Wines of South Africa (WOSA) earns top rating for protecting environment

A major international trade journal with a global readership has rated Wines of South Africa (WOSA) one of the world's most influential beverage organisations in building public awareness of the environment.

WOSA was listed in fifth position, just behind US President Barack Obama (in fourth), but ahead of any other national wine marketing body on its Green List by The Drinks Business, a specialist beverage publication with an international circulation amongst key decision makers in the beverage industry.

The Green List, published this month (January), has identified the 50 most influential drinks companies, individuals and organisations who have made caring for the environment their priority by focusing on such issues as renewable energy, reducing the use of water, measuring carbon emissions and addressing packaging. It has highlighted how "even in the midst of an economic crisis, the drinks industry continues to prick consciences and have a strong environmental influence over many consumers".

The first three positions on the Green List were taken by multinational retail giants, Tesco, Carrefour and Wal-Mart respectively.

WOSA CEO Su Birch said the acknowledgement of South Africa's role in promoting best-practice in sustainable wine production was helping to still further advance the country's unique positioning as a producer of highly varied wines and wine styles in a way that celebrates and protects its uniquely abundant biodiversity.

The Drinks Business praised WOSA for its involvement in the partnership between the wine industry and the conservation sector in minimising further loss of threatened natural habitat, which had "contributed to sustainable wine production through the adoption of biodiversity guidelines", and identified the Integrated Production of wine (IPW) which focused on "every stage in the production process from environmental impact studies and the correct preparation of soil to the use of recyclable packaging".

Said Birch: "In the present economic climate, in which consumers are more circumspect when spending their money, they are seeking not only outstanding value, which South Africa is able to offer across all pricing segments and a wealth of styles, but also an affirmation of production integrity."

She said South Africa's eco-sustainable wine production standards were regarded as the most progressive in the wine world. "That we are in the company of the world's most powerful retail chains, who are able to exercise significant influence, as well as the new and highly popular president of the United States, makes us feel extremely proud!"

She added that the country's Variety is in Our Nature marketing strategy, which had served to set it apart from its competitors, had played an important role in building South Africa's global footprint.

South Africa was now the fastest-growing supplier of wines to the UK market with a 22% year-on-year volume increase, according to recent AC Nielsen data, she said. The country occupied fifth position by volume with a 10% share of the UK market, which had recently been identified in a Vinexpo-commissioned study as the world's largest consumer of imported wine with 1,6 billion bottles purchased in 2007 .

Exports to Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia had also shown substantial growth. South Africa was now the front-ranking New World player in Germany, Holland and Sweden. While final figures were still awaited from SA Wine Information Systems (SAWIS), it was estimated that more than 400 million litres of wine would have left South Africa's shores in 2008.

"Earlier this decade we set ourselves a goal of achieving annual exports of 300 million litres a year by 2010, a level we managed to reach in 2007. Now we continue to build our international presence in established and newer markets, such as Africa, Eastern Europe and parts of Asia."

She also lauded the role of the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI) in promoting and protecting biodiversity within the Cape Floral Kingdom, where over 95% of the country's wines originate.

"In less than four years, local wine producers, under the auspices of the BWI, have set aside 112 550 ha for long-term conservation - significantly more than the total national vineyard of 102 000 ha, and new members are committing to the project on an ongoing basis."

South Africa is the ninth biggest wine producer in the world with 101 957 hectares cultivated to vine, representing 3% of global output.