As if there was not enough sobering economic news recently, the most depressing article we have read for some time was a Business Day article on wines and spirits group KWV, in which CEO Andre van der Veen reported that brandy sales dropped in 10 years from 55m litres to 33m, and are expected to drop further to 30m litres this year. It wasn’t clear whether this was the company’s sales figure or a national one, but either way the brandy market seems to be shrinking steadily. Now, one advantage of local brandy is that it is produced locally, from local grapes. This contrasts, of course, with imported cognacs and brandies, and with other spirits, notably Scotch and Irish whisky and whiskey. Michael Olivier leads our weekly Die Vine Intervention podcast tastings of ZA wines and spirits, which are posted on ZA Confidential, and we have enjoyed some stunning local brandies. Then, of course, there is the far larger market for mass-produced brandies, often consumed when mixed with cola or in other cocktails.
We do not advocate excessive consumption of any form of alcoholic drink, but are concerned that the local market for brandy is shrinking. This may be a generational matter, with younger drinkers preferring different, clear, spirits – such as vodka, tequila and gin. However, we would like to see more effort in the promotion of local brandies, both the cheaper ones and the more up-market versions. Clearly one important market is the black diamond – successful black South Africans who are wealthy and can afford and enjoy the finer things in life. Much advertising appears to be targeted at them, and we hope this is having an impact. However, there remains a belief in South Africa that the best things in life need to be imported – be they brandies, sparkling wines, bottled mineral water or anything else. What we need to realise is that we produce wines and spirits, port and sherry (even though we can’t legally use these two terms any more) in this country which are world class, and that there is nothing second rate or inferior about ZA brandy.
Next time you are in a bottle store, take a look at the local selections. And try one of our finer South African brandies. In terms of price and quality and value for money, you can’t do much better!
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