China the promised land for South African wine makers

Wed May 25, 2016 12:06pm EDT
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By Wendell Roelf

FRANSCHHOEK, South Africa (Reuters) - South African tycoon Koos Bekker sells wine from his vineyard all over the world, but a small detail offers a clue as to where his priorities may lie - all the bottles are labeled in Mandarin.

Other producers along the Stellenbosch wine routes where his

Babylonstoren farm is located are doing the same, looking to tap into soaring demand in China led by a growing professional class as Asia's economic powerhouse in turn ramps up its investments in South Africa.

"Babylonstoren's export strategy to China is to be visible in Beijing, not only the city, but also the province," said Naspers chairman Bekker's cellar master Charl Coetzee.

"We only want to conquer Beijing and if we conquer Beijing we will be happy," he said as a young Asian couple sampled his produce in a tasting room overlooking rows of young vines.

South African wine exports to China rose almost 30 percent in 2015 alone, according to statistics from South African Wine Industry Information and Systems (SAWIS).

Alan Winde, minister for economic opportunities in the Western Cape region, says the aim is to double them by 2025.

During his time as chief executive, Bekker helped turn Naspers into one of the world's top e-commerce and media companies and established links with China via a stake in Internet service portal Tencent.   Continued...

Workers harvest grapes at the La Motte wine farm in Franschoek near Cape Town, South Africa in this picture taken January 29, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings