WOSA (Wines of SA, the exporters’ mouthpiece) CEO Su Birch could be in for a warm reception at the controversial Wine Futures Conference in Hong Kong next month after her comments in Crush! magazine that China is not one of her favourite tourist destinations.
Q: “Of all the places you go to on business, which one would you most like to return to, and why?”
A: “Almost everywhere, except China. I love art, architecture, watching people, mountains, forests and water so I am happy almost everywhere”.
Johann Rupert, chairman of Richemont which has over 300 shops in the Middle Kingdom and who is a major up-market wine producer in his own right, responds “If true, the comment is very sad. China is one of the great destinations in the world. The Chinese are truly sophisticated and were already civilized at a time our forefathers were still living in caves.
They produced steel 1,500 years before Europe, had coinage 900 BC, ant-malaria drugs 300 BC, diagnosed diabetes 100 BC, invented the toothbrush 900 AD and dated trees by rings 1200 AD, to name a few.
Europe and the United States will continue to suffer economic difficulties for the foreseeable future. China will continue to grow. In serving the wine industry one should know really your markets and develop a concise strategy. Unfortunately, the whole episode points at a far wider malaise at WOSA.”
Carina Gous, head of wine at SA largest liquor corporate Distell, says her company is “absolutely dedicated to China as a key strategic focus market for our wine as well as spirits portfolio.” Auctioneer Christie’s head of wine in China, Simon Tam, asks SA producers to “please forgive China its growing pains and allow us to play gracefully with our friends in the West” as “China is simply the most important wine market where the Delicious West meets the Thirsty East.”
Simon hopes that Su will return to China to give him the opportunity of showing her his China and offers himself as a personal tour guide to this end. Perhaps Su will take him up on his offer next month after a conference damned by leading US wine blogger David White as one which “could have been held 10 or 20 years ago, in any nation on earth” and as such, a missed opportunity.
But perhaps not for the organizers, as admission is a steep $2,900 a ticket, yet wines for the 1000 person tastings are donated by producers such as Vergelegen who have been asked to cough up 72 bottles of their 2000 vintage Vergelegen red.