It is not easy for wine generics to keep on coming up with fresh ideas for their respective countries. But Jo Wehring, as head of Wines of South Africa in the UK, is amongst the best at both promoting and showcasing what the country is good at doing at all price levels. As a result there has never been so much interest in the top quality, premium wines coming out of the Cape. Here she shares her year to date and looks forward to Wines of South Africa’s tasting on September 13.
With less than a month to go before Wines of South Africa’s annual tasting on September 13, Jo Wehring is busy preparing for its key event of what has already been a busy year.
We are well in truly in the second half of the year how has 2017 gone for you so far?
2017 has been an unusual year. There’s a tentativeness about the UK market, as everyone waits to see what will happen with plans to exit the EU and what the repercussions of that will look like. On the other hand, interest and excitement around South African wines continues and our exports to the UK this year are up a healthy 2% in total, with an increase of 17% on packaged exports. I think 2017 will be a successful year for South African wines in the UK.
Best moments of the year so far – business wise and personally
We were delighted with the enthusiasm and interest in the Old Vine Project, following the tasting we held in London this June. We also had a lot of fun promoting Chenin Blanc on Drink Chenin day. It’s such a versatile grape and it was rewarding to see consumers enjoying the mix of styles. It’s working well for independent wine merchants and it’s a fabulous food wine too, lots of positive things to say.
On a personal level, I had a fantastic weekend in Sweden with my European colleagues, staying in a beautiful house, eating great food, watching the sun set on the ocean. We’ve all worked together for so many years but don’t often get to hang out and enjoy their company.
Seeing my son navigate his way through Year One was also very rewarding.
Most challenging moments of the year – business wise (and if you want) personally
For South Africa the big challenge remains profitability in the industry and, for the UK, to grow sales of premium wines, but we’re making good progress and South Africa is definitely a country enjoying popularity in this market. My most challenging moment, was the day before a large work event, when my neighbours’ builders accidentally cut the gas mains and then set fire to them. My road was evacuated, I had no clean clothes, no access to the house, no plan. That was challenging, though I think at the time I employed more colourful language.
What are your big goals for the business for the rest of the year?
To keep telling the stories around South African wines. The industry moves at such pace, we’ve got to keep maintaining the interest and keep the buzz alive. Lots of planning is going on in the build up to Cape Wine in 2018. We want to make it the most successful ever.
Tell us more about your tasting in September. What can we expect?
We’ve got a really great tasting lined up for September 13 at London Olympia, with over 100 producers taking part and lots of wines that are perfect for this market, whichever sector you are buying for. We’ve got six themed tastings as part of our Tasting Trail: Cinsault, Single Vineyards, Old Vines, Transformation, Red & White Blends – finishing up with our MCC bar, where visitors can taste through a range of South African sparklers.
We can also announce that we are going to have a snapshot tasting of Tim Atkin MW’s 95+ point wines, from his latest South Africa report, which launches at the tasting. This is a spectacular range of wines, not to be missed.
What do you see as being the big trends/ influences on your part of the industry?
The Old Vine Project, and what went before it to create it, is very significant for South Africa. The popularity of our premium wines in this market is shaping a new image for South Africa here and globally.
What are your plans for your summer holiday?
We had two glorious weeks in the South of France. For the rest of the summer I plan to moan about how the South of France holiday already feels like a distant memory.
What will you be reading…
When I’m on holiday I like a decent page-turner but nothing that requires my brain to be fully in gear, I’ve got Mark Lawson’s The Allegations on the go right now.
What will you be eating and drinking
Many, many meats on the BBQ, good tomato salads, celeriac remoulade, G&Ts, and lightly chilled South African Cinsault is a big summer favourite
Favourite place for sunset drink?
France, over a game of boules and aforementioned gin and tonic.
What your ultimate summer movie…
The only thing I’ve seen this year is Cars 3, so I don’t feel well placed to answer that question.
Best summer song
I can’t stop listening to Lorde’s Green Light.