The government’s ban on the export and sale of alcohol has had a massive impact on the South African wine sector. Typically a R47 billion-a-year industry, wine producers were losing R300 million each week from not making sales at the height of level 5 lockdown restrictions in March and April.
However, the easing of the regulations is a positive step towards boosting the strained industry as wine producers are able to operate, export and sell once more under strict health and safety protocols.
Barend Barnard, General Manager at Lanzerac Wines, agrees that the abrupt halt to the wine industry as a whole has been challenging but welcomes the easing of restrictions. “During the first two months of level five and later level four, the government allowed cellars to finish the 2020 winemaking season/harvest.”
“During this time, we had skeleton staff performing their duties at Lanzerac. The government opened and closed the export portals in a matter of two weeks, which we found challenging. When exports re-opened in May 2020, it was a well-needed lifeline for the industry to be able to trade wine internationally again.”
New ways to pivot business
During one of the toughest times the country has ever seen, businesses, including wine producers and farms, have had to think of ways to not only stand out but to pivot to help recoup costs and keep their staff employed.
Lanzerac hosted virtual wine tasting events, as well as top tips on how to enjoy your at-home wine tasting. Currently, Lanzerac is hosting virtual wine and chocolate pairing experiences with five Premium wines. They also included some exciting and delicious recipes created by Executive Chef Stephen Fraser.
What’s more, the famed Lanzerac Deli re-opened its doors for take-aways, offering delicious meals straight to the doors of residents in the Stellenbosch area. This addition to its offerings is not only convenient but allows customers to continue to enjoy fresh, homemade, gourmet meals the Lanzerac way without having to venture outside. The Lanzerac Spa is also open in a limited capacity to provide various beauty and skincare products, which are available for delivery or collection.
Says Barnard, “With 328 years of heritage, we pride ourselves in being a quality-driven household name. We sold many wine and chocolate pairing packages that could be used at home while not being able to come and experience it at Lanzerac during the lockdown. Our food deliveries that cater to the immediate Stellenbosch area is an absolute hit, especially the four-course family meals.
While the industry slowly recovers, there are still challenges ahead, with social distancing having an impact on the production of wine due to wine farms not operating at full capacity.
Wynand Lategan, Lanzerac’s Cellar Master, adds, “We are operating with only skeleton staff at the moment, trying to do all the necessary actions in the cellar to produce, prepare and ship wine without sacrificing the quality. We are uncertain of what the next few weeks and months hold, making planning very difficult.”
With the landscape of the winemaking industry likely to change, Barnard advises that direct, internet-based sales, as well as off-consumption in South Africa, will lead the way in the next six months. ‘We are focusing on these channels going forward as uncertainty is going to be a way of life for some time.”
He continues, “Lanzerac staff all got involved in helping to alleviate the backlog of online orders, and the response from customers has been really positive, especially regarding Lanzerac’s efficiency and ability to provide top-quality services during these difficult times.”
Continued gratitude and support
Despite the challenges, the Lanzerac team remain thankful for the opportunities and resources at their disposal. “We are extremely grateful to our team for their willingness and dedication to putting the 2020 vintage to bed, and who continue to help with the bottling and orders. We have been through tough times in the past and will get through this one as well.”
“Our Wine Club members have been supporting us very well. However, there has been a longer waiting period for door-to-door deliveries as couriers in South Africa cope with the high order demands. Our export agents have been amazing and loyal with orders and payments to help us through these troubled times. We thank each and every one of them for their commitment and support.”