Bruce Jack – helping to sell us internationally
09 November 2015
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Brad Brown: Welcome back to this edition of Old Mutual Live. Great things start here, great things start now, and it’s just around the corner. Talking Cape Wine 2015, we spoke about it not so long ago here, on the podcast, but we thought we‘d get someone else, who will be involved in this year’s edition. Bruce Jack, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, nice to catch up. Are you well?
Bruce Jack: Yes, hi Brad. Thank you very much.
BB: Bruce, Cape Wine is truly unique. We spoke about it a few weeks ago here, and it’s just a great opportunity. I mean it’s one thing drinking South African wine and we all love South African wine. But as an international visitor to South Africa – it is different drinking South African wine in Germany, for example, than actually sitting in the Winelands in the Western Cape. It makes a big difference and just really drives home the message of what we’re trying to do here.
South Africa is a unique experience
BJ: Yes, that’s correct. I think what happens is that when people arrive here there’s always a little bit of an adventure. I mean, Africa is alive. It’s got a spirit and an energy that other places really don’t have. Although, as we’ve seen, that quite a lot of Africa is moving into Germany at the moment, but it’s an exciting place to be and our wines, like unbelievable.
If you were in Germany, for example, and you were drinking German wines, with German cuisine, it is also an exciting and an interesting proposition. But here, with our environment, our mountains, our beautiful weather, the hospitality, the people, and our cuisine; the wines just go that much better and it is part of the adventure. The fact that we can have this beautiful environment, also these very sophisticated world class, and quality wines and our great food.
BB: Bruce, is this something that’s truly unique to South Africa? Do you know of other countries that are doing something like this that bring influences in the wine space, to their Winelands, and showcase what we’ve got, and almost try and turn them into ambassadors, so to speak, for South African wine?
We try our best on little funds
BJ: There are pockets of, let me give it some context. The South Africa wine industry is pretty underfunded, from a government perspective, when we compare ourselves to other countries. If you look at somewhere Australia or even regions of France, for example the South of France, which is a fairly large region – similar in size, in fact, from a volume perspective, to South Africa. Just that region’s budget for a generic marketing campaign is far in excess of South Africa.
I can’t remember what the latest statistics is, but I think Australia spends, (on their generic marketing campaign) about 17 times what South Africa – just to put it into perspective. We don’t have a lot of money to throw at this. The South African wine industry has been underfunded for many years, so we’ve kind of come to, we’ve learnt how to survive without government’s support, from a marketing perspective.
One of the things that we worked out is that value for money. One of the most effective ways of introducing the complexity, the breadth, and the quality of South African wines is by bringing people here. It may seem counter-intuitive because of the cost of airfares and all that sort of thing, but you’ve got a lot of big companies, like Distell, the company I work for, Accolade, who actually also contribute to bringing either journalists, sommeliers or wine buyers to South Africa.
We all kind of club together, we all get involved. We share the price of air tickets for really, influential opinion makers, for example. We bring them into South Africa and, in a way, it’s kind of a leadership position that the big companies have taken because we are, in a way, subsidising the smaller guys, who couldn’t otherwise do that. We know that it makes us stronger together, so it’s a little bit about survival and I don’t think anyone else does it like that in the world.
BB: Bruce, it’s interesting and I mean it’s basically a rising tide lifts all ships that everyone is doing something for the greater good of the wine industry in South Africa.
BJ: Correct, and I think it’s out of necessity. I don’t think that we’re all angels. It is just because without that cooperative mindset we would be completely at sea, compared to other countries who’ve got much bigger budgets.
BB: Tell me what it’s like, as a winemaker, to experience something like this where it’s one thing exporting your wine, and off it goes and it’s enjoyed and drunk, wherever it is enjoyed, and drunk. But it must be amazing to actually see somebody experience what you’re trying to put out, and what you’re trying to create.
Cape Wine presents a great opportunity for the makers
BJ: It’s extraordinary. It brings home every, single time how different we are. The fact that we have this unique environment, the fact that people choose Cape Town as a place to go on holiday, and whenever it’s holidays, we run away. It kind of reminds you that you’re living in a paradise, for all intents and purposes, despite all our issues and our problems.
