South African wine producers must have more self-confidence and courage if they are to increase their share of the UK market at higher price points.

The verdict comes from Mike Paul, managing director of Western Wines (which represents the huge Kumala brand), and member of the Wines of South Africa (WOSA) Importers Committee.

Paul was responding to new figures showing South Africa rooted to the bottom of the league in its sales over £5 per bottle in the UK off trade. The number one position is occupied by Australia. While South Africa has a healthy 10% share of off trade sales, the average price per bottle is just £3.67, compared to £4.40 for Australia, and £3.78 for wine generally.

Wines of South Africa has spent the past year trying to encourage producers to consider the UK market as a serious opportunity for sales at a higher price point.

Paul was speaking at the opening seminar of the Cape Wine 2004 trade exhibition.

‘It’s not enough that South Africa is considered a source of “bloody good everyday wine”,’ said Paul, adding that wineries should pull together and promote their brands in a way that mirrors the generic strategy.’

It is in the interests of every producer – even larger brands which are selling at lower prices – to help promote South Africa as capable of producing excellent wines at over £5, he said. ‘This is the only way forward.’

Producers also need to capitalise on the image of South Africa, which is a positive one in the mind of consumers, he urged. ‘This is an advantage that you have over Chile. You must be proud to be South African.’

Paul was keen to dispel the notion that the powerful supermarkets would make exporting to the UK an unattractive – and unprofitable – proposition. ‘The supermarkets have done a lot for wine, and shouldn’t be seen as a force for evil,’ he said. ‘They have made wine a destination category, and projects such as Tesco’s screwcap initiative have benefited the whole industry. It’s just not the case that the UK is all about bog-standard wine being sold cheap and on promotion.’

Written by Amy Wislocki