Why we need to drink more South African wine than ever before
The choice of South Africa for the next round of the Quaranvino Dinner Dates was obvious: South Africans dine at the same time as Europe, make awesome wines, have great stories to tell (in English) and, they’re also the wine country that needs the most help – which is also what Quaranvino is about.
In March, South Africa brought in its own lockdown measures. The distribution and transport of wine was ruled illegal and so exports couldn’t be transported from the wineries to the ports. After some days of lobbying, rules were relaxed to allow wines to be picked up and driven to ports for export but the restaurants and bars remained closed until 1st June. After this date, tasting rooms were open 4 days a week for sales but no pouring and wine lovers could buy wines from restaurants or wineries for take-out. No alcohol could be consumed on premises.
Wineries dependent on local demand were crippled. In a country where escalating production costs and decreased grape prices has seen the reduction in the number of vineyards over the past decade, the consequences were disastrous. Already by the end of May, it was estimated that 80 wineries had gone bankrupt. In rural areas where 30% unemployment is the norm, wineries provide essential employment.
But that was just the start..
On Sunday 12th July, the South African government announced they would introduce a second wave of alcohol restrictions banning all sales of alcohol until further notice. It might seem extreme but considering that alcohol-related injuries and accidents account for 40% of the 40,000 weekly trauma cases (see article below), it's an easy way to free up hospital wards and resources as the Covid-19 cases grow. Forecasts predict the peak of coronavirus infections will only be seen in August.
With tourism to the whole of Africa limited, many of the continental export markets have also effectively closed. Thomas Webb of Thelema Mountain Vineyards says,
"Thelema employs 75 people, and sells 70% of their wine in the South African market. The alcohol ban has been a hammer blow to the producers who sell mostly in the local market, and there are concerns that some wine farms might not survive. And even if the alcohol ban is lifted, the drastic drop in tourism numbers is decimating fine wine sales. The average price for a bottle of wine bought in South Africa is around ZAR 40 (EUR 2.00), and we rely on the tourists for the sales of higher-end wines. The export markets are also depressed, and although we hear of some major retailers having record sales, many distributors are downscaling and laying off staff due to the economic conditions and forecasts of what is to come. So we need all the help we can get!".
What can we do? Drink South African wine! Europe is the main export market for South African wines by far! They are literally depending on us. Whether it’s from the three wineries we feature on the Quaranvino web-shop, or any other producer you find on your next shopping trip, drink some great South African wine, and help secure the livelihoods of our friends in the Cape.
Interesting article from the BBC about the alcohol ban: