So the big boys on the other side of the pond are coming to South Africa. Just Drinks (I didn’t read the full article because I am feeling frugal this morning and didn’t want to fork out 900 bucks to subscribe) reports that E & J Gallo Winery – the largest exporter of Californian wines – are bringing their Barefoot range to our shelves, with Namaqua Wines as the distributor.
It seems that the company has been restructuring and is now focusing on emerging markets. Drinks International reported that George Mardsen, Gallo’s outgoing vice president and general manager EMEA (Europe Middle East and Africa), said that “the election of Barack Obama as president has made South Africans very receptive to American products.”
Really? Hey Barack you’re America’s first black president and the majority of Africa’s black. Soooo give us some Californian wine. Sounds like bullshit to me. We’ve been buying American shit for ages without Barack Obama.
I think that as wine drinkers we definitely need more exposure to wines other than our own, but I am not sure if those wines need to be mass produced Californian ones. I understand that this is a business move and not some altruistic endeavour to improve South African palates, but the sole reason I see for people suiping on Barefoot wines is because they are foreign, and that this therefore somehow represents higher quality.
I hope we have moved beyond the idea that things from ‘overseas’ are better. Shit, the biggest American exports I see are crappy fast-food and war. (OK that’s stretching it – just couldn’t help myself). I remember growing up and longing for Mc Donalds to come to our town. It did, and wow what a let down.
I foresee the same argument being applied to the Barfoot range as the one used to champion Coffee Pinotages. It goes: The hoi poloi love coffee pinotage, but it’s not the best wine. Well, at least they are drinking wine. So this will be their ‘gateway’ wine; they will start here and before you know it they will be buying the Kanonkops, Cape Points and Boekenhoutskloofs of the world – not for image mind you, but for a love of wine. Hmmm, not sure how plausible that is. Although, admittedly, I might be building straw men here.
I can see this being used for the Californian wines. South Africans will develop a love for foreign wines by starting with the Barefoot range. I don’t buy that either. Fostering an appreciation of wine doesn’t come from gimmicks, it comes from realising the differences between wines whether it be varieties, styles, vintages or places.
I also wonder how these wines are going to be priced. In the States they seem to go for around $6-$8. So let’s say we’ll be getting them for around R60-R70? But you have to wonder if those prices will stay there considering the distance they have to travel. Now, if they are going to be closer to the R100 mark then I would definitely start to worry about value – which seems to be the selling point of these wines in the US. I would hate to see a bunch of US wines retailing at the 70-100 Rand mark but are not offering any value at all, just simply the fact that they are foreign.
I haven’t tasted the range yet so I am not simply writing them off, I just think that for general everyday good value wines – which a quick trawl around the interwebs clearly shows these to be – we have masses right here. I want to taste wines that tell me where they are from – I want Californian wines that say, “Hey you Saffa, I’m from Cali. West-side Muthafucka.” And in my limited experience these wines tend to be rather pricy. Maybe I’m wrong and these everyday wines will be excellent, typical examples of Californian wine; a good introduction to wines from the States. I truly hope so. But just like Coffee Pinotage having the ability to turn a Castel and Black label loving nation into a horde of Anoraks – I doubt it.