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South African wine producers in for a rough ride, says wine club CEO

| Economic factors

The South African Wine of-the-Month-Club said that the country's wine producers were in for "a very rough ride" due to government's reinstatement of a booze sales ban, touted as an effort to curb the spread of Covid-19 and free up hospitals for coronavirus patients.

"There are going to be job losses in the short-term. In the long term, if the ban is extended drastically there will be a large contraction in the number of producers we have. That then puts pressure on a lot of the farms who sell their grapes to independent producers, which will in turn lead to these farmers investing less in their vineyards. This will then affect quality and future production," said club chief executive, Cliff Collard via an emailed interview. 


President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the renewed ban last week, saying it would ensure trauma units and beds at hospitals were freed up to focus on coronavirus patients, instead of seeing medical personnel having to deal with alcohol-related injuries. 

South Africa has entered its Covid-19 surge and is quickly heading toward a peak in infections. By Sunday, the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) had recorded 364, 328 coronavirus cases nationwide, 191,095 recoveries, and 5,033 virus-related deaths.

The current conditions had created the most pressure felt by the wine industry in the 34-years of the club's existence, said Collard. "I am not sure how many industries could survive if you told them there was a complete ban for 60 plus days (and counting) on the trade of their product."

Exporting, which is allowed under the ban, "was the last hope" for the survival of wine farms, he said. "I believe though that there have been many Covid- related problems at the Cape Town port, which is creating a large backlog. This won’t help exports."

Collard said that while there was opportunity to develop alcohol-free wine to circumnavigate the restrictions - as undertaken by the beer industry - making it taste like "the real thing" was difficult. 

"Most of the aromas in wine are transmitted from the surface of wine by evaporating alcohol. When the alcohol is removed the aromas no longer have a delivery method. Non-alcoholic wines definitely have aromas, but for now, most are associated with their sour post fermentation flavours. You might think that the aromas shouldn’t be important… you can test how important they are if you pinch your nose the next time you taste wine."
The ban had halted the regular supply of panel selected wines to club members, he said, adding that the packs were, however, cellared until the ban was lifted. "In which case they will be first on the delivery list with our couriers to get their backdated packs."
The club's judges were still tasting and selecting for the months ahead, said Collard. 
"Every Monday night they blind taste over 80 wines, the conditions are slightly different to meet all social distancing requirements, but we will be well prepared with their newest selections as soon as the ban is lifted."
- African News Agency (ANA) 


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