Go south: Wines of the Beautiful South previewed

04 September, 2014

The Wines of the Beautiful South tasting is back after its inaugural event last year. Organisers Wines of South Africa, Wines of Chile and Wines of Argentina share their plans.

Jo Wehring, UK market manager, Wines of South Africa

What are you expecting from the Beautiful South this year?

We’re expecting a really buzzy and vibrant event. We have a fantastic range of producers, from South Africa’s major wine companies to small, boutique guys making parcels of incredible wine. Buyers attending will see a thoroughly comprehensive range from South Africa. We aim to increase the visitors from the independent sector and have created the Off Licence News Lounge to give these buyers an exclusive experience.

Is the tasting still relevant now that the London Wine Fair has been revitalised?

Wines of South Africa had a small generic presence at the London Wine Fair and plenty of South African producers on its importers’ stands, but for Wines of the Beautiful South we have 124 South African producers exhibiting. This is where visitors get the chance to really see what’s happening in the South African wine industry and have time to focus on the country. September is a good time to run a southern hemisphere tasting as it gives the wineries the ability to show new wines that are largely not ready earlier in the year.

What changes will we see from last year’s event?

We’ve introduced a lot of new elements to improve the visitor experience this year. The tasting is presented completely differently to solve any issues around navigation. Tables are grouped in “country islands” that will clearly show which of the three countries the producers are from. Improved signage and a colour-coded floorplan will also help visitors around the tasting. We’re also inviting all attendees to take part in creating a Wines of the Beautiful South cork wall. This tasting is all about collaboration and the creation of the cork wall, over two days, captures that spirit. Its development will be tracked using time-lapse photography to create a short film for release after the event.

What is new from South Africa?

Wines of the Beautiful South will showcase the excitement that exists around the South African category at the moment. There are many new wines and new producers throughout the event and visitors will be able to see why so many commentators are saying that South Africa is the most exciting New World wine producer.

How is South Africa doing in the UK off-trade?

South Africa is putting in a strong performance in the UK and seeing good growth. Sales were up 14% by volume and 16% by value in the year to April 26, according to Nielsen. At multiple grocer level there’s great quality going into premium own-label and exclusive ranges and good performances from the major brands. Where we’re seeing perception of South Africa really shifting is at the premium level, as the country gains greater recognition for high-quality wines from producers selling at the mid to top end. This is being reflected in the enthusiasm for South Africa in the independent merchants.

What are your plans for the UK off-trade over the coming year?

We are currently running an innovative social media campaign called South African Wine Vine, encouraging UK consumers to try South African wines available in the off-trade and share their experiences with us via the website. We ask for fun feedback on the wines, where people drank them and who they were with – not stuffy tasting notes. Next year sees the return of Cape Wine in South Africa, viewed as one of the best international wine exhibitions, and in the UK we will be repeating our South African consumer fair, Wozani.

Anita Jackson, UK director, Wines of Chile

What are you expecting from the Beautiful South this year?

Collectively as Wines of the Beautiful South we are expecting this year’s event to eclipse last year’s. We have listened to comments from last year and will be delivering a slicker event. Our goal is to see an increase in visitors, especially from the independent wine merchant sector, but also from visitors attending both days, not just one. For Chile our goal is to meet all trade guests, showcase the 2014 vintage, the innovations happening and change the perceptions of the Chile sceptics.

Is the tasting still relevant now that the London Wine Fair has been revitalised?

While the LWF was very positive this year, Chile had a small generic stand, and only a few wineries were in attendance on their importer stands. The fair was widely spread out so not all of the wineries attending would have been visited. Wines of the Beautiful South is totally focused on three countries, and a manageable size for a two-day event. The 2014 wines are now available and will be on taste.

What changes will we see from last year’s event?

Rather than having tables laid out horizontally across the room, which almost acted as a barrier for guests on arrival, there will be country islands that are situated vertically in the room. And instead of classroom- style seminars we are holding winemaker sessions each day, where guests can speak and taste with winemakers on selected topics.

What is new from Chile?

