Old Mutual fully entrenched in the Trophy Wine Show
06 March 2016
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Welcome to Old Mutual Live Wine Edition on mobile, on digital, on demand and thanks for listening. I’m Jenny Crwys – Williams and with me right now is Karen Thomas who’s Head of Brand at Old Mutual. Specifically from my interest, of course Old Mutual Live Wine Edition and we are here at the Mount Nelson celebrating 15 years of the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. Karen, were you around at the very beginning because it’s just had the most incredible longevity.
Karen Thomas: Jenny, I was around. I’ve been at Old Mutual for 22 years, but I’ve only recently become more involved in this, in the portfolio that I look after now at Old Mutual and it is fabulous. It’s one of our long-standing sponsorship’s and we love it.
I think it adds a different dimension to all the sporting events that we’re involved in and just wonderful for South Africa. I think it’s done a lot, it recognises a different industry and yes, we’re very excited to be part of this, and I mean going for 15 years.
How the show even excites winemakers
JCW: Well you don’t get anything going for 15 years unless it’s got legs and I was just looking at the audience and the delight that people are showing and these are seasoned winemakers. They’re out in the fields every day, they’re making wonderful wines, and they are all excited about it. That in itself is recognition about the longevity of the award.
KT: I always think it’s awesome that every single winemaker is here to receive their award. I kind of, what I put it down to, but I actually put it down to Michael Fridjhon. He’s absolutely fastidious about how this is run, he’s meticulous in every detail. He gets the best judges, he makes the effort to get international judges and they’re always fabulous. The best of the best and also good local judges.
So I think that it’s very, very well run. I’ve been to look at some of the tastings and the judging that goes on for the three days. It is all blind tasting, so there’s absolutely no way that anyone knows what wine it is. I just think they are so careful about how they do it all and it really brings out the best of the best. Michael is very well known in South Africa and he is passionate about this event and so great for our association with Old Mutual.
JCW: It’s not only that, you also bring in international judges. There were three this year and they had some very interesting things to say about South African wines.
High praise from international judges
KT: So two from France and one from Hong Kong and I listen to the French judges and of course coming from one of the oldest or the oldest wine producing regions in the world they know their stuff and they are world famous. I mentioned earlier about our judge that’s part of Christies in China and he was absolutely fabulous, Simon Tam. He just raved about South African wines and he says we need to start believing in ourselves.
Our wines can go out there, he says they can stand their ground on international markets and we should start believing that we can export them, believe in our tourism. He raved about the quality of the wines, he raved about our country, the people, the food, everything that’s here. So I mean he actually put a lot of self-belief and positivity into everyone when the judges gave their comments about two weeks ago.
JCW: Well Karen, if I look at the range of the wines at the publicity each of these wines get, that has got to help sales surely, not only here but internationally as well?
KT: It absolutely does. The thing that we do is every single winning wine gets a sticker that gets put onto the bottle, so that immediately adds to it. We find that each of the producers actually have to have enough wine. If they win, they need to have enough on the shelves to sell. As you know we sell it through Makro, but it flies off the shelves quite quickly, so it is very prestigious. You know it’s actually bringing wine to the public and it’s making it easy for the public.
Marketing our wines overseas
JCW: Let’s go back to talking about the sales internationally, because South Africa needs to export its wines and I was very interested to see that one of the judges did come from the Far East because the Chinese market is opening up in a huge way, isn’t it?
KT: Well what he said, is he doesn’t know why we don’t look to that market. He’s saying that market is actually starting to understand their wines and they know their stuff. They’re actually quite discerning and he says that there is so much opportunity for South African wines in that market. We need to start looking at it and the more that we can export, I feel, the more the opportunity for jobs, the more the opportunity for employment in this country. Growing the industry, if we can keep exporting them.
There’s something funny about South Africans as well. As soon as something’s recognised internationally then it’s okay here at home. I don’t know why but that seems to be how it works and then suddenly it flies off our shelves here at home as well. So I think a huge opportunity for export helps the economy. All these wine shows and particularly this one really shows what we’ve put into the economy.
