyone to perceive wine as something cool.  I do not want people to find wine intimidating," she said.

The general consensus among winemakers is that South Africa's growing black middle class is a market that has been ignored.  But that has been changing.

South Africa's population is 79 percent black, but among wine consumers, that number has been much lower.  According to the All Media and Products Survey in 2006, 53 percent of the country's wine drinkers were black.  In 2010, that had grown to 63 percent.

Afika Fikeni, of Midrand, came out to sample white wines.

"It makes it easy for us to advance and bring more wine into our homes with the type of food we want to have.  Because we are not wine kind of people as black people, really.  It is a great event," said Fikeni.

He said the industry could do a better job of reaching out to black, middle-class consumers.

That's what winemaker Eugene Vanzyl of Leopard's Leap winery is trying to do.

"Obviously there is parts of the population that were not exposed to wine that much," he said. "We do a lot of tastings in areas that were not previously exposed to wine.  We do wine shows in Soweto and things like that."

Vanzyl says it is a growing process.

"I am pleasantly surprised to see the interest of the black consumer," he said. "It is really picking up quite nicely now.  It is a different market, because traditionally they are beer drinkers.  It is a bit of a challenge for us to slowly convince them, but it is becoming an 'in thing.'  That is the way it evolves, eh?"

In 10 years his winery has gone from selling 7,000 cases a year to 1.3 million cases.

Wineries are also finding ways to make their labels stand out on the shelf - hoping to attract novice wine drinkers.

Winemaker Duncan Savage was filling glasses with Splattered Toad Sauvignon Blanc.  The wine is named after a toad near their winery endangered by vehicles on nearby roads.  His bottles are adorned with a cartoon of a flattened toad.  It attracts the eye.  The taste attracts the palate.

"We started at 20,000 bottles in 2009 and in 2012, 300,000," he said. "People have latched onto it.  They absolutely love the concept.  It is quirky, it's fun and it appeals to a market that before we really did not have access to."

Wine aficionados

From 2005 to 2010, wine drinkers in South Africa grew from 1.7 million to three million.

"I walked in here and went to the wines I knew," said wine lover Kavita Chouhan.  "I got stuff that I know.  I do not really want to come try something new.  I know what is good.  If you think about what you drank in varsity, and what you drink now, it is definitely a change."

Chouhan said it has become popular to be serious about wine.

"Being a wine connoisseur has almost become fashionable," she said. "I do not know how many people actually enjoy doing it.  I am like, 'People should enjoy themselves.'  If they are not into wine, they should not be embarrassed to say that."

Winemakers are acknowledging the market for new consumers has great potential.

And Natalee Botha says there is great potential for the new Red ESCape wine her company is marketing.

"We have been thinking a lot about the concept.  And it is actually crazy that we do not think someone has tried it yet," she said. "It is a sleeping giant.  We do not have little plans with this wine."

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

By the Numbers

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?i
Carol Pearson
November 29, 2015 1:23 PM
The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video With HIV, Can We Get to Zero?

The theme of this year's World AIDS Day is "Getting to Zero." The U.N. says new HIV infections have been reduced by 35 percent since 2000 and AIDS-related deaths are down by 42 percent since the peak in 2004. VOA's Carol Pearson takes a look at what it might take to actually have an AIDS-free generation.

Video In Cambodian Capital, Political Motives Seen Behind Canceled Water Festival

For the fourth time in the five years since more than 350 people were killed in a stampede at Cambodia’s annual water festival, authorities canceled the event this year. Officials blamed environmental reasons as the cause, but many see it as fallout from rising political tensions with a fresh wave of ruling party intimidation against the opposition. David Boyle reports from Phnom Penh.

Video African Circus Gives At-Risk Youth a 2nd Chance

Ethiopia hosted the first African Circus Arts Festival this past weekend with performers from seven different African countries. Most of the performers are youngsters coming form challenging backgrounds who say the circus gave them a second chance.

Video US Lawmakers Brace for End-of-Year Battles

U.S. lawmakers are returning to Washington for Congress’ final working weeks of the year. And, as VOA's Michael Bowman reports, a full slate of legislative business awaits them, from keeping the federal government open to resolving a battle with the White House over the admittance of Syrian refugees.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video After Terrorist Attacks, Support for Refugees Fades

The terrorists who killed and injured almost 500 people around Paris this month are mostly French or Belgian nationals. But at least two apparently took advantage of Europe’s migrant crisis to sneak into the region. The discovery has hardened views about legitimate refugees, including those fleeing the same extremist violence that hit the French capital. Lisa Bryant has this report for VOA from the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

As Thailand takes in the annual Loy Krathong festival, many ponder the country’s future and security. Steve Sandford reports from Chiang Mai.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs