UK buyers see plenty of opportunities to boost sales of South African wine in spite of harvest pressures and the potential for rising prices.

The country’s 2018 crop is around 15% down on the previous year, according to industry body Vinpro, and Bibendum’s Paul Meihuizen called it “the most challenging I have ever known”.

But retail buyers are optimistic when it comes to South Africa.

Mark Jarman, head of wine operations at Morrisons, said: “We need to take customers on a journey. The encouraging evidence is that they are prepared to come on this journey with us and have a real thirst for new and exciting South African styles.

“We have worked hard to champion South Africa’s potential to produce great wines from the dry-farmed regions, such as the Swartland. Following my sourcing trip in 2016, we have changed around 80% of the range and the offer now more closely reflects the diversity and excitement for which South Africa is becoming justifiably renowned.

“Sales of the new wines have been extremely encouraging, proving that our customers have the confidence and desire to try new South African wines that they aren’t yet familiar with.”

Waitrose buyer Victoria Mason added: “The sales growth trend within South African wine of the past four years continues at Waitrose. Our performance against the market is still strong.

“Waitrose has strong long-term relationships with its
supply base in South Africa and sourcing the volume required has not been a problem, in spite of the drought and the shortages.

“I expect growth in popularity of Pinotage and Chenin Blanc at all price levels. At the same time key international varieties, notably Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, will continue to grow apace. There will be new interest in South African Malbec, off the back of the success of Argentinian Malbec, continued focus on Rhône varieties, both red and white, and more regional identity emerging, with more site-specific wines.’

Phil Innes, owner of Birmingham-based Loki Wines, said: “South Africa still offers great value for money, while having a really diverse array of styles and varieties. A lot of the producers are still making European-style wines, which appeal to the more traditional customer, whereas there is also a large natural wine movement there as well.

“We find it easy to hand sell SA wine in our shops because the quality-to-price ratio is usually very good, and it gives the staff a lot to talk about because the country has some of the most exciting new natural wine movements in the world, as well as the wine estates with lots of history.”

*Read our supplement on South Africa, inserted in this month’s magazine, for an in-depth overview of the country’s UK prospects.