Monday, December 11, 2006
Friday, December 08, 2006
| || |
Wine Enthusiast SELECTS Top 100 Wines of the Year
December 7, 2006— Elmsford, New York – Wine Enthusiast Magazine, one of the world’s most respected and quoted publications in the field of wine and spirits, has named De Loach’s 2004 30th Anniversary Pinot Noir from California’s Russian River region “Wine of the Year” in its December 31st “Best of Year” issue, available this week. The Best of Year issue celebrates the Wine Enthusiast’s Top 100 Wines of 2006 and also recognizes the year’s Top 100 Best Buys, with a Washington State Shiraz as the number one best-buy choice.
Carefully selected by the editors of Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the annual “Best of Year” selections are drawn from the nearly 10,000 wines tasted over the course of 2006 and represents the highest standards in quality, price, availability, newsworthiness, excitement and buzz! The list covers all five major categories of wine: sparkling wines, red and white table wines, fortified wines and dessert wines. Winners this year include wines from 13 different countries of origin. “More and more countries are making top-flight wines, and the 2006 list reflects the great improvements in winemaking that we’re seeing around the world,” said Wine Enthusiast Magazine Tasting Director and Senior Editor, Joe Czerwinski.
The Top 100 Wines of 2006
The Top 100 Wines of 2006 include 56 New World wines and 44 from
Since multiple factors were considered when selecting wines for this prestigious list, not all wines on the Top 100 list are necessarily the highest-scoring wines. Of those featured, the wines that received the three highest scores from the Wine Enthusiast 100-point rating scale were all Cabernet blends from the 2002 vintage in California, including: Sloan Cabernet Blend, Rutherford, unique recipient of 100 points; Rubicon Estate Cabernet Blend and Harlan Estate, Cabernet Blend, Napa Valley, both 99 points. The average score of Top 100 Wines is 94, while the average price of Top 100 Wines is $53, with the median price at $36.
The Top 100 Best Buys of 2006
Less than 1% of all wines tasted over the course of the year make it onto the Wine Enthusiast Magazine’s Best Buy list. Wines designated as the Top 100 Best Buys of 2006 have wine-rating scores of 85 points or higher of the 100-point scale and generally have a suggested retail price of $15 or below. The grand winner this year was Columbia Crest’s Grand Estate Shiraz from
Of the top 100 Best Buys, 52 wines are from the New World while 48 are
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
Sunday, October 29, 2006
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
More good news!
The results are in for the Challenge International Du Vin 2006.
The Challenge International du Vin is the biggest French international wine competition with over 30 countries entering and 5000 wineries entering.
South Africa received 5 medals, of those, Warwick took home 1 gold, 1 bronze and 1 silver – a total of 60% of South Africa’s results.
Well done everyone … another positive result!
I hope that this info is useful.
( Phone: +27 (0) 21 88 44410
4 Fax: +27 (0) 21 88 44025
( Skype: mikeatwarwick
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We are putting together a panel of speakers to debate and discuss this hot topic. Sure, we may go off the point and will follow the discussion where it takes us - but it will be a good one.
I will try to get a representative from Telkom - wish me luck. Does anyone have other thoughts for speakers?? Let me know so that we can contact them.
Monday, June 05, 2006
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Today's PODCAST from
Distribution in America is the key to success. Like anywhere in the world, ‘route to market’ is always going to be the killer attribute that can mean the difference between success and failure. Nowhere in the world is this more apparent than in the United States where the neo-prohibitionist hangover of federal liquor controls hangs thick in the air. Americans, it seems, have reached an uneasy state of acceptance of this extraordinary status quo where every facet of a wines journey to the end consumer pads somebody’s pocket. To recapr for those who are confised by these statements. America (generally) has a 3 tiered system of wine distribution whereby the non-American producer cannot legally sell wine to anyone but a wine importer. The absurdity starts when you understand that no single person or business entity may own both a distribution and import license. What this means is that the importer cannot sell wine to the consumer or even the retailer/restaurateur and can only sell wine toa distributor who in turn can also only sell wine to the trade. Technically speaking, the only place a consumer can gain access to imported wines is through the 3rd tier of the channel which is the retailer or restaurateur. Once you understand the vastness of the US market, it is understandable that perhaps this system would have evolved independently as few companies have the infrastructure and capabilities to own and distribute nationally with efficiency. But the system really falls down in the sense that it suppresses free market activities and that the larger National distributors have little in the way of competition. As a result of this and to further entrench this skewed power balance, the larger distributors are being consolidated at a rate that is unprecedented and fewer distributors are controlling more of the market. It feels sometimes that every medium-size distributor in the US is simply waiting for the ‘big guys’ to come along and buy them out. Might I be over-dramatising this? Maybe, but this is the feeling on the ground.
