Can South Africa fill Australia's shoes?

29 June, 2007

South Africa could reverse its fortunes in the UK by filling the £3.99 slots vacated by the Australians, according to

a leading UK player.

Brand Phoenix director Steve Barton, whose

top South African wine is First Cape, is concerned that too much promotional emphasis

is going on premium wines

and believes South Africa is well positioned to soak up demand for wines at average UK price points and below.

"There is absolutely no reason why the category should be performing as badly as it is," he said. "Everyone agrees there is a place for organic and slightly niche environmental-themed wines. But these are far too niche to move the consumer base on any big scale."

Barton said the size of the Australian shortage may have been overstated

but, even so, South African suppliers should recognise there was a big opportunity to restore market share.

"South Africa isn't Australia, but it can sustain strong and high volume, high quality brands in the UK market ," he said. "If we as a category stand any chance whatsoever of bringing consumers into the wonderful world of premium wine that South Africa offers, the only way is having two or three very strong pillar brands that take care of everyday consumption."

He added: "The £3.99 entry point is probably one of the most important bottles of wine

we produce because that's the place you get most of your trial."

Wines of South Africa

UK market manager Jo Mason said: "I think we have to be very careful. There is a feeling in the trade that there is a chance for South Africa to increase wine sales, but South Africa isn't a volume producer in the same way that Australia is.

"I wouldn't want us to say, 'let's get South African wine and push it at the ­volume end'. We need to be seen as a quality wine producer as well as one who can deliver."

Mason said although brands

such as Kumala and First Cape were delivering at £4.99, it was vital to

promote wines above £5. "It's important to position ourselves as a quality producer of wine," she said.

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