The three-day Cape Wine 2012, held at the Cape Town International Convention Centre from 25-27 September, was the show's most successful expo to date with producer exhibitors up 15% and visitors reaching a record at just under 1500.
According to the chairman of Wines of South Africa (WOSA), Johann Krige, this was "best ever" international trade exhibition.
WOSA is a not-for-profit organisation mandated by government to promote South African wine exports that last year generated R350.4 million in sales. Since 2000, it has been staging a showcase of the country's wines on home ground for the international wine fraternity every second year, with the exception of 2010, the year of the FIFA World Cup.
In addition to strong support from traditional exporting countries in mainland Europe, Scandinavia and Canada, this year had seen the highest turnout from countries in Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa.
Krige said Cape Wine was now ranked globally as the most successful international wine business show in the Southern Hemisphere.
The CEO of Amorim Cork, Antonio Amorim, of Portugal, who called this year's Cape Wine "one of the finest wine industry events in the world," echoed his view.
Krige added, "Our industry has wowed the international wine community with an exciting and diverse range of quality wines and a fresh and inspiring approach that has demonstrated our world leadership in eco-sustainability and energy-efficiency among wine-producing nations. We showed very effectively that we are making better wines at all price points and that we are making wines, better. "
Accolades from experts
US delegate, Mike Vesseth, a leading wine economist from Seattle, said Cape Wine had succeeded in encapsulating the rich diversity of the local wine industry. "It's an exciting introduction to what South Africa has to offer."
Jamie Goode, a Master of Wine and high profile wine journalist from the UK, was enthused by what he called the "great energy and positivity" of the event. Troy Christensen, CEO of global company Accolade Wines, said that with "Africa the next China", there was much to look forward from the local wine industry in its contribution to the economic growth of the continent.
Krige confirmed that the country's wine export volumes for the 12 months to August 2012 were 7% up on the year previously.
He said a major highlight of the show had been the support from the major global retailers. "The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO), the world's largest wine retailer; its Quebec equivalent, the SAQ; and all the state-run monopolies of the Scandinavian bloc were in attendance; along with the UK's biggest grocers' chains, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Waitrose; the Dutch giant, Albert Heijn; and US chain Whole Foods Market."
Also present were buyers from Florida's Disney World, leading hotels, restaurant chains and specialty shops, in addition to agents looking for brands to market in their own countries.
Major corporates to boutique wineries
He said the 304 producers, displaying their offerings across 6 500 m sq of floor space, had included a broad spectrum of wineries from the major corporate and co-operative producers each with multiple brands on show, to small-scale, independent and boutique producers.
"The range of wineries was an excellent reflection of the industry and accurately represented the extent of what our country is able to produce from hand-crafted, artisanal specialty wines to popularly priced offerings for mainstream markets. We could really show the breadth and depth of our stylistic repertoire and ability to cater to markets across the globe. We also exhibited the first group of wines eligible to carry the Ethical Seal as confirmation of their adoption of fair labour practices."
The exhibition was also an opportunity for many of the producer exhibitors to line up international representatives to carry their brands.
Bloggers, sommeliers, educators attend
Krige said this year's turnout of delegates had included a large contingent of business, drinks, lifestyle and travel journalists and many high-profile bloggers. "We also hosted the biggest number of sommeliers in the history of Cape Wine. As the composers of wine menus for many popular and distinguished restaurants and hotels, they are becoming increasingly influential trendsetters in terms of wines and wine styles, particularly across Europe, North America and, more recently the East.
"We had a high number of wine educators this year. These are also the people who play an important role in advising members of the wine and hospitality, as well as retail trade and influence many of the gate keepers in the world of wine trading."
First in green
As far as is known, Cape Wine 2012 was the first ever green-themed international wine exhibition. Conceived to reinforce the country's leadership in production integrity from soil to glass, the accent was on reducing, re-using and recycling as many exhibition materials as possible.
Krige explained that Cape Wine had opened with a gala "green tie" event, attended by Premier for the Western Cape, Helen Zille. Delegates had shown their support for the exhibition theme by walking from their hotels to the venue and wearing bow ties made from discarded packaging. They were also given lanyards made from baked papier-mâché beads and bags made from recycled material, giving much-needed employment to poor people.
All the empty wine bottles from the gala dinner and the show itself were being given to a job-creation project to create new artefacts from the recycled glass, said Krige. "Our eco-procurement of goods and services has served to generate work for many marginalised, otherwise unemployed people."
In keeping with the green theme, most producers had erected stands from recycled materials and had used LED lighting to illuminate their exhibition areas. Meanwhile, Spekbome, known for their highly effective absorption of carbon dioxide, provided the green decor for the show.
Wine contributes some R26bn annually to the country's GDP and employs nearly 276 000 people.