So what does this mean for South Africa? Well, for every distributor that gets purchased, this means fewer distribution slots for South African wines exist and fewer small producers are able to participate in what becomes a much larger structure. The larger a distributor gets, the larger the supplier has to become in order to become a meaningful contributor to bottom-line. The big brands become bigger and the smaller brands get squeezed out. The consolidation of distribution and ongoing production fragmentation continues apace. The two trends are not compatible and we will have to win over some serious buyers to grow South African wine in the US – usually at the expense of another global supplier.
So where are the opportunities?
The federal and state regulators are slowly (very slowly) dismantling the complex wine distribution laws, but a combineation of big business (distributor) lobbying in Washington, a very religious and conservative population and misplaced priorities is hampering this progress. A high-profile battle between retail giant Costco and the state of Washington recently threw up a couple of clues about the future when Costco won the first step in the battle to allow it to ship directly from the producer. Of course this judgement will go to appeal and will probably be held up for years, but Costco is being aggressive and has set a valuable precedent which any sensible judge cannot fail to respect.
Is this a good thing? Well, yes and no as it si being championed by the mammoth retailers and you can be sure that they are not pursuing a Samaritanian endeavour to make money for the supplier – no, they are chasing margin for their bottom-line because they know that through direct imports and direct shipments, that they can leverage their massive nation-wide distribution network to exponentially multiply their sales and balloon already embarrassing margins.
Opportunities exist for South African suppliers to find routes to market that narrow the gap between importer, distributor and retailer. In some states, it is (kind-of) legal for the husband to own an import license, the wife to own a distribution license and the kids to own multiple retail licenses. It happens – another symptom of an idiotic system. Many California wineries drive a substantial volume of their sales through wine clubs and direct shipments to customers. Of course there is a limited amount of states that you can ship to directly, but this has been growing over the years. Is there a business model here for South African wineries. Is there an effective model for a South African winery to run a wine club for direct sales to customers? The answer must be yes, but there has to be demand first and brand South Africa must become more entrenched before this will work. So the hard work lies ahead in this massive market opportunity that is the USA.
Monday, May 08, 2006
On the subject of repeating myself, If I hear another consumer complaining that the wines on the WOSA show are not available in the USA, I will scream. It is always going to be difficult to give ‘new entrants’ an opportunity to show their wines, but perhaps we are putting the cart before the horse on this one. Perhaps these producers have had an opportunity to learn a huge amount about the US market and get a feeling for how to go about positioning themselves to enter the market, but it seems like an illogical and costly entry and market research solution. The tasting this afternoon in Costa Mesa, South of LA is being hosted by a prominent retailer called Hi-Time liquors. Once again the problem is going to raise its head as the consumers can only purchase the wines that the retailer stocks, and at best wines that have Californian distribution – it’s a tough school.
Wow! The Costa Mesa Orange County tasting was a hit – the consumers came out in droves and we were run off of our feet. This tasting must have rated as one the most intense and focused consumer wine tastings that I have ever been privileged to participate in. Wines poured, winemakers sweated, consumers listened and the wines of South Africa touched the perfect Southern California market. It was a monumental tasting and even impressed the organizers. I arrived a little more than 10 minutes before the tasting started ( a little late) and had to fight through about 100 people queuing at the door to get in. Big thank must go to Hi-Time Cellars for their excellent organization and boundless energy – the show was great!
I would like to pay tribute to the WOSA team for the effort and organization in putting this tour together – it has been an eye-opener for many producers and will be a catalyst for South Africa in this market. It is also a catalyst for greater cooperation in building South African wines in the US by building brand South Africa. One of the great minds behind doing just that is Yvonne Johnston at the SA International Marketing Council. It has been said that a bottle of wine in every wine shop and on every wine list in America will act as a positive reinforcer for Brand South Africa’s generic image. The wine industry has a lot to offer our marketing drive and we should not play second-fiddle. Tourism and many other SA industries engaged in marketing all have an excellent opportunity to harness synergies by partnering with WOSA – wine is exploding in America and we are in the right place at the right time – but there will not be more than one chance to get it right.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
San Francisco the flight from Chicago is only 4 hours, but takes in 3
times zones and even this short distance leaves you with jet lag after a
run along the Embarcadero, the waterfront of San Francisco I feel refreshed
and ready for another big day.