Boundaries are being pushed. Ventisquero has a Pinot Noir from even further north than Elqui – a region called Huasco. There will be more blends such as VSC Assemblage from Santa Carolina, which is Petit Verdot-dominant, and Clos de Lolol Blanco from Hacienda Araucano, which is Francois Lurton’s Chilean winery in Colchagua. Cinsault is the new buzz grape variety – several wineries are showcasing their wines made from this grape, sourced from Itata in the south of Chile. Quite a few wineries are making wines from País, the grape brought to Chile by the conquistadores in the 16th century. It seems quite adaptable, making sparkling wines or carbonic macerated wines that challenge good Beaujolais wines, or a more full-bodied style with luscious fruit characters. There are also some funky Rhône-style wines on offer.

How is Chile doing in the UK off-trade?

Chile is still performing well – seventh by volume and value in the UK based on Wine & Spirit Trade Association statistics for June 2014, and the average price for Chile is currently £5.28. Over the past two years all key buyers from all of the multiple grocers – and Majestic, the Wine Society and Stone, Vine & Sun – have visited Chile for a buying trip with a view to extending or reviewing their Chilean ranges, which is a huge commitment to the category.

What are your plans for the UK off-trade over the coming year?

Education is key in 2015. Chile has evolved dramatically over the past 10 years. Some of the trade are still stuck with only looking to Chile for entry-level wines and are not even aware of this unique country’s potential and the diversity of its regions.

Andrew Maidment, Europe & Asia director, Wines of Argentina

What are you expecting from the Beautiful South this year?

I’m hoping we build on the success of last year. I would like to see more people from the on-trade coming, and we have focused heavily on the OLN bursary for independents. There are a lot of new wineries looking for representation coming over. I hope we get enough people looking for new wineries so these guys can get a foothold in the UK market. We are also targeting people from Europe. We are seeing major buyers from the Netherlands and Scandinavia coming over, and we would like the event to become seen as the best chance in Europe to try the biggest range of wines from these southern hemisphere countries.

Is the tasting still relevant now that the London Wine Fair has been revitalised?

The LWF did a great job this year – new life has been breathed into it. Our tasting is still relevant because it is focused specifically on these three countries. There is no better place to try a large range of wines from these three countries than at this tasting.

What changes will we see from last year’s event?

We got a lot of feedback after last year’s event and have worked hard to address some of the comments. One thing is breathing life into the room, which is big and white like a blank canvas. We have an area called Festival of the South in the middle of the room, bringing it to life in a more festivally-relaxed way. We have country islands of eight wineries per island, with different colours for different countries. But we didn’t want to go as far as having separate areas for each country – the whole point is that this is a collaboration.

What is new from Argentina?

There will be a host of new wineries coming along from Argentina who weren’t there last year. On those tables you are going to see some interesting wines and themes coming out of developments in the Argentinian wine industry. On some tables you will see less Malbec and more things such as Cabernet Franc, a bit more diversity from Argentina.

How is Argentina doing in the UK off-trade?

In the 12 months to April 26 Argentinian wine sales grew 21% by volume and 24% by value according to Nielsen figures in the WSTA Market Report. The previous year we were up between 10% and 15%. We have been growing strongly and I would love to think that in the not too distant future Argentina could overtake Germany. Argentina is a bit more expensive than some of our competitor countries, and that is good for retailers because customers of Argentinian wine are willing to pay a bit more. They are also a bit younger, according to some research we did with Kantar Worldpanel. The one area of the off-trade where we under-index is the convenience sector. On average the convenience sector accounts for 13% of the wine sector’s sales, but only 7% of Argentina, which is odd because it also has a younger demographic. It fits more with the convenience sector than a lot of our competitor countries so this is a potential growth area for us in the future.

What are your plans for the UK off-trade over the coming year?

We are starting to work with some parts of the sector – independents for example – to look at what will be the next hit after Malbec. It becomes even more important when you see how well the likes of Majestic are doing with Malbec. We need to have a good promotional strategy for what comes next. We will also continue our promotional work with independents, Majestic and Tesco, and with our consumer-driven angle, with events specifically targeting a younger, slightly trend-setting demographic.

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