Sowe­tan wine mar­ket on the up

The Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Fes­ti­val has be­come an an­nual event that many peo­ple in Gaut­eng look for­ward to at­tend­ing. This week­end from 4 to 6 Septem­ber, about 10 000 fes­ti­val go­ers are ex­pected to de­scend on Wal­ter Sisulu Square, in Klip­town, Soweto, wh

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When the Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Fes­ti­val launched in 2004, it at­tracted 1 500 visi­tors over the three days. This year, or­gan­is­ers hope to at­tract 10 000 visi­tors. Or­gan­is­ers of the fes­ti­val say that this rel­a­tively new wine drink­ing mar­ket has be­come so­phis­ti­cated. And, they say, it’s not just about ed­u­cat­ing the masses about wine, but ex­pos­ing new con­sumers to small bou­tique winer­ies across the coun­try.

Af­ter reach­ing max­i­mum ca­pac­ity of about 8 500 at the Univer­sity of Johannesburg Soweto Cam­pus last year, the fes­ti­val has now been moved to the his­toric Wal­ter Sisulu Square.

The fes­ti­val is ex­pected to in­clude be­tween 30 and 40 wine ex­hibitors, says Mar­i­lyn Cooper, co-founder of the fes­ti­val and Cape Wine Master.

Cooper en­thuses that a new el­e­ment at this year’s event is the in­clu­sion of about 15 lo­cal en­trepreneurs who will be show­cas­ing prod­ucts rang­ing from fash­ion and art to food. “It’s not just about wine, but open­ing our mar­ket to lo­cal Soweto pro­duc­ers,” she says. Through this, the fes­ti­val seeks to ex­pose lo­cal en­trepreneurs to the au­di­ences in the mid­dle to up­per mid­dle class that at­tend the fes­ti­val.

“Half of [the fes­ti­val go­ers] are from Soweto, but the other half do not live in Soweto,” says Cooper.

Pop­u­lar en­try-level wine brand, Four Cousins, will be at the fes­ti­val to ex­hibit to wine lovers in Soweto, which is their big­gest mar­ket, says Cooper.

While the likes of Dis­tell and JC le Roux will not be present at this year’s fes­ti­val, Cooper says this pro­vides smaller winer­ies with a plat­form to show­case their wines.

“We have a lot of small wine pro­duc­ers this year and a lot of new peo­ple that haven’t ex­hib­ited be­fore,” says Cooper.

“What’s nice to see is t hat our wine pro­duc­ers are in line with our en­trepreneurs; they are small bou­tique winer­ies.” Cooper ex­plains that the mar­ket has be­come more so­phis­ti­cated over the past 10 years and serves as great ex­po­sure for small pro­duc­ers. “[ Wine lovers] ac­tu­ally want to find those lit­tle gems in the in­dus­try.”

Ac­cord­ing to Cooper, the past 10 years have re­vealed a trend. Ini­tially, fes­ti­val go­ers will start with sweet white wine, but as their tastes be­come more re­fined, they move to dry white wine and even­tu­ally ac­quire a taste for red.

“Half of our au­di­ence still drink the sweet and the bub­bly, but the other half has re­ally moved on from that. They are play­ing with white wine blends and mer­lot, which is a huge seller now be­cause it’s the first red wine they drink; it’s soft and juicy and the first step to the more tan­nic styles of red wine,” she ex­plains.

In gen­eral, black con­sumers’ share of the wine mar­ket has been grow­ing sub­stan­tially. This pop­u­la­tion’s share of bot­tled wine con­sump­tion in­creased from 61% in 2009, to 69% in 2013 (rep­re­sent­ing roughly 5% of the to­tal black pop­u­la­tion), ac­cord­ing to the South African Coun­try re­port on Geo-de­mo­graphic Trends among Al­co­holic Bev­er­ages Cat­e­gories

Co-founders of the Soweto Wine & Lifestyle Fes­ti­val, Mnikelo Mang­ci­phu (left) owner/man­ager of the only wine shop in Soweto,

Mo­rara Wine & Spirit Em­po­rium,

and Mar­i­lyn Cooper (right), a Cape Wine Master

and for­mer CEO of the Cape Wine


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