Monday, December 04, 2017

Mission Britain - Selling wine to the UK plus two Australian views

Last week we were asked to attend a seminar about Exporting Wine to the UK at Joostenberg and to hear from two prominent Australian wine makers who really surprised us as we learnt how difficult winemaking can be in that country. We were so impressed at how open they were with all the facts and figures and a they gave us a warning about water wars
One of the sponsors of the day was the Shippers Hillebrand. The Pebbles Project is another superb charity raising money for education. They " enrich the lives of disadvantaged children and families in the Winelands farming communities in the Western Cape and impact the lives of children and their families by providing support and intervention in five key areas: Education, Health, Nutrition, Community and Protection"  
Lynne chatting to Christian Eedes of as people take their seats
Lots of young winemakers
Charles Withington of The Darling Wine Shop, who organised this event with Pippa Woods of Seckford Agencies, respected wine importers in the UK
November saw Pippa planning a trip with a difference - bringing world experts in their fields, for their first visit to South Africa to pass on some of their expertise
Judy Kendrick and Ana Sofia de Oliveira from JKMarketing, a leading wine marketing company in the UK
presented a seminar based on their ‘Road Map’ of exporting to the UK
Judy and Ana Sofia gave us information about how costs are distributed in a bottle of wine sold in the UK with the variations across the price range. There is very little profit at the lowest end of the market
and where South Africa stands in relation to other competitors
with a slight improvement in the last quarter
Ana Sofia told the audience how she got into the business, from her origin in Portugal where she worked for ViniPortugal. She set up Wines Unearthed and The Wine Agency in the UK before joining forces with Judy Kendrick at JK Marketing
The audience listening intently
One of the most interesting and concise presentations was Shipping Trends by Marliese Martin, Area Director: Africa, Middle East & India at JF Hillebrand Global Beverage Logistics. She gave important information about shipping costs, pitfalls, insurance and freight. She covered all the necessities in ten minutes. Lynne, who has a diploma in Shipping from her sojourn at Safmarine, does find things like this interesting. She used to ship antiques worldwide when she worked in that trade in London. Not much has changed, just the rates and the jargon. Marliese says that the top three things you need to know about shipping abroad are Incoterms, Risks and the Export process. She warned that you do need to keep up to date with Brexit, things will change. Work with reputable service providers and avoid big fines, don't take shortcuts. The Government needs money and they are looking for it in interesting places
Then it was time to hear from the visiting Australian wine makers and the first presentation was by Anthony Murphy from Trentham Estate in the Murray Darling Region
His family went to Mildura from Ireland in the 1860's. He told us the almost 90% of wine is controlled by the large companies and it did remind us of when KWV and Nederburg held sway before the days of independent wine estates making their own wines rather than selling all their grapes to them. He also told us how they have dealt with years of extreme drought - the 10 year drought began in 2000 and in 2010 they only had 30% of water - sounds familiar. They got through this and now have the best water plan in the world but it took 5 years to operate. 85% of producers are not making money in the drought area. Now water has become an important tradable commodity in Australia. His tanks are outside, barrels inside. They are on the Murray Darling basin, so they have water. The farm was once a sheep station, they have sandy limestone soils. It is run by his brother and one worker, they have cut labour and it is all automated. They farm Chardonnay, Shiraz and Cabernet. They get 130 to 150 mm of rain per annum. To be small is the future as the Corporates control everything - he says with them "It's a race to the bottom. The big firms are putting juice through huge membrane filtration." Australian has gone from 4000 to 2000 growers in 10 years. And he says he avoids Bio label wine, there is no money in it. There is a lot of water trading going on. The farms with are dictating the price and selling to farms without. Table grapes, citrus and almonds are selling better than wine. He says the real cost of producing 12 bottles of wine is A$28.50
Pippa had persuaded her long standing friends, Stephen and Prue Henschke from the Barossa valley in South Australia to join the party. They gave a very interesting presentation. Stephen spoke about the wine making. They trained first in Australia then at Geisenheim in Germany, where many of our top winemakers have also studied. Their Hill of Grace was Australia's wine of the Year in 1987. Henschke is a small farm founded in 1860, making superb top end wines at premium prices from Shiraz vines (on their own roots). The vines originate from pre-phylloxera material which was brought from Europe by the early European settlers. The farm has had 250 years of growing Riesling and Shiraz. There are also small plantings of Riesling, Semillon and Mataro. The oldest vines still producing were planted in the 1860s by Nicolaus Stanitzki. These are called the Grandfathers and are up to and including 100 years old (average age is 80 years) and the cost of production is frightening. As both water and power are limited, they strive to be better rather than bigger
Stephen said they are disappointed with cork; they got the worst quality, screw caps came in and they now use a Vinolok closure and since 1996 the have not used any cork. He says if you are charging $A800 a bottle the wine must not be faulty and must be reliable. They put in a A$1 million bottling line, the first in the southern hemisphere. The average age of their vines is 80 years. Recently they have planted Grüner Veltliner for the future
and Prue talked about the viticulture, which she handles. They try for a sense of place, a flavour of the vineyards. She learnt in Germany how to look after the soil, they have lots of wind and water erosion. She uses pasture grass which is a native wallaby grass, it is hard to grow others. She uses straw coverage under the vines as mulch. They bring in 1000 tons of green waste compost annually and this goes beneath the straw. They also use genetic cuttings from the old vines, layering or replanting

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