But first, lets chat about Chicago. I had some very detailed debates about
the efficacy of the South African presence in the USA with Norman Cilliers
and Ken Forrester who are co-conspirators on this unabashed assault on the
USA. A lot of thoughts came out along with a lot of things that I wanted to
share. A question was posed about how many of the people manning the stands
on the WOSA roadshow actually have authority to transact business and take
any kind of meaningful business decisions. A lot of comment has been
received from consumers, retailers and restaurateurs that they have liked a
lot of the wines and upon enquiring about the producers distributor, were
told that the wines are not available in the USA. Now we understand that
many of the producers are looking for importers and distributors and that
this is a fishing expedition, it was seen as intensely negative from many.
Another thought was that there may be examples of people from South Africa
on the tour who were considering this as a mini vacation from the office and
really had very little likelihood of doing any business. I would encourage a
thorough evaluation of the process upon return to South Africa to see if
there has been any return at all from this trip across America. This is a
concern does this apply to other WOSA road trips? It was suggested in the
same debate that if a follow-up meeting was called for South Africa upon
return, how many of the tour participants would attend?
On the positive side, we had a very beneficial day in Chicago and saw a lot
of existing clients and customers as well as spent some valuable time with
our distributors who are doing a great job. Business was done, relationships
formed and strengthened and the Wines of South Africa made a very positive
Another debate was raised in Chicago. The question about the coordination of
South Africas marketing efforts was discussed and it was felt that we
should be seeking greater cooperation between South Africas marketing
agencies. A South African wine tour would be a perfect companion for a
tourism tour, a finance tour and perhaps even a Safari lodge tour of
America we have invested heavily in this tour and it is a certainty that
we should be cross-pollinating our efforts to a larger extent. The financial
economies of scale alone scream for this type of cooperation. What if the
big South African investment conference that was in NYC at the same time as
the WOSA tour had been in the same venue??? The missed opportunities hurt
the more you think about them. This is not a finger-pointing exercise. It is
however an effort to spark debate about the future of South Africas
investment into the world market with the greatest potential for South
Africa and our wines in particular.
Many producers have reported exceptional sales into the USA, but this could
easily be explained away with filling the pipeline the shelves are
starting to report increased populations of South African wines but are
they moving. The answer has to be yes, but too slowly. This is a consumer
issue and not an importer/distributor issue. Distributors will not take on
any more brands if the existing ones are not moving. This is what is
happening and we should welcome debate on this. This is not a rule, but a
generalization many producers are doing well but Brand South Africa is
NOT flying off the shelf. We need to coordinate our icons what about gold
and diamonds, table mountain, wild animals, Nelson Mandela, Charlize Theron,
Dave Matthews and many other wonderful SA icons that are yet to be
Another contentious question has to be raised about the (negligible)
representation of WOSA board members at this event. The board members on the
tour numbered one (excluding the hard-working CEO, Su) out of a possible
13. If this market is going to be successful we need the support of the
board and this is only going to come about if they understand the market and
this will only ever come about as a result of having been here. It is my
contention that in the next year we are going to have to raise our game
significantly through greater man-power, significantly increased funding and
national coordination if we are going to win the consumer over. Without a
thorough understanding of the complexities and challenges of the US market,
we cannot have strong leadership and without this we are dead in the water.
Despite these challenges, South Africa is gaining traction that will provide
us with a solid platform for our REAL marketing push. Lets call this a
scouting expedition shall we?
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
The train to NYC was uneventful and a late arrival and check into the crappy Holiday Inn was not very exciting! My shoebox (hotel room) at $290 per night was a firm welcome to NYC gift and I realized that NYC is back after the horrors of 9/11. Boy this place is expensive.
Back onto the train on Saturday and a great visit to Farmingdale, a vaguely charming town on Long Island. My train was delayed twice due to brush fires and I ended up taking a bus, another train and 2 taxis to make my way to Stew Leonards Wine Shop. I spent the afternoon doing a tasting and educating the guys on South African wine – they reported a steady growth in their South African sales, but mentioned that South Africa had not yet really dome anything significant to compel customers to reach for our wines. The shelves were also (at the bottom) languishing with expired vintages of wines that I cringed at. Perhaps our friends at the big winery in Paarl could do something to try to sell through some of the unsold back vintages polluting the South African category and taking up valuable shelf space around the country?
