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Sublime elegance

With a view to communicate its unique difference to the India market, Nederburg has not only positioned the South-African famous red grape varietal Pinotage as its USP but has been upbeat about selling a good experience through its wines. Jacobus Wilhelm Pienaar, winemaker of Nederburg talks about the uniqueness of the brand’s wines and the need to continuously reinvent and upgrade themselves By Rituparna Chatterjee

Pinotage, South Africa’s famous red wine grape varietal, has always been controversial because of the love and hate relationship associated with it. An unusual cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage, Pinotage hasn’t been popular among all because of its polarising, non-European flavours and the added care it requires in vineyards and wineries. Created in 1925 at Stellenbosch University, this unusual pairing was done to imbibe Hermitage’s hardy-nature and Pinot Noir’s delicate elegance into one grape varietal. The result was a new red wine grape varietal Pinotage which has a rustic profile and earth-driven notes on the nose and palate, followed by berries, smoke and on the extreme burnt rubber or acetone characteristics. Hence, wine connoisseurs and critics either love it or hate it. However, this didn’t hinder Pinotage from being widely known as many South-African wine brands introduced it to international markets. And Nederburg is no different.

Jacobus Wilhelm Pienaar

One of South Africa’s leading wine brand, Nederburg introduced their wine range in three different varietals – Shiraz, Pinotage and Sauvignon Blanc – in the India market in 2009. Though India has been rather familiar with grape varietals – Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage was something new and fresh to the palate. Hence, the wine brand strategically positioned Pinotage as their USP in the India market to distinguish themselves from their competitors. “Pinotage is probably a trump card for us in the India market. There are some mature markets that have gone through the rare experience of having Pinotage. People in those markets are not necessarily ready to re-engage themselves with this variety. However in India, 15 years ago people didn’t know about Pinotage. Hence introducing Pinotage in India was a good idea especially because it pairs beautifully with Indian food,” states Pienaar.

Selling it right

A known name in South Africa, Nederburg has gained prominence for its ability to make classically structured wines with fruit-rich flavours. Nederburg was the inaugural winner of International Wine Tourism Award for Cape Town, presented by the Great Wine Capitals Global Network. Their hallmark combination of finesse and fruit is evident in all their wines, which comes under seven ranges – Winemaster’s Reserve, Baronne, Foundation, Manor House, Ingenuity, 56Hundred and Heritage Heroes. However, among these ranges, the Winemaster’s Reserve has been the brand’s popular offering, which they have also introduced in the India market namely – Winemaster’s Reserve Shiraz, Winemaster’s Reserve Pinotage and Winemaster’s Reserve Sauvignon Blanc.

With many international wine brands already present in the India market, Pienaar opines that what sets them apart is the sweet spice aroma/flavour of their wines which is familiar to the Indian palate.

“The wines that we are selling in the Indian market, serves an array of palate. The Sauvignon Blanc from the Winemaster’s Reserve is a food-driven wine with not much acidity. The red wines have a lot of sweet spices like cinnamon, vanilla in them. They are also soft on the palate, not too dry and tanic, so people who never had wine before will be able to enjoy them,” mentions Pienaar. Since the wines gives out the flavour of sweet spices, which Indian people are familiar with, we are one step ahead in this regards he boasts.

Apart from offering wines that appeal to the Indian palate, the brand strongly remains rooted to its South African origin by promoting the country, its culture in the Indian market through its wines. “We have to focus on South Africa and what makes it unique. We have to talk about its heritage, food and wine, why our wines taste different from Indian wines. We have to communicate our unique difference to the Indian consumer. Nederburg is not only about consistency, value for money, but also about selling a good experience. Indians who have visited South Africa and tasted the country’s wines have come back and expressed their interest in drinking South African wines,” opines Pienaar. And it is this interest, that the brand hopes to build upon by being sensitive towards the Indian culture, its taste and food and tailoring their approach towards establishing their brand successfully in the India market.

Continuous upgrade

To keep oneself abreast of the latest techniques is a crucial requirement for any business be it wine-making and the team at Nederburg is no less different. To meet the need to continuously upgrade themselves, the wine-making team at Nederburg travel to different wine-producing regions nationally and internationally, participate in different wines competitions, to learn new techniques and upgrade themselves accordingly. “Our wine-making team travels, we are involved in many wine-tastings and competitions and it is important for us to have open discussions as to what we want to do, what techniques can we try, should we stop our existing methods or not, to name a few,” points out Pienaar.

As to the present wine-making process they follow, he opines, “Some of our grapes are hand harvested and some machine harvested. Once plucked, we sort out the superior grapes as they arrive at the centre. Then we choose the vessel we want to ferment the grapes in, the temperature, the way the colour will be extracted and so on. After the fermentation process, there is the oaking regime wherein we decide what sort of oak we are going to use, for what time period and the wine is made to mature over a period of time,” he concludes.

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