Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
Monday, December 21, 2009
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
Sunday, December 20, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Friday, November 20, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
More than a year into the economic downturn, Napa Valley vintners are looking toward the future. “I think that we’re already starting to see a little bit of a turnaround as far as wine sales go,” St. Helena winery owner Kent Rasmussen said. Wine drinkers are buying more readily than they did a few months ago, he said, and retailers and restaurateurs are finally stocking up again. During the second quarter of 2009 — the last quarter for which information on sales tax revenue is available — winery sales in Napa County actually rose 3.9 percent over the second quarter of 2008. Spring 2008 was about the time that wine sales in Napa County first started to slip. Now, vintners are waiting on the holidays, when the bulk of their wine is sold, to see if there’s reason to be optimistic. “The fourth quarter is when the thing really crashed last year, so you better see a darn good increase this year, because a good portion of our production is sold during the holidays,” said Jack Cakebread, owner of Cakebread Cellars in Rutherford. “This is sort of the crunch time,” Napa Valley Vintners spokesman Terry Hall said, “because the fourth quarter really is the most active sales period for wine.”
The new ‘normal’
Regardless of how things go this winter, some say the Napa Valley wine industry may have changed forever. “I don’t think it can go back to normal,” Calistoga winery owner Laura Zahtila said. “I think we’ll have a new normal.” New Jersey wine merchant Gary Fisch agrees. “It will never be like it was,” he said, “and boy, did I like what it was.” Deborah Steinthal, founder of Napa-based Scion Advisors, predicts that $75 wines will move down permanently to $50, and Napa Valley wineries will be forced to reconsider their luxury-only portfolios. “I think we’ve got about three to five years to redefine our position in the world of wine,” she said, “and that means not just in terms of proving we can sell as much wine in the categories we’ve been selling in the past.” Ultra-premium wine producers could have an especially hard time if wine buyers permanently tighten their belts. “I think there’s going to be a lot less cult cab out there,” Zahtila said. “I think that wineries need to get realistic about what people should be and are willing to pay for their wine.” Bill Harlan, whose Harlan Estates wines go for up to $500 a bottle online, said he expects a shakeout in the next three to five years among cult wine producers, but he adds that those who survive will come out even stronger.
“I feel that if we stay the course and continue to work on producing better and better wines and build relationships one-by-one, then things will come back,” he said. Relationships may be the key to success, according to industry officials. As people change the way they buy wine, and as distributors change the way they sell it, wineries are beginning to focus more on selling directly to consumers than relying on other retail channels. “National distribution makes sense for some wineries, but direct is more critical to survival and growth,” Steinthal said. This may mean a new approach to marketing, one that emphasizes personal relationships with consumers. “If we just keep doing things as we have done in the past and hope things will eventually come around to the way they were 10 or 20 years ago, I think many businesses will be sadly surprised at the outcome,” said Ed Matovcik, vice president of Foster’s Wine Estates, and one of a group of wine industry representatives lobbying for fewer restrictions on local winery marketing events. Winemaker Mike Grgich said he believes that Napa Valley is entering “a new chapter of the wine industry.” “We can learn from this,” he said, “(but) we have to work hard and smart and learn new ways of marketing.” Some vintners say this means more than just changing their marketing techniques, it means changing to whom they market.
The younger generation.
Especially as Baby Boomers retire and cut back on their wine purchases, some wineries are starting to focus marketing efforts on the younger generation of wine buyers, including those born approximately from 1980 to 2000, known as the “millennials.” “The millennial category is really stepping up,” Steinthal said, “and wineries are learning how to market to millennials. Folks are really thinking through how to leverage the next generation of their family with a new category of customers, a new generation of customers.” Ceja Vineyards, for example, is one of the few wineries in Napa County that is actually expanding right now, and winery president Amelia Ceja attributes its success in large part to her children. “I have three children in their early 20s and they’re big on all the new technology and on the Internet,” Ceja said, “so that has been extremely helpful. We don’t do a lot of advertising, but our presence on online social sites has helped. We do a lot of videos and marketing on Facebook and Twitter.” Ceja said she and her children spend about an hour a day using Web 2.0 tools and social networking sites to market their wines. “It’s knowing what the customer wants and how to capture that customer’s attention,” she said, “and people are attracted to the millennials.” Ultimately, those who are quick to adapt may actually come out stronger than they were before the economic downturn. “In any kind of downtime, the industry gets stronger,” Steinthal said. “The innovators really show up, and so unfortunately, it means some folks drop out, but for the long-term health of the industry, the strong get stronger. Fisch agrees. “We’re entering a new economic age, and the people that can change and adjust will thrive,” he said. “The people that stick their head in the sand and say, ‘This is the way we’ve always done it and this is the way it will continue,’ I think will have challenges.”
