Why is California Neglected by Wines of South Africa?

It's a long story, but it has to do with spending several weeks in and around Stellenbosch, talking to food scientists and others involved in the wine industry at Stellenbosch Universitat, going to tasting rooms in and around Stellenbosch, Paarl, Hermanus ... and finally ending in an office at WOSA (Wines of South Africa) to chat about promoting these wonderful wines in the USA.

It's been over a year of frustration now, scouring the racks at Jug Shop, BevMo, Wine Merchant, K&L, Safeway,SaveMart, Whole Foods, World Market etc etc and wondering... where the heck are they? Why is it that we have such anemic selections of South African wines here in California?

I even went so far as to organize a tasting of South African wines at a garden party on Russian Hill in South Africa.... just to see what 80 neighbors could find. The results were pretty darn sad.

Now, if you are any kind of well-rounded wine drinker, you know that these "new world wines made in an old world way" are superb. It might take a while to develop a palate for "Steen" (their word for Chenin Blanc), but there are some darn good Steens available in South Africa.

So how about it? How about putting some promotional oomph into the West Coast? Maybe the recent initiatives by the newly-formed group USAPA will finally get the fires lit here. In a way, it's sad that a second group is emerging to do the job in marketing ZA wines more aggressively to the USA, but, well, finally.... ! !


  1. As a grape grower in both Napa/Sonoma and South Africa, and as one who has made 24 trips to the Western Cape, I share the frustration of not seeing more South African wine on CA grocery store shelves. Furthermore, it is getting worse: Safeway (Mill Valley) used to have about 10 RSA facings, but is now down to 5, while Australia's Yellow Tail is running about 40 facings! South Africa, unfortunately, must focus on the East Coast given the lack of consumer support out here.

  2. Whoa there! Thanks for your comment, Dave, but this thinking looks at the wrong side of the coin, methinks. The shelf-facings situation you describe is not due to the lack of consumer support in the West Coast -- it is due to the lack of South African wine industry support. If WOSA or the new organization USAPA were to put some marketing muscle (aka RAND) behind West Coast promotion, I bet that the facings would go up ... because consumer demand will go up. The tail wagging the dog is NOT the wine stores, it is the consumer. Stroke the consumer, wag the tail, see the sales increase....