The wine world is awash with competitions of all shapes and sizes. Every producer boasts of the awards won on these events, though some are considered of greater value than others. How helpful to exports are such awards and do both local and international competitions carry equal weight?

A handful of producers, who regularly enter both South African and international competitions, give their thoughts on these and other issues.

By far the majority agree there are too many competitions, which doesn’t suggest they lack meaning, nor deter producers from entering. It’s a question of being discerning about which to enter.

Many factors determine which those competitions are. First, the integrity of the competition itself; credible wine judges, possibly featuring a mix of local and international, the standard at which medals are awarded, audited results, how well respected the competition is by media, other wine producers and consumers, cost and the value the results have in the intended market for the wines. In other words, this is a focused rather than random process.

The value of awards on local and international sales differs according to the competition. Broadly speaking, even top awards on local competitions carry no weight internationally, though the converse may be true. The influence of an award may be even more specific; as one respondent mentioned, an award from a European-based event might not be relevant to the US market, which itself is more influenced by American publications or individual journalists.

Frequently-mentioned international competitions where an award is regarded as a positive for sales, are: Decanter Awards, International Wine Challenge, International Wine & Spirit Competition. Not competitions per se, but good scores on Tim Atkin’s and Neal Martin’s Reports are also considered helpful.

Locally, Trophy Wine Show and Veritas are mentioned (the latter not always positively), as is Platter’s Wine Guide. As a Platter taster, I’m always bemused when this Guide is referenced as a competition, though the five star ratings are decided on a blind tasting.

Love them or hate them, awards’ stickers (or bling) on bottles are widely used, but are they helpful for sales, either internationally or locally? This issue drew a very mixed response. Generally, stickers are used more often in the local retail market, and for top awards only. Internationally, importers will advise for (in less-sophisticated markets) or against (in a top-class restaurant).  Then there are producers who prefer to nurture customers who follow the brand rather than rewards.

Stickers are one way of advertising success; there are many other, more immediate routes to getting the word out there. Social media, newsletters, press releases, every producer has their own methods of disseminating the news in individual markets, depending on whether the end receiver is a potential retailer, local or international, or consumer.

What these answers suggest is that export sales can be helped by awards, but selection of competition and subsequent follow up needs to be directed to each specific market.

Thanks to DeMorgenzon, Eagles’ Nest, Ken Forrester Wines, Jordan Wine Estate, Paul Cluver Estate Wines, Rustenberg Wines, Spier for their help in compiling this article.

- Angela Lloyd