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
Rootstock invites you to our last event of 2009. We explore GREEN ISSUES in the winelands, viz Organic , Biodynamic , Bio-logic and Carbon Neutral . Join us to hear from our panel of producers how they are applying their approaches, and what they are doing to make a difference to our environment. Participate in the panel discussion which will ensue. We encourage active debate from all present. We can all learn from their experiences, and invite you to ask questions, in fact if you would like to email questions to us before the event - we will pass them on to the speakers. Emails to email@example.com. Our panel consists of:
- Michael Back from Backsberg on their Carbon Neutral work
- Michelle du Preez from Bon Cap on their organic production
- Johnathan Grieve from Avondale on their Bio-Logic approach
- Johan Reyneke from Reyneke Wines on his Biodynamic approach.
If you would like to contribute to the discussion - feel free to participate after they have made their 10 minute presentations.
- How do these approaches differ? How are they the same?
- What impact are they making on their environment?
- What impact are we making on the environment but not adopting similar approaches?
Bookings are essential through http://www.rootstock.co.za/ ONLINE only. You need to register with Rootstock to attend. Rootstock membership is free - but you pay for events attended.
- Date: TUES 24th NOV 2009
- Time: 5.30pm for 6pm start until about 8.30pm
- Venue: Backsberg Estate (thanks to them for making their venue available and providing wines)
- Cost: R50 (to cover snacks) - bring cash with you
If you book and do not attend - you will still be invoiced accordingly. For any urgent matters please contact Judy Brower on 083 301 8569 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Saturday, November 07, 2009
Join Mike Ratcliffe at The Butcher Block Executive Grill for a decadent, but fun and relaxing evening in the company of the passionate members of the Warwick Wine Family. We look forward to a great evening of good food and wine. Book now!
Venue: The Butcher Block Executive Grill, Rosebank Hotel
Date: 18 November 2009
Time: 7.00pm for 7.30pm
Cost: R325.00 per person
Dress: Smart casual
Menu:Please click HERE
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Friday, October 30, 2009
Thursday, October 29, 2009
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
Only available from email@example.com
Limit 6 bottles per person.
Monday, October 26, 2009
So Dennis Kerrison obviously didn’t have them in mind when he named his Doolhof 2008 Pinotage Dark Lady, as harshness is a fault often pinned on Pinotage as are some of the comments from critics. Perhaps cockney Dennis had Welsh rocker Tom Jones in mind and his classic ballad Dark Lady about the Fortune Queen of New Orleans and her black cat. But after seeing a bleary-eyed Tom interviewed on Sky News the day Michael Jackson passed, associating a wine with Tom would attract only necrophiliacs.
Now along comes Mike Ratcliffe with a Black Lady Syrah 2006 from Warwick. The estate has a whole harem of ladies in the tasting room: Three Cape Ladies, First Lady and now a Black one, presumably connected to Professor Black of Sauvignon Blanc fame? Or a special bottling for Barbara Amiel, socialite and wife of jailed publisher Lord Conrad Black perhaps?
This rush to anthropomorphize wine is nothing new. Pinot Noirs have long been classified into masculine and feminine styles so it makes perfect sense for a Pinotage, which is a 50% Pinot Noir offspring, to be compared to a Dark Lady. Mike is nothing if not a canny marketer and with tourists the Holy Grail for the top end of the market he is clearly getting in early with a brand that rings more bells than Quasimodo.
Thursday, October 22, 2009
Warwick Estate & Vilafonte
P.O.Box 2 Elsenburg, 7607, South Africa
FOLLOW ME ON TWITTER www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Friday, October 16, 2009
WINE.CO.ZA readers receive daily (sporadic) blog postings from the UK. Occasional contributor Mike Ratcliffe, the MD of Warwick Wine Estate and the American joint venture winery, Vilafonte, sends live updates and photos of what's hot and happening at the this year's Mega Tasting punctuated with personal observation and irreverent thoughts. This posting was written on the high-speed Virgin train between London and Glasgow - via wifi. Follow Mike on Twitter www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
The second day at the WOSA Mega-tasting was kind of like the first day, except that it was 24 hours later and I was feeling that much more exhausted. There was nothing of particular excitement to report in the sense that we were not surprised by a visit from Nelson Mandela or Robert Parker . The visitor numbers appeared to be higher and there was a general buzz around the room as everyone went about their business of sniffing, swirling and spitting. Again the lack of presence from all but actual wine buyers and journos was a disappointment as the mega-tasting is an excellent opportunity for everyone from MW students to waiters and budding sommeliers to have a one-stop shop for SA wine. While the coordination, presentation and winery attendance at the show were impressive, one cannot help but ask if a one-day show would have had the same impact. It is understandable that it is not always convenient to attend on a particular day, but with the exceptional lead times and forward planning you would think that the trade would be able to organise themselves. The problem with giving people too many options is that they tend to exercise them.
