The nation-wide lockdown and subsequent identification of wine as a non-essential item, has rocked the South African wine industry. Virtually rendering wine retailers powerless during this time of isolation. However, testament to the wine industry’s resilience, one online wine retailer has responded with a campaign to support wine producers during this challenging time.
Port2Port, South Africa’s largest fine wine marketplace, with over 2000 wines, from 400 producers and 11 countries has launched a lockdown initiative allowing consumers to purchase key wines from some of its top producers at exceptional prices for as long as lockdown lasts. Here, co-founder Nicolò Pudel shares why an initiative like this is particularly important during SA’s lockdown period – and beyond:
What is the general feeling among producers right now? What support do they need from the market right now?
From what I can tell, from direct contact and sentiment on social media, producers are fearful and frustrated. The constantly changing regulations during lockdown are extremely confusing. As an example, the lift of the export ban came as a massive relief for some, but government went back on that quite quickly.
Have any of the producers represented on Port2Port expressed fears that they might have to close their operations indefinitely as a result of lockdown measures?
Yes most certainly. The average winery has cashflow to last a month to say the most. The fear of a further extension of lockdown or an extension of the alcohol ban no matter what, is real and the situation is dramatic.
How is an initiative like your lockdown campaign assisting producers?
We are able to promote sales during lockdown, offer our customers an incentive to stock up their cellars now and receive one bulk delivery after lockdown. We are also offering free online masterclasses and seminars with the likes of Michael Fridjhon and Alex Dale. We have seen a surge in sales and that will most certainly assist our marketplace vendors’ cashflow.
What are your views on the ban on alcohol sales / exports / transport?
I understand government’s motivations for the alcohol ban only partially. What I absolutely do not agree with is the ban on exports, it makes no sense whatsoever. It is a huge blow to an already struggling industry.
Have you had conversations with any of your global partners / producers on how COVID-19 is affecting them and what are they doing about it?
I think it’s not easy for anyone right now but most certainly nowhere else is it as tough for the wine industry as in South Africa. Overseas producers are able to at least focus on their direct to consumer and retail efforts while the on-con trade is at a standstill.
What do you think will be new trends in wine retail post lockdown? Is wine consumerism being reshaped by this period?
I am confident that a lot of business globally has moved online and it will stay that way. Wineries will see an increase in direct sales (as soon as they are able to in South Africa). I don’t think that people will storm restaurants and bars right after lockdown but will rather entertain at home for a while. Even customers that were dubious about e-commerce have had the opportunity now to trust the channel and will get used to it, perhaps not of their own choice, but still. Digital adoption has had a massive boost.
How has this lockdown period affected Port2Port?
We have the great advantage of being a technology-wine company, are used to work remotely and operate a marketplace without any warehousing facilities. All this allowed us to do very well in South Africa whilst launching our UK business there (where we can actually deliver wine to our customers).
Anything positive that you see coming out of this lockdown period for wine sales?
I think there will be a shift toward direct and online sales. I think this will be a great advantage for wineries in the long term, benefitting from higher margins, having control on product placement and owning customer data. I fear that traditional retail will struggle and on-con will also suffer for a while, but hopefully soon everything will go back to normal. Additionally, I think that the general consensus will drive consumers to support local and hopefully this will result in an increase in South African wine sales.
To receive these weekly mailers, do sign-up to Port2Port’s weekly mailers here: https://www.port2port.wine/home
Browse Port2Port’s Lockdown Initiative here: https://www.port2port.wine/wines/on-promotion
Wine producers who are interested in joining this initiative can contact Port2Port directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Join the conversation by posting to the hashtag #IsolationWine on Social Media.
- Please do note that promotional pricing will only be available for as long as lockdown continues.
- All orders placed during this time to be dispatched once lockdown is lifted subject to producer/courier backlog.