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NB: as of 23 September 2008, all new artSMart articles are being published on the site news.artsmart.co.za.

MICHAEL GREEN’S WINE NOTES #150 (article first published : 2006-05-2)

Four African-American businesswomen who describe themselves as “sisters who sip” were the opening speakers at the recent Nederburg wine auction at Paarl. They are members of a Boston-based group of women called Divas Uncorked, and their purpose is to make wine more accessible to women, especially those in minority groups in the United States.

The minority in the US is the majority in South Africa and I thought that inviting these speakers was an inspired choice. Most of their experience and advice is applicable in South Africa, where large numbers of the population are strangers to wine.

The speakers at Nederburg were Stephanie Browne, Carolyn Golden Hebsgaard, Karen Holmes Ward and Paula Wright, all of them people of colour who have high profile jobs in information technology, the law, television and restaurants. They and six other women formed Divas Uncorked in 1999. Their activities include tastings and tours, wine dinners at Boston restaurants, and wine education conferences, and they have earned wide coverage in the American Press and on television and internet websites.

They have encouraged wine drinking and buying among women and have done a good deal to demolish what Stephanie Browne calls “the intimidation factor”, being scared to express an opinion. Here are some of the points made during their presentation:

Americans bought an estimated 300 million cases of wine last year, worth about 25 billion dollars.

By 2010, America may overtake France and Italy as the world’s largest wine market.

Americans drank an average of 10,4 litres of wine (about 14 bottles) per person last year (the South African figure is about 7 litres per person).

Women make up 52 percent of America’s adult population and buy 55 percent of the wine.

Ten percent of American wine drinkers are African-Americans.

Among affluent women wine shoppers 57 percent prefer red and 30 percent prefer white (the rest like rose and sparkling).

Women and people of colour are looking for wine education.

A survey made by Divas Uncorked indicated that 70 percent of American women wine drinkers had tried South African wines.

Obviously there are lessons here for our own South African wine industry as it goes about its business here and abroad. Michael Green




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