From a personal point of view, the event was well worth the time and investment and I feel satisfied that it would be very difficult to replicate the excellent face-time and new business that I achieved as a solo operator. Perhaps the brains-trust that organise the event could think of some way to further differentiate this event. Perhaps an indoor football tournament of SA wine producers and UK wine hacks would have added an element of fun to the sometimes sombre proceedings? But then again, this is a wine trade show in London and an element of formality is to be expected.
While the days have been focused on trade interactions, I have now spent three nights on the trot immersing myself in consumer tastings. In excess of 900 ordinary consumers pitched up for the three events in London and Glasgow and the incredible enthusiasm and support for SA wines warmed the heart of even the most jaded globe-trotting wino.
‘I had no idea that SA wines are so good.’
‘These wines present incredible
value and knock the spots off the French’,
‘South African wines just keep
Consumers are generally honest and candid, especially given their power to vote with their wallets. If the consumer enthusiasm encountered over the past week were somehow translated up the value chain to the gate-keepers, it is hard to believe that South African wine is not about to adjust it’s value positioning in the right direction.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
OK, so the SA wine industry was in London, but how were my predictions on attendance figures? It is always difficult to gauge attendance at these events and I might be getting in trouble, so I will restrict this opinion to a very narrowly defined one – my own. I was really impressed by the attendance by European and even American interests. I was happy to spend time with my Dutch & Russian agents and enjoyed discussions with colleagues from Finland and Ireland. The New York sommeliers flown to London by WOSA were likes bees around the hive and it would seem took the opportunity to really throw themselves at the opportunity to educate themselves widely, although they lamented that the majority of wines on show were not available in NY – fair enough, it is a UK trade show. There were also some top journos and many of the big supermarket buyers were present, but where were all the restaurant owners, the independent wine shops, the sommeliers and the smaller wine buyers? Did I blink and miss them? After 15 years in the market I know many of the top people and they were, it seems, not there.
The evening was an altogether different affair as SA Wines Online hosted a consumer event that had many of the exhausted SA wino’s running hard with 400 plus consumers scrambling for a taste of some of SA’s top drops. It was a warm and heartening affair with overwhelming enthusiasm coupled with genuine interest that could have lead to excellent sales – an altogether welcome combination. I will be looking to boss-man kevin Gallagher of www.sawinesonline.co.uk to give me some feedback later today, but my gut feeling is that it was huge success. Well done to all.
Follow me on Twitter www.twitter.com/mikeratcliffe
Monday, October 12, 2009
The buzz is building in Blighty as we inch closer to the Day 1 of the mega-tasting. London’s streets are riddled with South African’s armed to the teeth with wine – and with every intention to use it. Informal chats with some of the top UK journo’s shows that a strong media presence will be felt tomorrow and so far the top buyers from Waitrose, Sainsbury;s, Tesco’s, Morrisons, Wine Direct and the Wine Society will be descending on Earls Court to hob-nob with the who’s-who of the SA winemaking firmament. Will any of the South African journalists be present to record this auspicious moment of unity for the loyal South African public?
This year WOSA is bringing a couple of new angles to the event. About a dozen top New York sommeliers are being flown from the USA to attend the mega-tasting which is an incredibly efficient and intelligent use of WOSA and winery resources, effectively killing two birds with one stone. I will be dining with the sommeliers this evening and will be sure to blog about this tomorrow to hear their impressions. This global WOSA strategy is a good omen demonstrating the WOSA board’s commitment to a new USA wine strategy which is going to culminate in another mega-tasting of sorts in New York City on May 11th 2010. More USA buzz is going to be evident on Tuesday the 17th of November when the WOSA USA workshop kicks off in Stellenbosch. But I digress…
The idea that a mega-tasting hosted in London should be a purely UK-centric affair is getting old. London is the cross-roads of the wine world and WOSA’s decision to use it as an American and European platform is excellent. The effort to travel to the event from Europe is minimal and I understand that this year the event has been extensively marketed by the European offices. The proof is in the pudding, but ultimately an event of this nature is a the next best alternative to the ‘Cape Wine’ events that have been so successful in the past, but actually at a much smaller cost.
