Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show – coordination
06 January 2016
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Jenny Crwys–Williams: This is Old Mutual Live Wine edition, thanks for joining me. I’m Jenny Crwys–Williams. The Old Mutual Trophy Wine winners will be announced any time now. It’s been a 15-year journey for Old Mutual.
Joining me is the one person above all others who may be frantic this week. Alex Mason–Gordon, who is the Trophy Wine Show Coordinator, is sitting opposite me, but reluctantly. I get the feeling you want to be running around Alex?
Alex Mason–Gordon : Perhaps a historical calm, let’s put it that way. There is still a lot to be done in terms of getting the last minute boxes packed and lists ticked off. The wines are mostly checked in, as far as I know, from the depot.
JCW: What does that actually mean – ‘Wines checked in’ – because can’t you order them a month beforehand?
AMG: Well, no, these are specifically the wines that have reached the medal stage and they have been successful enough to get to the road show level. Within a period of three weeks after the judging, we literally have to order these in from the farms, all under the veil of secrecy. Because the awards are actually only announced on the 31st of May.
JCW: The announcement is made on Tuesday and that’s when the celebrations actually begin and then the hard work, I guess, begins, at the Cape Town Convention Centre on Friday when everybody pitches up, including the public.
Sifting through and processing all the entries
AMG: Correct, but Jenny, if I can take a step back. I think where most of my hard work comes in, it actually started in March where I actually receive all the wine entries. They’re over a thousand wines that have to be entered by the producer and then checked off, here in certification.
That for me is the hard slog, it’s very admin oriented. It’s getting the information in, checking it off, checking that the wines are exactly as they have been entered in terms of their chemical analyses. SAWIS, which is the wine and spirits board, their certification. So that the wine is completely and properly authorised.
That, for me, is the hard slog time and we have a big team that actually takes over from this point on where the road show kicks off next week. We all have a part to play in organising the road show. Janice is much more involved in the event side, liaising with the hotels, the hospitality with Old Mutual. But then of course, yes, the public tastings which happen.
The first one next week, in Cape Town on Friday the third and then the Jo’burg one happening on the 10th of June, the following week. There we have 142 wines that have made Silver, Gold and Trophy Status. Once again, yes, there’s a lot of admin checking off, checking in, checking that everything arrives at the venues. Yes, it’s a big project.
JCW: It’s very meticulous, the way you describe it, it’s massively meticulous because if, for instance, a wine has been entered and some of the wines that have been delivered are not the same vintage, then there’s a big problem.
Alex, after 15 years, this has got to be considered one of the granddaddies of the wine shows in SA and a very vital one. Because of the way it’s done and the judging and stuff like that. Has it grown enormously or are the numbers more or less the same?
A substantial amount of entries
AMG: In terms of wine entries, it started around 700-800 wines about 15 years ago. We, as the team based in Jo’burg, we didn’t actually manage the entries at that point. We only took that over about five years ago when Wine Magazine handed it over to us. In the years that we have managed it, which over five years, there have been slight increases in wine entries.
But this year we had a drop of about 15 wine entries. It did decline slightly this year. Having said that, there are actually more medals given this year than last year, so it is the way it goes. It’s a little bit up, little bit down every year. In most of the years that I’ve been working on this, it stays around a 1050 mark, I can say.
JCW: It’s very substantial anyway.
JCW: I know that there must be this wonderful sense of almost relief for you, at the lunch on Tuesday where the winners are announced. You know that all of their wine, please the heavens, is there, ready and waiting for the convention centre.
AMG: Yes, Jenny, I would say this is a very exciting time. It’s a nerve wracking time as well, just because for me, it’s to ensure that everything is correct in terms of the correct wine being in the correct place, the correct medal. We’ve also had auditors involved with that whole process –
JCW: So you’ve covered everything.
An exciting awards luncheon
AMG: Yes, we have to have bases covered all the time, but it is always extremely exciting, that awards luncheon for me. I’ve been to many, the excitement on the faces of the producers when they know that they’ve won an award.
JCW: But they don’t expect anything, they know they’re getting something –
AMG: They know that they are getting something, but they don’t know what. So it is very exciting, that particular day and a degree of relief when the results are announced. Because yes, as I say, in the three-week period we’re obviously relying on a whole lot of people who sign non-disclosure forms and documents. But you’re just always hoping that all the results are kept completely under wraps until the awards are announced.
JCW: I’m not sure if this is a question that you can answer, but traditionally, if you get onto a short list or you get a prize or something like that. You can expect your sales to increase. I’m talking here, mostly the world of books, which also rests on the public buying. It’s nothing that is too esoteric, it’s tills ringing and things like that. Do you do any research at all to see whether there is a marked effect in terms of winner’s sales?
AMG: I think our research mainly comes through what producers tell us, after the event. I can’t say we do precise research –
JCW: No, but by word of mouth.
A great marketing tool for wine producers
AMG: The impressions are that this show does a huge amount in terms of marketing wines. Some of the lesser known producers, who don’t even have websites. We’re finding that now, when we’re drawing information, that a lot of the producers are really small and they don’t have websites and for this, this is a huge hand-up –
JCW: Don’t you love that?
AMG: Oh, it is, it’s unbelievably exciting to see some of the lesser known, the ‘little guys’ as we describe them, coming through with medal winning wines. In terms of sales, yes, definitely, from our feedback that we get, from producers and their desire to enter the following year, this is the show that is esteemed. The show to put you on the map, to a certain extent, in South Africa.
JCW: You go away for a holiday afterwards?
AMG: Not quite, not quite! We have quite a long road show, which goes until the end of June and in fact, the end of June, the 30th of June is a deadline in terms of the 25 cases that I told you about earlier. Where we can advise producers that if they want, have not been ordered in through the sales that are done during the road show. Then they can release that particular stock. There is relief at the end of June, I’m going on leave, actually yes, the first of July, there you go.
JCW: So the first opportunity.
JCW: Alex, thank you very much indeed for talking to us and good luck with everything, I’m sure it’ll run, as always like clockwork.
AMG: Thank you Jenny, such a pleasure talking to you.
JCW: Thank you very much and do download the Old Mutual app from your app store to get your favourite podcast, like this one, it’s also the best place to listen to our exclusive pop-up event stations and to get these podcasts and stream live, visit dogreatthings.co.za.