Monday … the big day and the WOSA tasting in the Puck building on Lafayette street was all ready to go. Wines of South Africa and the supporting contingent have to be congratulated for putting on a great show and showing a spectacular face to the buyers and trade of NYC. I was proud to be South African as I saw all the winemakers and agents in a beautiful venue, well dressed and with a wonderful selection of SA wines. The tasting started slowly and then started building until it was fantastically busy – it really was good and the trade poured in. For those that had dome some preparation, it was a great opportunity. I cannot speak for the participating producers without importers about the success of the day – but my gut feel is that it might have been a little less successful business wise? There was a good mix of sommeliers, waiting staff, wine shop owners/buyers and other wine buyers and they all seemed really interested. Pinotage was popular and I heard this remark a number of producers who were caught off guard. The fruity, yummy Pinotage wines that had a little sugar found favour with the patrons. You can agree or choose to disagree, but the fact remains that wines with higher extract, good concentration, some sweet oak, a little residual sugar and a smooth finish do wine the customer over in the US. Now, we can fight this, or we can accept it and listen to the market. This does not mean a wholesale corruption of winemaking philosophy and South African terroir – we should just make a point to understand our markets and adapt ourselves to this. This is not a global direction and w4e should treat this topic carefully and not just accept it. It could get heated if treated lightly. We should perhaps open this topic to greater debate and I intend raising this topic at a Rootstock forum some time this year. Anyone want to join in the debate? Click on the comment tab below to start the debate.
I write this column from my airplane seat en route Chicago for the next installment of the WOSA tour – the windy city will meat the marauding South African wine industry on Wednesday and we can expect to meet some interested and influential customers. Stay tuned.
Sunday, April 30, 2006
Wow, it has really been a whirlwind and things are going well so far I am now 4 days into the tour and looking forward to meeting up with the WOSA gang in
I spent Tuesday night in Baltimore and presented a well-attended South African wine dinner at a restaurant called Abacrombie which has the reputation (I later realized) as one the best restaurants in the state of Maryland, Sonny Sweetman is the chef/owner along with his beautiful wife and they were filled to capacity with 53 people crammed in for a wonderful dinner. The cuisine was exceptional and the guests were intent on learning as much as possible it was at this evening that it dawned on me that
After a wonderful early-morning run around historic
The next day was spent on a ride-with (literally spending the day with a distributor sales person) doing tastings for a number of restaurants. We visited the eponymous Restaurant Eve, a great wine shop FineWine.com owned by the passionate Jonas Gustafsson. Then on to Le Paradou, an awe inspiring restaurant owned by legendary chef Yannick Cam; we tasted for at least an hour and shared rugby stories with sommelier, Nicolas Rouet who is a big South African fan. We got 2 listings on their epic winelist, the first time a wine from the Southern hemisphere has been listed we felt very proud and decided to celebrate with a couple of cold beers at Vidalia, the famed DC eatery where we planned to meet fine wine merchant, Mike Tilch from Silesia Liquors for a 7 course tasting menu presented by Manager/Sommelier Doug Mohr. I have included (below) a video blog in which I interviewed Mike on his positive feelings about South African wines. The evening was capped with a spectacular 1970 Chateau D Yquem which was at the height of its powers a very generous gift from Mike. What an evening!
A 04h45 wake-up was not really what was needed at this stage but it had to be to catch an early flight from Dulles to
Saturday, April 29, 2006
Friday, April 28, 2006
Wednesday, April 26, 2006
CLICK HERE FOR TODAYS BALTIMORE PODCAST
I woke up too early in DC and then forced myself to go back to sleep – jetlag in traveling across timezones is a reality and you have to really take it into consideration. Igot up and went for run in Rock Creek Park which is barely 5 minutes walk from my B&B. It was such a beautiful day and one can only marvel at the beauty of some of Americas parklands. Bumped into my first Starbucks coffee. Whether you are an anti-globalization activist or not – you have to admire the Starbucks ability to make a good cup of coffee – every time! OK, so engines recharged time to get ready, check out of the hotel and head for the most beautiful railway station in the world – Washington DC’s Union station. See the photo attached. I got some good advice and avoided AMTRAK and instead went for the local MARC train system which runs parallel to AMTRAK – the fare for the same ride was $7 versus $22 for AMTRAK.
I arrived in Baltimore very efficiently and was collected by Julia and then we headed to the Country Vintner trade tasting. About 150-200 people in attendance and wines from allover the world. I managed to get in some good tasting and some excellent wines. I fell in love with the Bassermann-Jordan Riesling Trocken 2004 from the Pfalz which has always been a favourite – the 2004 vintage is such a step up on the hot 2003 German wines. I digress…
I was asked to present a seminar on South Africa which (as it turns out) was the only seminar on the day and was certainly a big drawcard with a huge turnout. I felt a little overwhelmed and under prepared, but in the end I adopted a very informal ‘round table’ discussion and luckily had some awesome slides that I could present as part of a powerpoint presentation – it went well and the half hour allotted for the event stretched to almost an hour as a large proportion f the audience stayed for the entire hour. What a great time and so many intelligent questions. There is no question in my mind that Americans have an enormous propensity to collect and collate information better than any nation on earth. When they become interested in something, they go harder and show more dedication to getting all the facts. Shields T. Hood and Lisa Airey from the Society of Wine Educators were at the tasting and they remarked on how positive their image of South African wine is. Rory Callahan and Robin O’Conner will be presenting a large seminar on South African wine at the SWE conference in Eugene Orgeon this year. Now this is a fantastic opportunity to preach the SA gospel.