So what defines success? This is an open-ended question and one that would have a hundred reasonable answers. In my observations in many London off-con outlets, I have too–often bumped into brands that I have never (or seldom) heard of. There are too many brands that are once-off brands or buyers own brands (BOB’s) that have got no particularly identifiable source or origin. Too often these are ‘buy-one-get-one-free’ brands (BOGOF’s). These are characterless wines bearing the ‘Made in SA’ moniker, but seemingly devoid of any of the unique South African ‘Brand-DNA’. So what would define success for the mega-tasting? A successful SA category in the UK would see fewer BOB’s, fewer BOGOF’s, a lot less CRAP and much more inherent South African-ness in our brands. Success would see a tighter marketing message and a more clearly defined point of differentiation about what exactly South African-ness is. It is my hope that the unified marketing message being promoted by WOSA as the ‘BRAND DNA’ of the Wines of South Africa will be adopted and embraced.
Now, I am off (in 5 minutes) to dinner with the USA sommeliers – more from the tasting tomorrow.
Sunday, October 11, 2009
The bi-annual Swallow-like migration of South Africa’s wine making and wine marketing elite to London started this weekend with flocks descending on Cape Town International for the trip to the ‘other’ London Wine Show – the WOSA ‘Mega-tasting’. The biggest showing of our collective wine muscle outside of the Cape Wine show starts flexing at Earls Court on Tuesday and one can be sure that the UK media and wine trade will again be as supportive in their attendance as ever.
South Africa’s generic wine marketing function has always been under the spotlight and over the years has been a punching bag for winemakers struggling with excessive inventories, but lately there is a growing body of evidence that WOSA has come of age. Recently Su Birch and her exceptionally able and experienced band of ‘merry men’ (and merry women) presented the marketing strategy for the year ahead including a document on the ‘Brand DNA’ of the Wines of South Africa. Now, there is no secret that I am generally predisposed to marketing orientated discussion and have, over the years accumulated an ability to assess this type of communication, but it would be an understatement if I said that I was impressed by the WOSA presentation. In fact I can take it one step further to say that the WOSA Brand DNA presentation for South African wine is one the slickest strategies that I have ever seen and is an asset that we as an industry need to embrace and celebrate. To put it simply, there is no generic wine marketing competitor that could boast anything like what we have and that is a pretty cool thing. Have you read it? Is this news to you? Well, please go onto the WOSA website and download it or call the offices and ask them to send you one of the very tastefully designed brochures that spell out the vision – and then make sure that you and your winery start implementing.
So, here I am sitting in a Kensington wine bar wondering why I am paying £7.75 for a glass of very cheap red Burgundy and pondering the relevance of this whole circus known affectionately as the UK wine market. It was Oscar Wilde that said that ‘The man who can dominate a London dinner-table can dominate the world.” Any seasoned wine marketing campaigner will tell you that London (or now apparently Hong Kong) is the centre of the wine world. On every corner there is a wine bar or wine shop plying it’s trade to a public that have come to acknowledge wine as a necessary staple as ubiquitous as a loaf of bread. If consumer acceptance is the bedrock of wine marketing nirvana, then London is where it is at and where competition is more aggressive than anywhere on the planet. For this reason I have been dispatched by the ‘powers that be’ at wine.co.za to scout for stories and anecdotes that exemplify our South African efforts and which I will be reporting on over the course of the next week – that is the full extent of my mandate.
Stay tuned – I have no idea where this is going.
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Tuesday, October 06, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
29 Sep 2009 From 55.56 Rand, £6.95, €7.47, $15.98 and 15.75 Swiss francs.
Find this wine
This week’s wine is available in the UK, the US, Germany, Switzerland, Denmark, Belgium and South Africa, so it must be made in a fair old quantity. But if you’re in Britain and can get your hands on Warwick Estate, The First Lady 2007 Western Cape before this Saturday 3 Oct, you will have yourself one of the great red wine bargains of all time. To celebrate the famous (and pictured) Norma Ratcliffe’s 25 years as winemaker at the renowned Warwick Estate in South Africa, this wine is being offered by both Waitrose and The Wine Society in the UK at £6.99 and £6.95 respectively. After that it reverts to its regular full price of £9.99 and £7.95 respectively (an intriguing disparity there). I tasted this latest vintage last week as part of these Wine Society tasting notes, without knowing about this special offer, and couldn’t get over the value offered even at the full price of £7.95. It’s based on Cabernet Sauvignon that is delightfully ripe, without any hint of the greenness that can dog some South African Cabernets, and is so much subtler than most of its peers. It sees no new oak, which may be an advantage for a wine deliberately made to be drunk at two to three years old. The wine was aged for 15 months in second- and third-fill barrels, and racked three times during this barrel ageing. I loved the resulting gentle texture and complete wash over the palate. Its certainly soft but not sickly sweet, and the 13.9% alcohol is well hidden.
