The Western Cape government, in partnership with agency for tourism, trade and investment promotion for Cape Town and the Western Cape, Wesgro, as well as wine marketing specialists Wines of South Africa (WoSA), have announced the launch of the Cape Export Network (CEN).

Launched in September, CEN is a digital matchmaking platform for South African wine producers to advertise their product offerings and connect with international importers or wine buyers.

The closure and scaling down of businesses, restaurants and other industries linked to the sale of alcohol, such as the wine tourism industry, has impacted jobs and livelihoods as businesses struggled to meet their financial obligations, in the absence of sales during the lockdown.

These factors, along with the uncertainty surrounding the future of large trade fairs in a post-Covid-19 world, have created a need for a digital solution to take South African wines globally and maintain as well as build its position as a supplier of premium wine brands globally.

Western Cape Finance and Economic Opportunities Minister David Maynier, says South African wines are internationally renowned, but there is no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a severe impact on wine exports.

He adds that the department has welcome the launch of the CEN as an initiative to support and rebuild the industry.

“In addition, the platform also creates an exciting opportunity for new and emerging wine producers to be discovered by importers so that more people around the world can taste the finest wines that we have to offer in the Western Cape.”

CEN’s primary function is to help importers looking for wines to fill their portfolio in a fast and secure manner by selecting five criteria, including wine type, red or white grapes, tasting notes as well as the region.

Based on the importer’s selection, the platform presents wines listed that meet these criteria.

It is more than just a matchmaking platform, as it provides added value support to local importers and producers as well as international importers.

Additionally, this portal will eventually link to the Wesgro/Western Cape Export portal that will be launched in the coming months.

Producers that have never exported before but have found a match on the platform are guided by sectorial experts and mentors to become export-ready to meet the needs of global importers of wine, through Wesgro’s Export Advancement Programme (EAP).

The EAP provides companies with the necessary tools and technical assistance to build competitive capacity to allow entry or expansion into key international markets, stimulate job creation and broaden the export base.

South African producers of wine also have access to a free-to-use ‘How to Export guide’ created by WoSA, as well as other materials they have available through the platform.

International importers entering the South African wine market for the first time and wanting to gain more knowledge about the industry and its products have the opportunity to do the free Wines of South Africa Online Course.

This course takes the user through six informative modules that help them better understand varietals, wine styles and the history of the Western Cape and the South African wine industry.

It also gives them insight into the South Africa’s wine-growing regions.

“We find ourselves doing business in unprecedented times and platforms such as these will help pave the way to doing business globally where we embrace new opportunities and, in doing so, take on exciting new challenges,” says WoSA CEO Siobhan Thompson.

He adds that this platform will undoubtedly assist South African producers in exploring opportunities around the globe.

Wesgro CEO Tim Harris points out that the Western Cape is the world’s eighth-largest producer of wine, already selling around one-million bottles of wine a day.

“Our new platform will now take more of our quality product to more buyers globally. The platform is free to use, but everyone that registers will be vetted before being able to access the matchmaking services. Businesses will also be required to update their details quarterly,” he concludes. 

EDITED BY: ZANDILE MAVUSO
CREAMER MEDIA SENIOR DEPUTY EDITOR: FEATURES