Education, sales can help wine industry recover

Denzel Swarts owner of Son of the Soil Wines and brand ambassador for Simonsig Wines.

Denzel Swarts, Tafelsig

The South African wine industry dates back to 1659 after which the first bottled wine was produced in Cape Town.

This paved the way for the Western Cape to become one of the leading tourism destinations in the world. The South African wine industry is a key contributor to the country’s GDP, contributing roughly about R36 billion, with a direct and indirect employment of 300 000 people according to SAWIS (South African Wine Industry Information Systems).

This contribution came under huge attack due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The alcohol industry experienced several trading bans during 2020 which severely impacted the industry and eventually led to a loss of 21 000 jobs and R7.5 billion, reported by Wosa (Wines of South Africa). The latest ban is the fourth ban on the sale of alcohol and can cripple the industry if the ban is not lifted soon.

I am a brand ambassador of Simonsig Wines in Stellenbosch and brand owner of Son of the Soil Wines, focusing primarily on sales in the on-and-off consumption market, also wine education, and festivals.

Due to the ban, I am unable to visit stores, restaurants and all festivals have been cancelled. This impacted greatly on my mental health. Not knowing where my next salary will come from and how I will be able to get through the month is not an experience I wish anyone to experience. In an attempt to secure my job, a chance of our business surviving, myself and colleagues had to take deep salary cuts.

Wine is an agricultural product that requires lots of love and care from the vineyard to the winemaking process and into the bottle. Farmworkers harvest the grapes in 30 plus degrees and based on that wine needs more appreciation from the consumer. For the wine industry to continue keeping people employed, we will need consumers to support us during this time by purchasing wine online and enjoy it after the ban is lifted.

I am well aware that alcohol has devastating effects and leads to various social issues, which need to be addressed urgently. What is equally important is that education around the use of alcohol needs to be increased and the policing of illegal retailers must be dealt with more effectively. We cannot continue to blame alcohol for all the problems, we must keep the users of alcohol accountable.

• Denzil Swarts is owner of Son of the Soil Wines and Brand ambassador for Simonsig Wines in Stellenbosch.