Just to give you an example. We’re next to the Flagstone Winery, which is in Somerset West. We have the Cheetah Outreach Programme, which is a cheetah sanctuary for cheetahs that have been injured or trapped, or have gunshot wounds or whatever. There’s also a breeding programme there.
I always take people there and I know the manager/operator, she’s a lady called Dawn. Dawn gives them a little tour and then we actually get an opportunity to pet a cheetah, which you wash your hands properly, and everything. It is all very controlled, and done with a huge amount of respect for the animal.
I’ve seen grown men cry. These are the hardened buyers from supermarkets in Europe to just, have this incredible interaction with something. Okay, it’s an exceptional thing to do and not every South African has the opportunity to do it but it’s right there on our doorstep. That’s just a small example.
I always try and take guys surfing, get their heads in the water at Muizenberg, a little bit of saltwater and shove them on a wave. Just those sort of simple things that we take for granted. A walk in the mountain, up Lion’s Head at sunset – it’s just breathtaking for foreigners.
When you can give them the added bonus, of having a beautiful glass of wine, after an experience like that – it just pulls it altogether and it makes it a lifetime memory.
BB: Yes, without a doubt. Bruce, we’ve also chatted about it quite extensively here, on the podcast, just with regards to South African wine and what it has to offer and often we try and emulate how things are being done in Europe, and creating wines that can compete on a European stage.
Essentially, we shouldn’t sell ourselves short. We’ve got some incredible wines, first of all, but if you take it as the whole package, as you’re talking about, gee, there aren’t too many places in the world that can offer what South Africa can offer.
The 3 cornerstones of the SA Wine Industry
BJ: Yes, there are three things, I think. The first one is what I was talking about really what we were touching on was wine tourism. We’ve historically, it’s one of the things that we’ve, a bit of our Achilles heel, is the wine industry hasn’t’ really worked as effectively with other tourism organisations in South Africa.
I think it’s partly a political thing. That is slowly coming together, where I think Tourism South Africa, is starting to recognise that the wine industry is an incredible important cornerstone to South African tourism. There does seem to be some positive dialogue-taking place.
The second thing is that we really do compete very well already, but a lot of it is through export and it’s not because we have a terrible country at the moment. It’s because we actually make incredibly good wines that, at their price points from entry level “cheap wine” – all the way up to the really, expensive single vineyard premium stuff. Compete on every price and in every market, and it is very few South African products that you can say that about.
We’re, as a result, a very important contributor to South Africa’s GDP, and we’re also the largest employer of people in the Western Cape, for example. It’s an industry, which despite the fact that it hasn’t really enjoyed as much government support as it could have in the past. I think it’s a really important success story for South Africa.
The third thing is that our wines really are enjoyed in very specific markets around the world. We’ve struggled, really struggled in countries like America, where the perception of Africa has tainted the perception of South Africa, and that has tainted the enjoyment of South African wines, as a result.
Whereas people who have been able to travel here and the majority of our tourists come from, historically places like the U.K., Germany, and Holland. We’re getting more and more Chinese visitors. We’re getting more and more Japanese and Korean visitors from the East. Those countries we’ve seen, and Scandinavia is another one. We’ve seen the increase and the popularity of South African wines in those markets.
It’s like you’ve got to take a holistic view of it. When you take those three important cornerstones into consideration that’s really how we’re starting to think about our industry and Cape Wine is part of that plan and part of that strategy.
BB: Brilliant. Well, I look forward to hearing how things do go at the 2015 or at Cape Wine 2015. I think it’s an incredible initiative and doing some great things, for the South African wine industry. Bruce, thank you so much for your time, here on Old Mutual Live today. I think we’ll get you on, in a few weeks time to just talk a little bit about a couple of the wineries that you’re involved in. And find out a little bit more about your journey, into wine and where it all began, but we’ll save that for another day, if that’s good for you.
BJ: Brad, thank you very much for the time. Thank you.