OK, make sure that you have listened to the PODCAST this morning. Any comments or requests are most appreciated.
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Monday, April 24, 2006
Heathrow terminal 4 ... the first 11 hour flight to London is completed and
it is just about time to head for BA217 to Washington DC. I sat next to lady
on the BA flight who had been in SA for Cape Wine 2006 and had then followed
this with a week's holiday - she was bowled over by the show and by the
country in particular. She has already booked her 2nd trip and will be back
in SA in December. Well done WOSA!
This daily 'American Wine Diary' has a number of goals - first is to try to
help as many people as possible gain an understanding of the American market
with lots of insights, thoughts and anecdotes. The USA has been identified
as the market showing the most potential for South African wine and it is up
to the whole SA wine industry to make sure that we take our rightful place
alongside the other top wine producing countries. It can only happen with a
collective effort. At the same time, lets have some fun and see how we can
harness technology as a road warrior. We won't get over-concerned about
grammar and spelling as it will be regularly posted via Blackberry. (the
first hot tip for communicating on the road!) The USA is a long way from
South Africa - we need to harness the power of the internet to bring our two
diverse cultures together and bring South African wine to Americans who are
amongst the most adventurous and eager-to-learn wine drinkers in the world.
This diary has been commissioned by www.wine.co.za and is going to last for
about 3-4 weeks. It is intended to be interactive and we invite you to post
comments and generally get interactive. The diary will be posted
simlutaneously on the ROOTSTOCK BLOG www.rootstockforum.blogspot.com so log
on and check it out.
This diary is going to take in a huge and active itinerary commencing in
Washington DC and followed by brief stints in Arlington Virginia, Baltimore
Maryland (home of Robert Parker), Virgina, Delaware and then a short flip
over to Harrisburg (the state capital of Pennsylvania. At this stage I will
be joing the WOSA USA tour in New York which will then progress to Chicago,
San Francisco and then onwards to LA culminating in a grand tasting at the
famous (or is it infamous) Beverley Hills Hotel.
We will be doing some daily podcasting, I will be posting Video Blogs and
attempting to do some interviews and chats with people across the USA - so
watch this space. If there is something that you would like to hear about,
let me know. if you like it, let me know.
Thursday, April 20, 2006
Starting from Monday April 24th, I will be departing on a 3 week tour across the
The itinerary takes in
Tuesday, April 11, 2006
A blog (or weblog) is a website in which messages are posted and displayed with the newest at the top. Like other media, blogs often focus on a particular subject, such as food, politics, or local news. Some blogs function as online diaries. A typical blog combines text, images, and links to other blogs, web pages, and other media related to its topic. Since its appearance in 1995, blogging has emerged as a popular means of communication, affecting public opinion and mass media around the world. Blogs can be hosted by dedicated blog hosting services, or they can be run using blog software on regular web hosting services. For more on this click HERE.
What is a Podcast?
Podcasting is the distribution of audio or video files, such as radio programs or music videos, over the Internet using either RSS or Atom syndication for listening on mobile devices and personal computers. The term podcast, like "radio", can mean both the content and the method of delivery. Podcasters' websites also may offer direct download of their files, but the subscription feed of automatically delivered new content is what distinguishes a podcast from a simple download or real-time streaming (see below). Usually, the podcast features one type of "show" with new episodes either sporadically or at planned intervals such as daily, weekly, etc. In addition to this, there are podcast networks that feature multiple shows on the same feed.
Podcasting's essence is about creating content (audio or video) for an audience that wants to listen when they want, where they want, and how they want.
For more on podcasting click HERE.
I find that the best way to subscribe to a podcast is by using iTunes. Download it for free HERE.
Monday, April 10, 2006
What an amazing week for South African wine as the WOSA team pulled out all the stops for an amazing introductory week for scores of foreign journalists and buyers. It is always hard to judge results - but I certainly think that it is going to pay off big time.
So now the hard work starts for producers in following up and chasing those contacts - making sure that the pile of bussiness card is not wasted.
Go for it!
Sunday, February 19, 2006