Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Letter to the Business Day by Jeremy Sampson, Executive Chairman of Interbrand Sampson

Back in your wine box, elitist critic

The letter, Quality wine in a box (September 21), highlights much of what is wrong with the wine industry. We hear of wine lakes on the one hand yet the price of wine continues its steady climb. Wine farmers plead poverty, and yet we are continuously presented with pictures of the great and the good unashamedly enjoying the life of Riley . Your wine columnist continues to opine in his quaint, elitist style, as if anyone who can’t afford a bottle at R150, or was it R1500-plus, is beneath him. Many wine writers give the impression that nothing below a certain price point will ever contaminate their nostrils, let alone their lips. Let’s get real here. Between boxed “carafe quality” and auction wines there is a whole array of, shall I call them “sumptuous, luscious, mouth- filling, affordable wines”? SA is truly blessed. Travel to Europe or the US at the moment. Many retailers are fighting for survival in these difficult times. While often avoiding discounting of brands, a marketing no-no, they are putting together “special offers”, co-branded deals, BOGOF s (buy one or two, get one free), and trying to maintain their relationship with their consumers by delivering value at affordable prices. Marketers should know that relationships that survive difficult times are potentially even better in the good times. Nothing wrong in trading down. Values such as trust, integrity and transparency are never to be taken for granted.
Apart from the Sunday Times wine fundi, who has the confidence and knowledge to recommend wines from as little as R25 a bottle, most of the other writers deserve to be put back in their elitist boxes. If the wine industry wants to maintain, let alone grow, its “share of throat”, it will need to change.
Jeremy Sampson

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