Regularly touching base with overseas clients is an important ingredient in bringing world-class South African wines to new audiences. Waterford Estate’s Mark le Roux and Lynsey Barnes share their insights from a recent international roadshow.
Brushing shoulders with high-profile sports stars and actors at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, joining some of the world’s most prominent wine expos, and doing a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Bermuda, are all in a day’s work for Waterford Estate winemaker Mark le Roux.
Apart from producing award-winning wines such as The Jem 2014 – which has just received a 5-star rating from Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide – Mark gets a chance to share his passion for wine with the Estate’s international suppliers every year. As such, he recently joined Waterford Estate International Brand Manager Lynsey Barnes on a fascinating trip that stretched across continents.
Every year, Mark and Lynsey get to meet Waterford Estate’s most prominent international suppliers and clients – a long list of Michelin-starred restaurants, boutique wine shops, top international hotels, and discerning private wine buyers.
“We make an effort to keep these relationships alive, but also use the opportunity every year to do our own market research,” Mark says. “We take a look at what’s trending where, and which markets prefer classic wines versus the more ‘out-there’ ones.” In addition, Mark and Lynsey get a chance to hear what international customers think about the brand, while the suppliers get the opportunity to learn from the winemaker himself.
“The opportunity to showcase our wines in front of international consumers and influential buyers is invaluable,” adds Lynsey. “It’s through this exposure that we can develop and nurture long-lasting partnerships, and hopefully play a part in bringing the world-class quality of South African wines to new audiences. Customers are floored to know the winemaker has travelled across the world to pour them a glass of what he has created.”
Currently, Waterford Estate exports around 25% of its wines, focusing predominantly on the Estate and Waterford wines that really convey the story of the farm. The Estate is lucky enough to draw a large number of international visitors to its tasting room every year, which also account for a significant number of sales to customers from other countries.
The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe have traditionally been strong markets for Waterford Estate’s wines. But, with this trip, Mark and Lynsey discovered that far-flung countries such as Bermuda are offering exciting opportunities. In the next few years, Waterford Estate will also increasingly focus on winning over the hearts and minds of customers in the United States, while Asia is an emerging market that the Estate wants to explore.
According to Mark, a fun part of the trip is always to visit countries such as Ireland, where customers are incredibly enthusiastic about Waterford’s wines. And, while it’s no doubt hard work, the award-winning winemaker also enjoys hosting wine dinners and masterclasses with private clients – a chance to share his passion for a pioneering brand that’s built around authenticity, team work, and a sense of adventure.