General

Gallo comes to South Africa

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 Winerythe largest exporter of Californian wines – are bringing their Barefoot range to our shelves, with Namaqua Wines as the distributor.barefoot

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.

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11 thoughts on “Gallo comes to South Africa”

  1. Nice post – definitely agree with your point re: foreign = exotic = better. Think a lot of people might fall into that trap.

    Will definitely be interesting to see what the market acceptance is like if/when they hit the shelves. Unless they’re really good anything above R60 a bottle ain’t gonna cut it for value wines. Also find it a bit strange that the kings of mass production, Namaqua, are brining in competition to themselves(?). Perhaps it’s just a matter of totally dominating that end of the market?

    Ah well… as they say the proof is in the palate and you can be sure I’ll certainly try one or two. Whether or not it’s a once off experience (or even a half experience ala Jam Jar) we shall have to wait and see.

  2. So sad. Maybe its just me but discovering a great wine is also discovering a great farm. Which is also discovering a great region. We know different soil conditions, climate, slopes etc play their part so I always enjoy learning about these factors when opening a bottle of LOCAL wine. I’m certainly not going to crack a bottle of US wine when I can rather appreciate something from an area I have either (a) been to or (b) want to go to.

    Unfortunately I fear some of the Ed Hardy, poser-brigade will buy the foreign wine in their efforts to impress equally clueless friends. Shame.

  3. I know these wines and can assure you that you have everything to fear. i.e. they are crap, will probably offer no value and sadly people will end up buying them because they’re foreign. And because they’ll have a marketing budget the size of Mugabe’s wife’s annual shopping expenditure (huge). They compete on the same level in the US as local wines that go for between R28 – R40. Them being here is only going to diminish the opportunities for our local wines at equal price.
    I actually think there is a place for all foreign wines here, but at the higher price point, like over R100. Why? Because then it will be educated, knowledgeable wine consumers buying them, not easily-swayed, value-seeking consumers.
    Anyways, I think Namaqu might even be part-owned by Gallo. They’re definitely in distribution partnership in the US, so basically Gallo calls the shots.
    This whole thing is ominous. And maybe we should do something about it. After I’ve recovered from this awful hangover and can actually get off my couch., of course.

  4. Gallo – dreadful mass produced crap in the main. As the guys say, why buy imported middle of the road crap when there is some truly fantastic wine available locally – and you know the provenance. Coming from the UK I can tell you that the quality of wine production here is world class if you find (and support) the right stuff…

  5. i think the notion that value seeking wine drinkers are easily swayed is inaccurate.

    value seeking drinkers are fiercly loyal to brands that hit the right marks with them. try telling a four cousins drinker to drink namaqua.

    so if the barefoot wines come in and are crap – people wont buy them.

    what excites me about this development is that there is international interest in the south african wine market.

    if this move proves successfull other compnaies will follow suit and hopefully pave the way for improved bilateral trade agreements that allow better wines from around the world to enter our market.

    its sad that we dont get much international wine here at reasonable prices.

    whats more is that the increased competition will hopefully shake up the local industry – they wont be able to make crap or sell crap and perhaps their marketing will improve too.

    we cant live in a bubble pretending our wines are the only ones out there worth buying (as much i would like to think that).

    sure some producers will suffer in the short term – but in the long run i think its an exciting development for the industry and wine market as a whole.

  6. Thanks for the comments. Brendan I agree that people might not be as easily swayed from changing brands as might have been suggested. Although I worry that at times value starts sliding down the slippery slope towards meaning cheap.

    We all know this is not the case. Which is why I wouldn’t call anyone who is loyal to Four Cousins value seeking. Maybe cheap-ass wine seeking.

    Surely if you are value seeking you want the best wine for the price you want to pay regardless of whether it is Namaqua, Four Cousins or Bare Foot?

    I hope Brendan’s right that this development will lead to the wine drinking market in SA maturing, so that more international wines are sold here. Because it kinda sucks having to pay R140+ for six euro entry level Côtes du Rhône.

  7. Well I have been buying Bare Foot wines lately and what a surprise. First the price, just below R28 a bottle and jolly good quality too. How they manage to sell wine at that price that retails in the USA at $7 I do not understand or really care.

  8. Except for Andre Botha, all of the above were wrong. The wine is selling very well and people are loving it! Maybe the SA consumer was allways paying way too much for average SA wines. Maybe the SA wine producers are scared of competition.The SA consumer was allways deprived from imported wines but now the wheel has turned. Well done Barefoot and USA!!

  9. I love SA wines but having lived in NZ for 2 years and now in the UK, I can truly say that there are fantastic wines all over the world. Have tried a few of the barefoot wines and love it! They are good value for money, easy drinking wines and I have read that they do a lot for conservation too. Beach clean ups and contributing to various environmental groups. I also feel SA needs a bit of health competition as they have had the monopoly for far too long! try the wines before jumping to conclusions and feeling threatened!

  10. The SA consumer was deprived from quality imported wines for far too long! Maybe the SA consumers are paying too much for SA wines and the producers are making too much profit? Well done Barefoot and I hope this is the beginning of a new era. I agree with both Andre’s the wine is of good quality and value.

  11. First things first, the last three comments are from one email address. Which is a bit odd.

    I was wrong about the price. Also, I haven’t tasted these wines. To be honest, I haven’t actually seen them. When I do, I will taste them and come back.

    I’ll be honest though, Barefoot are hardly the type of imported wines we need. They are mass-produced, factory wines. Drinkable, of course; a bargain, for sure, but so far away from being fine wines, that are terroir specific (why else drink wines from different countries?) that they might as well be local.

    This is about money, not about wine.

    I’ll taste them and report back

    Thanks for reading.

    H

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