So this is a great way to toast someone who has done a great deal for modern Cape wine, on a beautiful farm with lovely garden where I remember her entertaining me for a (two) ladies lunch many years ago. Her son Mike is now running the commercial side of the business, so perhaps this bottling was his idea. If so, chapeau. It would be great to see a few more South African wine producers making this easy style of red instead of trying to emulate a first growth with every attempt. Half of the fruit for this wine was grown on Warwick Estate apparently and half bought in, mainly also from Stellenbosch but because there is a tiny proportion from outside Stellenbosch, it has to carry the not-very-informative Wine of Origin Western Cape. (I would love to see this 100% rule relaxed for South Africa as I think it would be much more useful for consumers to know where, say, 90 or 85% of the fruit came from and in practice a tiresomely high proportion of all South African wines have to be labelled either Western Cape or Coastal.) The Wine Society is offering all its members who buy this wine (or any of the other three Warwick Estate wines in the current offer) a chance to enter a draw to win a six-bottle case of Norma Ratcliffe’s ‘milestone’ wines – older vintages which are no longer commercially available – with a total estimated value of £400.
Go ye and enjoy it. It’s one of those (relatively rare, good) red wines that could happily be sipped without food yet would be fine with a bowl of pasta or chicken.
Find this wine
Friday, September 25, 2009
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
Tuesday, September 08, 2009
Vilafonté winery to learn about 'Social Media' & how it can be applied in
the wine industry. The afternoon is building a solid base for the
culminating event - an online, Twitter, Facebook and SMS enabled wine
tasting which will reverberate all around the world. The tasting is being
facilitated by Fred Roed from www.worldwidecreative, Jonathan Cherry from
www.cherryflava.com and the incredible team from www.mobilitrix.co.za - the
indominitable pioneers of cell phone marketing in South Africa. If we
achieve nothing, we will at least have some fun doing something that - we
don't think - has ever been done in South Africa before. Follow on Twitter
Monday, August 24, 2009
I originally set out to write this column to mark National Women's Day two weeks ago. One reason I wrote this column was my intense irritation at a gold coin company that issued a media release saying it was minting another edition of its "Princess Di" coins to mark Women's Day. This was cheap exploitation of what should be a serious event, and was made worse by the fact that the coins are not a real investment. These "personality" coins are totally over-priced relative to their gold content. The other reason I wrote this column was to tell you about two impressive women whose paths I cross regularly because of my fascination with blends, both wine and investment. Many of the investments I have made have been blends and many of my favourite wines are blends. I simply do not have the depth of knowledge or the time to make decisions on how to blend assets correctly, let alone try to pick each security in each asset class. I am not prepared to take such risks with the bulk of my savings. Neither do I try to blend my own wines. Instead, I have tended to use balanced, or what the unit trust industry calls flexible, funds for most of my investments. I have relied on patience and saving over the long term to provide me with the results I want. This approach has served me well. I am not trying to argue that all blends, whether wine or investment, are good; some blends are excellent, some are drinkable and others cannot be used even as vinegar. One thing I have learned is that a good blend does not happen by chance or by trying to piggyback on the success of others. You have to know what you are doing. This brings me to Women's Day Two of the more remarkable blenders I have met are Anne Cabot-Alletzhauser, the chief investment officer of multi-manager Advantage (part of the FirstRand Group), and Norma Radcliffe of Warwick Wine Estate (on the R44 to SteUenbosch, off the Nl before Paarl). Both, in their way, are zealous about getting their blends right. Life with Camcron Bruce Cameron Anne has been at it for 29 years. Norma celebrated 25 years of winemaking this year. They entered their professions when these were male-dominated. To a lesser extent, this is still the case today. A while ago, I attended a briefing by Anne on her approach to multi-management. I was amazed at the extent to which she tests the ability of asset managers to add real value. Multi-management is simply another way of creating a balanced, or flexible, portfolio. But instead of a single asset management company blending the asset classes and selecting the underlying investments, the multi-manager decides on the asset mix required to achieve different results. The multi-manager then selects asset managers from different asset management companies to decide on the underlying investments. This approach is also known as best-of-breedr DIFFERENT TARGETS Another important element of blends is that they do not provide a one-size-fits-all solution. Good wine blenders have something in mind when they blend their wines. For example, Norma will tell you that her Trilogy blend goes best with veal, game and intensely flavoured stews, as well as bitter chocolate desserts. Likewise, most investment blends exist to achieve different targets, which may include reducing volatility risk (the propensity for an investment to swing widely in value) or earning a certain return - for example, three or four percent above inflation. Every time I have spoken to Anne or attended her briefings, I have learned