Cavalli Estate on Harvest 2020, Covid-19 and Innovation!
#WineTalks with Craig Barnard & assistant winemaker, Kerrylea Alborough.
First things first - tell us about the 2020 harvest? Any specific wine/varietal you are particularly excited about? Or perhaps exciting experiments in the wine cellar?
The 2020 harvest was a big one for us, we put a lot of effort into the vineyards during the growing season which resulted in a crop that far exceeded our expectations regarding quality and size. This years crop was the biggest one we have had to date which is exciting as it gives us an indication of what our potential growth can be. We are very excited about our Chenin blanc because our approach to the winemaking process was tweaked slightly to allow for increased complexity in the wine. The Chenin is currently ageing away nicely in French oak and hopefully by the time we bottle it at the end of the year it will have developed a multitude of layers complimented by freshness and great oak structure.
Before lockdown there was confusion whether producers would be able to complete harvest and production of 2020 wines. How did this period of uncertainty affect your vineyard or/and cellar operations?
Luckily we had managed to finish harvesting and process all our fruit before the lockdown commenced so thankfully that stress was off our shoulders. Our winemaking team had a busy couple of days just before lock down getting the wines into full vessels and preparing the reds to go through malo in the hopes that when we would be able to return to work that we could send all the 2020 reds straight to barrel.
South Africa was the only wine producing country in the world that imposed restrictions on wine exports. How did this restriction affect you? What are your main export markets?
The restrictions had a rather large impact on us as our main focus for sales is the local market. We export probably about 20% of our stock and thankfully we had a couple of exports that could go out during the lockdown period but the restrictions placed on us for the local market has hit us hard. We are heavily reliant on our restaurant and function venue which has been closed for quite a while as well as the on-trade market and with those channels being closed it has set us back.
With the local sale and purchase of alcohol being prohibited in South Africa, have you seen an increase in online sales during the lockdown period?
We have been driving the online sales quite extensively and I must say the response from the public has been great. This has also given us a chance to focus on our wine club which is a new addition and the support has been fantastic.
What do you think will be the new trends in wine retail post lockdown? Is wine consumerism being reshaped by this period?
I would like to believe that things will go back to normal but I somehow expect that the consumer will be looking to purchase wines at a far more affordable price than previously given the fact that the economy has taken a bit of a knock and people will be wanting to spend less. I think those wine estates that have strong export markets will continue to do well and those estates that have large wine club members will also be able to do well. If the reports are true that the Corona virus is going to be prevalent for the next 2 years then there will be a definite shift in how producers get their wines into the market and also their approach to winemaking by possibly looking to make wines that are more affordable and also trimming their large portfolios.
Traditional retail and on-con might suffer for a prolonged period of time - do you think the drive towards online sales will benefit wineries in the long term?
Online sales will work but up to a point. Once a client has purchased his/her 3 cases they may not need to purchase again for a while so its a stop-start scenario. By being able to have your wines available in the on-consumption market most of the time you are guaranteed to have a steady flow of movement of stock especially if you are listed by the glass and your price points are affordable. For the time being we must take the win where we can and be thankful for the online sales.
A question from an International Wine Lover: Where is the South African wine production headed? Towards Tradition or Innovation?
I think as time goes by more and more winemakers will be forced to innovate considering how climate change is having an effect on vineyard production, how economies are taking strain and the affordability index fluctuates and the buying psychology of the consumer for example vegan wines being in demand. Some traditional aspects will always be around but to succeed in an ever changing environment winemakers and wine business owners are going to have to adapt and innovate to stay ahead of the game.
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