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
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