something new - or rather, a lot new. I have also been to a number of wine tastings at Warwick, and was fortunate to be invited to a tasting to celebrate Norma's 25 years in the industry. Much of the focus at the tasting was Norma's taking us through her blends of the past quarter-century, starting with the 1984 Femme Bleu, through to the more well known Three Cape Ladies and the flagship Trilogy. Her son, Mike, recently bottled a special blend, First Lady, to recognise the contribution made by his mother. Norma can be compared to a single asset manager, as the grapes used for the various blends come from the Warwick vineyards. YEARS OF TESTING Apart from marking Women's Day (albeit a bit late) by mentioning these two remarkable people, there is a point I wish to make: getting it right consistently does not happen by chance. It means years of testing, both you and your product, ensuring that the basic ingredients are of the best quality and that the mix provides the right balance for what you want to achieve. It is for this reason that I am contemptuous of many so-called multi-managers, in particular most of the unit trust funds of funds (FoFs). The people who manage these funds simply do not have the time, dedication or expertise to manage them properly. Allow me to diverge. My brother-in-law owns the Occidental Bar at the Kimberley mine museum. Recently, someone attempted to sell him something called Pearly Bay. It was so dreadful that he added vinegar to some of it and gave the result to one or two of his customers as an experiment. They found the vinegar blend the better option. I tasted Pearly Bay without the vinegar and I can say it is quite the worst wine I have ever tasted. As you can have a Trilogy or a Pearly Bay, so you can have an Advantage portfolio or one of those dreadful bottom-of-every-thing, broker white-label fund of funds, where a financial adviser, in most cases without the necessary time or expertise, is doing the blending. i VINTAGE VERSUS PLONK Let me give you an example. Without first looking at the performance tables, I decided to select a unit trust sub-category that was important for long-term savings (namely, retirement), where the investment portfolios are a blend of asset classes and where investors are protected to some extent from high-risk bets by the prudential investment requirements of the Pension Funds Act. I chose the domestic asset allocation prudential medium equity funds over three years to the end of June 30, 2009. I found both vintage performance and vinegar. The best performer was the Prescient SA Balanced Quant-Plus Fund, with an average annual return of 11 percent - not bad in the current market. The vinegar was supplied by the Quantum Balanced FoF, with an average annual return of minus 1.32 percent. Incidentally, in second place, and the best-performing fund of funds, was the Umbono Core Managed FoF, with an average annual return of 9.51 percent. (Not bad under current market conditions.) This fund, which is in the Old Mutual stable, uses tracker, or passive, portfolios as its building blocks. So, in simple terms, the different asset classes provide the average performance of the market. The skill lies in blending the asset classes. I then took a closer look at the Quantum Balanced FoF. When I looked at the fund's fact sheet, I found that 36 percent of the fund is in two other funds Quantum manages: Quantum Core Income and Quantum Global Managed. And blow me down, I found that both these funds are also multi- managed funds. And the Global Fund is managed by RMB Asset Management, three of whose funds make up more than 20 percent of the portfolio. On its website", Quantum Investment Partners refers to itself as "master blenders". I would suggest they take a few lessons from a real investment master blender - Anne - or else the people who are placing their money in Quantum's hands will be resorting to Norma's blends. Finally, a note of warning: be very careful when an adviser suggests that you place your money in a white-label fund that operates under the licence of another unit trust management company, in particular if it is a fund of funds. (Quantum is not one of these and does have qualified people making its investment decisions.) Many white-label funds charge excessive fees and are operated by financial advisers who do not have the necessary expertise or time to do so properly.
* Cameron is the author of Retire Right (Zebra Press), which is now in its second edition.
Monday, August 17, 2009
by By Liz Thach, Ph.D., SSU Wine Business Professor
Should wineries pay attention to what wine bloggers are writing? Do they really have an impact on a wine brand? According to a new study just completed by Sonoma State University Wine Business Institute, it appears that the answer is yes -- especially for wineries with less well-known brands or located in new and upcoming wine regions.
How Many Wine Blogs Are There Anyway?
In order to conduct the study, it was necessary to obtain a random sample, so we consulted the Complete List of Wine Blogs, compiled by Alder Yarrow at www.vinography.com. You may be amazed to know that in the last 5 years, the number of wine blogs has grown from 1 to over 700. Of these, more than 570 wine blogs are in English, with an additional 170+ wine blogs in other languages, including Italian, French, Catalan, Czech, German, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, Chinese, Portuguese, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Indonesian.
Focusing on the English language wine blogs, we applied a decision rule of selecting a minimum of 10 blogs per alpha letter, and discarding those blogs that were not active. This resulted in a total sample of 222 blogs which were subjected to content analysis by 42 trained wine business students.