JCW: Now this isn’t just a lunchtime show because I know on Friday night it is the first opportunity the public have to come along and to actually taste these award-winning wines. Then it goes to Johannesburg and then it goes elsewhere. So it’s countrywide, it’s a huge undertaking.
A nation wide experience
KT: It is countrywide and what we really do is we run a number of master classes and who gets invited to those are Old Mutual customers. A lot of our financial advisors, they invite customers and we run it across the country. So we start here in Cape Town tonight, so it’s another evening.
We’ve got a couple in Cape Town, we go to Jo’burg, East London, Port Elizabeth, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit, we even go to Namibia to Windhoek. They are so keen on it and I think they’re looking at Botswana in future as well.
So we have those master classes and they’re a little bit more closed. They’re just a select number of people where we go through each of the wines and their taste. But what’s really exciting for the public is this Friday in Cape Town and then next Friday the 10th in Jo’burg. That’s open to the public, very inexpensive.
You can get tickets with Computicket and go along and what’s incredible about that is actually just opens it up to people but it makes it really easy for the public. You don’t have to think about there, you can go and learn a little bit about wines. You go around, all the estates are showing their wines, you can taste, you can chat to the winemakers, very informal.
Normally as a member of the public you wouldn’t get access to the winemaker and it’s very relaxed, it’s informal. A fantastic way just for people in South Africa to start learning a little bit more. It’s not intimidating and you can go home and then compare it. Go onto the website and learn a bit more about it, so really bringing wine to people for everyday enjoyment.
JCW: Michael Fridjhon always says that, “Don’t just go there and stand in that room”, it’s milling with people with people all over the place. He says, “Go there and say all right, I think I want to taste white wines”. In other words, separate out, don’t bother with the red wines this year because there’s just too much. So begin and maybe if you knew about varietals, but lots of people don’t.
KT: No, you’re absolutely right. I think it can be a bit of overwhelming and also everyone’s got to watch how much they drink nowadays. I agree with you, I think it’s a fantastic tip that, just go along and see what you enjoy and go and sit next to some of the wines that you really enjoy.
I mean Jenny you and I were chatting earlier, maybe it is a way for people to then be able to open up a menu at a restaurant and a wine which is listed at a restaurant. Say actually you know what, because you spent a couple of hours just tasting the white you’re able to choose a white that you know a little bit about at a business meeting or a lunch with stakeholders or something like that. It’s a lovely opportunity just to learn a little bit.
Wine is still ‘the’ social drink
JCW: Also, I think that the whole drinks scene in South Africa, I was just reading about Gin the other day and every single second person except for me is drinking Gin left, right, and centre. But I think it’s become a very vibrant scene in South Africa. But wine for me is the thing that counts most. It has the subtlety that appreciates, I think, with time and I think it’s very, very exciting for people entering that wine market.
KT: Absolutely and I think the other thing that’s quite important is, for example, we’ve just had a lot of museum class awards, which means the wine’s been around for a long time. But more and more we’re seeing wines that are produced for easy, every day drinking. So you’re spot on.
I think it just gives an opportunity for people to drink what they enjoy. It’s not about snobbery or knowing, it’s just choose what you like to choose. But it’s just a little bit more special than your everyday kind of off the shelf, just selected on price. Here you can select on price and on taste.
JCW: Well let’s put you on the spot because you’re going round the country. There’s the big event this Friday and again in Johannesburg. We haven’t even finished the awards yet this afternoon. When this is all over and you go home and it’s a Sunday afternoon, what bottle of wine are you going to open?
KT: I’m a bubbles lady, I love bubbles. I think it just works for me and it is always something about festivity that’s attached to it. I mean if it’s not bubbles I’m also a very ordinary, I love Sauvignon Blanc’s. I just think they’re easy to drink and they’re enjoyable. Occasionally I have a little bit of red and then but not normally. I stick to the Sauvignon Blanc and then I love the dessert wine. I have to say at the end of an evening to have a little bit of that soetes is good fun.
JCW: Well, I love it. Carrie Adams and I used to do something about the stickies in winter and you know you think of sticky toffee pudding and things like that. Well that’s to come on Old Mutual Live Wine Edition, but Karen, thank you very much indeed for talking to us and congratulations for this.