International wine lovers, take note: Waterford Estate’s award-winning wines can be found at restaurants, hotels, retailers – and via our agents – across the globe.
Browse to TripAdvisor.co.za and you’ll quickly notice that Waterford Estate is #2 on the list of “150 things to do in Stellenbosch,” and the #1 singular wine-farm experience. Situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, on the slopes of the magnificent Helderberg, the estate remains an incredibly popular tourist destination.
But what many overseas visitors don’t realise is that a significant portion of Waterford Estate’s wines are exported to countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Sweden, Malaysia and Japan. So, instead of taking home just a bottle or two in a suitcase, it’s possible to enjoy more of the estate’s award-winning wines back in your home country.
With the Western Cape traditionally being a popular destination for European travellers, South African wines have always found a place on the continent. In the past, however, our country’s wines were seen as good-value rather than top-quality.
“Our biggest challenge has been to effectively communicate the message of excellent quality,” says Lynsey Barnes, International Brand Manager for Waterford Estate. “For many years, the wines South Africa exported brought in quick economic solutions to the country, but not long-term sustainability.” This created an environment that made it hard for South African winemakers who wanted to produce and sell top-quality wines, and gain a footing in the international market.
But thanks to winemakers like Waterford Estate managing partner Kevin Arnold, the perception of South African wines internationally is starting to change. “Kevin was a pioneer in the South African wine landscape,” Lynsey says. By producing Platter 5-star wines like The Jem with winemaker Mark Le Roux – and selling them at prices that competed with high-quality wines from other top wine regions of the world – Kevin helped to spread the message that South African wines could compete at the highest level.
With changing trade circumstances in the UK under Brexit, and current instability in the markets, Waterford Estate’s strategy of exporting premium wines is bearing even more fruit. “There’s goodwill out there for those who produce high-quality wines while remaining true to their ethos,” says Lynsey. “Although current trends show people are drinking less, they’re drinking better and spending more.”
Recent visits to Asia and the US have, however, shown that there’s still a great deal of work to be done in terms of the perception of South African wines in these markets. “This is a challenge, but an exciting one,” Lynsey says. “South Africa has the raw ingredients and spirit to be a world player. We just need to come together and market the best of what we do effectively.”
Lynsey believes that wine tourism is one of the most effective tools the country can use to boost international wine sales, and says that Waterford Estate has been right at the forefront of this movement since its founding.
Factors that have worked in the estate’s favour over the last few years include traceability and a sense of place from diverse soils. A visit to Waterford Estate is also an unforgettable experience, which adds to the marketability of the wines. “Both the single-vineyard Chardonnay and the Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon have been hallmarks of the farm – both grown, made and bottled on site,” Lynsey says. “Thanks to their diverse soil profiles, these wines go a long way in telling the story of the property.”
The Waterford family is excited about the positive effects of globalisation, the opening of more direct trade routes, and blockchain technology – all of which make it easier to share the estate’s wines with passionate buyers from around the world. Waterford Estate is currently working with a logistics hub in Germany that facilitates direct-to-consumer sales in locations such as Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Hungary, France, Italy and Croatia, making it even easier for international customers to get hold of Waterford Estate wines back in their home countries.
“With the emergence of an increasing number of specialist drop shipment carriers (businesses that hold current-release stock and specialise in quickly dispatching to consumer locations), it’s become even easier to ensure our wines reach their delivery points,” adds National Sales Manager, Damien Joubert-Winn. “What’s more, the authenticity and quality of the wines remain completely intact.”
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