The 9 Major Categories of Wine Blogs
The first analysis included a thematic sorting of the blogs by major topic. This resulted in 9 categories as illustrated in the chart below. The most common type of blog is a Wine Review for which an individual blogger tastes and writes a review of the wine -- usually adding a rating from the standard 100, 20, or 5 point wine rating scales.
Blogs on Wine & Food with matching recipes, as well as information on restaurants was the 2nd largest category. This was followed by Wine Education where the blogger educates the reader on wine issues such as wine styles, varietals, how to taste wine and related topics. Blogs that focused specifically on Winemaking and Viticulture were placed in a separate category.
In addition, there were blogs that focused on Specific Wine Regions, such as a city, state, appellation or country. Some examples we found included Washington D.C., New Orleans, San Francisco, Paris, Seattle, Washington State, Oregon, California, and Britain. These blogs also emphasized wine shops and/or wineries available in these areas, as well as restaurants. A related category was Wine & Culture which focused on the association of wine with art, poetry, music, and literature.
Only 9% of the sample included Winery Blogs -- or those created by wineries to describe their wines and news at the winery. This illustrates an opportunity for more wineries to create their own blog. Other less frequent blog categories included Wine Business and Winemaking & Viticulture. The category of Other was created for those very unique blogs that didn't fit into major themes. Examples included "wine & hiking; wine & politics; wine under $20; and an emphasis on a specific grape, such as shiraz.
Numbers of Wine Brands and Ads on Blogs
Other analyses included counting and recording the number of wine brands and advertisements on the first page of each blog (we did not analyze older posts). Amazingly within the 222 wine blogs, 813 different wine brands were listed. These were sorted to determine which wine brands were cited most often. Interestingly only 3 brands were listed 4 or more times: Kendall-Jackson, Ridge and Penfolds. This analysis showed that many small unknown wine brands are described on blogs, as well as international brands from around the world.
Just under half of the sample (47%) included advertisements on the blog, for a total of 451 ads. These varied from simple ads provided by Google, to sophisticated winery, food, and wine product ads. It is important to note that the major way wine bloggers create revenue is through online ads, with professional bloggers able to make $20,000 - $30,000 per year in this fashion. Most wine bloggers have other jobs to supplement their online income. (Note: There have been some ethical discussions at the past two Wine Blogger's Conferences as to whether or not bloggers should accept ads from wine brands they review.)
Why Should Wineries Pay Attention to Bloggers?
There are several reasons that wineries need to pay attention to wine bloggers. The first is that the number of wine blogs is continuing to grow, and this provides an opportunity for wineries to have their brands featured on blogs. For wineries with a small public relations budget or those that can't get the attention of the larger media publications, this can be a positive alternative -- especially since some of the more popular wine blogs have thousands of followers and receive 30,000 to 40,000 hits per month.
Another reason is that we have entered a period of "democratization of media on the Internet." This means that anyone can easily establish a wine blog on the Internet using free blogging software (wordpress.com; blogspot.com; typepad.com, etc.). Since there are no official guidelines regarding what can be published, the stories and reviews may be positive or negative. Likewise, bloggers have diverse backgrounds in that some have a high level of wine knowledge and experience, whereas others have none and just want to share their viewpoints on wine. Therefore, in terms of writing quality and level of sophistication of wine blogs, there is great variation. Because of this wineries need to monitor what is being said about their brands online.
How Can Wineries Work With Wine Bloggers?
The advent of wine blogs and other Wine 2.0 applications (social networking sites, online videos, podcasts, message boards, etc.) has created both more opportunities and more work for the public relations function within wineries. Because of the fact that your brand may be discussed online by anyone who happens to buy a bottle -- and that the story can easily be circulated around the globe in a matter of hours, it is important to pay attention:
• Monitor your brand online to keep track of what people are saying about you. Most wineries have now utilized the Google Alert system, but there are others such as Twitter Search, http://www.trackur.com, and http://www.monitter.com which can provide more information.
• If you find a positive review or mention of your name, consider sending an email to thank the blogger for featuring you.
• If you find a negative review, contact the blogger and ask them for more information. Consider inviting them to visit your winery or a tasting you are hosting so they can learn more about you. DO NOT get in an "online flame war" with a blogger (which has happened in the past).
• Identify several wine blogs you enjoy reading and keep track of them to see what topics are "hot" on the blogs.
• If you are a new winery with a less well-known brand consider contacting the blogmaster of wine blogs which interest you. Invite them to visit or taste your wine.
• If you are in a wine region that is less well-known, identify bloggers who write about your region and invite them to visit or taste your wine.
• If you are considering starting your own winery blog, make sure to implement it in a professional manner. This means making sure to write new posts at least once a week, but preferably more often. It also means writing interesting stories about what is happening at the winery and other issues, rather than just trying to market your wine. Finally, it means monitoring and responding to the people who post on your blog.
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Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Blogging can be a very powerful marketing tool - when done right. Same goes for mobile tools, which are generally fairly inexpensive but can take a degree from MIT and a few episodes of Heroes to muster up enough geek in you to understand, let alone develop yourself. We've therefore invited Adriaan Pienaar from WooThemes and Chris Rolfe from Mobilitrix to join us for an afternoon of 'how-to' in the winelands for our second SecondBase workshop entitled: SecondBase - The digital media 'how-to guide' for the South African wine industry [Part 1] Adriaan runs an extremely successful blog theme company and is an expert on designing, jump-starting and making blogs work. He knows the psychology behind what readers enjoy and how to produce something people are really going to want to become fans of. Chris is an expert in mobile marketing and runs a company that sells innovative mobile marketing products. We've asked him to come along, show us what they do, how they work and how they can drive your sales. We've used them before ourselves - so we know they rock. As part of the SecondBase workshop, which as you know is less talk and more touchy-feely, we'll let you push and poke and play with all the toys so that you leave not only with the info, but the know-how too.This workshop has been designed specifically for the wine industry, so for the first time we'll be hosting it at Mike Ratcliffe's Vilafonté wine cellar in Stellenbosch.As part of the afternoon, we'll also be using the occasion to arm you with some of our brand-new equipment courtesy of Nokia and show you a few exciting and practical uses of some of the tools in one of our legendary 'urban adventures'.
Jon Cherry from Cherryflava also has a hunch as to how Steve Jobs would market his South African wine farm and will share those 'unusual' insights with you.If you're thinking of lifting your marketing game and need a practical guide to the best digital tools and trends right now - then this is your event.
Tickets are rarer than 5-stars in Platter, only 45 available.
Price: R950 per ticket
Date: Tuesday 8 September 2009
Time: 12:00 pm - 5:30 pm
Venue: vilafonté wine cellar, Stellenbosch map: www.vilafonte.com
To book your seat: E-mail Jon Cherry - firstname.lastname@example.org
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Thursday, July 30, 2009
24 July 2009
by Len Maseko in THE SOWETAN newspaper
THE struggle by women to assert themselves as individuals responsible for their own development, unencumbered by chauvinism, is a tension that preoccupies their daily existence.
With the weight of historical prejudice always bearing down like a millstone around their necks, women have unfairly had lives defined by patriarchal sensibilities and their manifestation – the epic battle of the sexes.
Despairing over chauvinism, author Sarah Moore Grimké (quotegarden.com) once said: “I ask no favours for sex ... All I ask of our brethren is that they take off their feet from our necks.”
Not for many women, though, is life today about subjecting themselves to social subjugation or, worse, living the stereotype of being perennial kitchen hands solely slaving to please the master. Where they have been able to break through the shackles of stereotyping, they have inevitably generated lingering doubts about their capacity to succeed without a leg-up.
With constant allusions to man’s hidden hand spurring them to an elevated status, women have shrugged the prejudice and forged on regardless.
They have come into their own reckoning without so much an aim to beat men in their own game as to forge their own destiny.
Strong-willed Norma Ratcliffe, owner and wine maker at Warwick Wine Estate in the Cape wine lands, is such an individual.
Acclaimed as a pioneering woman who successfully burst into the wine sector, Ratcliffe has 25 years and a string of award-winning wines behind her to prove her credentials.
She remains distinguished as the first woman to be inducted into the Cape Winemakers Guild in 1989.
Recently, she celebrated her 25th anniversary of wine making at Joburg’s 10 Bompas Hotel, with a nostalgic line-up dating back to her first wine, the 1984 Femme Bleu.
From debut wine, the memory lane extended to the exquisite 1986 Triology, 1995 Cabernet Franc, 1997 Three Cape Ladies, 1998 Chardonnay to the boutique 2001 Femme Bleu. All the wines were a tribute to determined efforts of both Norma and her late husband Stan, and their two children – Mike and Jenny.
Today the family’s wines are a regular feature at top restaurants in SA, America, Asia and Europe.
Trilogy remains their popular wine, with the First Lady launched by her son as a tribute to mom in 2008. An apt monument to the feisty “First Lady of Simonsberg”. Norma’s dogged efforts have succeeded to overcome the dogma of patriarchy in the wine world. Her barnstorming attitude suitably resonates with Madonna’s famous quote: “I’m tough, I’m ambitious, and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, okay.”