South African Wine Product Development and Branding Industry Guide

The South African wine industry had its small beginnings after Jan van Riebeeck arrived at the tip of Africa. First Constantia and later the Western Cape regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek started planting and later harvesting the wine that would become the famous wines of today. It was however only after international markets opened that South African wines really started to develop. During 1973 the WO (Wine of Origin) was implemented and about 60 geographical regions were demarcated within that system. The WO wines had to be produced with the grapes from a designated region only while the wines from “single vineyards” have to be harvested from 5 hectares of land or less. “Estate wines” need not be restricted to one farm only but can include grapes from farms adjacent to the estate in question. These grapes should be farmed together though and the wine made on site.

It is difficult to understand that there was a time when wine had to be destroyed due to lack of use and popularity. At the beginning of the twentieth century so many vineyards have been established that it created an oversupply and wine was poured into streams and lakes. To prevent this from happening again the government of the time formed the Koöperatieve Wijnbouwers Vereniging van Zuid-Afrika Bpkt (KWV), this was in 1918. Eventually the KWV could set prices and policies for the whole country and introduce minimum prices as required; they would also restrict yields when necessary. Because wine production was restricted the farmers and producers started making fortified wines and brandy.

As a result of boycotts, the South African wines did not initially make headway in the world markets but that changed during 1980/1990 after which new technology had to be adopted to comply with the requirements of that market segment. New winemaking methods were introduced and winemakers from overseas came to South Africa to provide much needed input. Grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Chardonnay found favour with farmers then and farmers started producing a higher quality of wine. By 1990 only 30% of grapes went into wine while the balance were used to produce brandy, made into juice or sold in the market place. By 2003 the numbers were reversed with 70% going into wine.

When a vineyard decides on a brand, they should keep things in mind such as their logo, the font and palette. More over they should remember that the brand must reflect abstract concepts; tone and emotion, and look and feel – this means that you must know what your brand stands for. One way that farmers and other winemakers can advertise their brands is by the way of exhibitions and there are plenty of them. This is an opportunity to reach out to new customers and to create sales. When you exhibit at a wine show for instance, see it as a chance to reflect the values of your brand in that big creative area.