Lifting the bar in South Africa

Only about 8% of wine farms in South Africa make money, according to a leading winemaker from the Rainbow Nation

Alastair Rimmer, cellar master at the Stellenbosch farm, Kleine Zalze, was in London this week (April 27) to mark the 20th anniversary of Kobus Basson taking over the farm.

At a dinner to showcase the farm’s wines, Rimmer said: “With ‘Brand South Africa’ we want to lift the bar. Only about 8% of farms are making money. About 12% break even. The rest are making a loss. Farms are struggling.”

He said to stop old vines being grubbed up in bad years, the company is paying farmers a flat fee to keep vines, particularly old vine Chenin Blanc in the ground. Otherwise, land is either left fallow or given over to wheat.

He suggested that South African wines probably needed to be retailed at £10+ for them to be economically viable.

“It is like building a house, said Rimmer. “We need foundations otherwise it is going to collapse. We have to evolve and add value in the supply chain, as a buffer to the farmer.”

The Kleine Zalze range of wines is the number one South African wine brand in the UK on-trade, according to Wine Business Solutions 2014 UK On-Premise report. Its Zalza Shiraz/Mourvèdre/Viognier blend is the only expression available in the UK off trade.

Rimmer announced that to mark the 20th anniversary, Basson was further investing in the winery with a vineyard analysis programme and there are some forthcoming new launches, including a Kleine Zalze Cellar Selection Cinsault.