While, as the saying goes, you should not judge a book by its cover, patrons of The Wine Glass in Hermanus are certainly drawing their own conclusions about which wines they want to drink after spending time looking at the restaurant’s wine wall of 108 bottles.

The Wine Glass serves 96 wines and 12 Methode Cap Classique bubblies, all by the glass. Each bottle can be found, grouped by category, on the wine wall, a visual menu for patrons to look at. They also take Instagram and Facebook photos of themselves against the colourful backdrop.

“Our customers love the idea of a visual menu and there are a few truths that emerge all the time,” says Jacques le Roux, one of the owners of The Wine Glass. “We have learnt a lot from talking to people standing in front of the wine wall. 

 “The first is that putting a lot of stickers on your wine bottle does not help to sell the wine. When people look at the wine wall – and presumably they would have the same reaction in a wine shop – and they see a bottle covered in award stickers, immediately the question arises, “Are they compensating for something?”

Jacques says that consumers are increasingly skeptical about wine competitions. For example, he points out that at the 2019 South African Veritas competition, 1 411 medals were awarded from an entry of 1 491 wines.

“Foreign visitors, who don’t know South African wines, often ask us why a bottle has all these stickers on it, while others, including world-famous premium wines, do not. People in the know look at the stickers and immediately realise that half of them are ‘bogus’. So keep the bottle clean. If you really have something to say about the wine, let it be in the write-up.”

The second thing they’ve learned, says Jacques, is that when it comes to rosé wines, colour is everything. “Dark rosés, including bubblies, immediately get marked down in consumers’ minds in terms of their quality and value. The market, perhaps unfairly, clearly favours very light, pale pink or straw-coloured rosés versus darker ones,” says Jacques. The reason for this, he believes, is that wine drinkers associate darker rosés with the early days of rosés in South Africa which were cheaper, sweeter and not particularly good. 

Other interesting observations concern the design of the wine labels. “There are three main types of label design – the one is the old-school heritage label, the second is very clean and simple, and the third is the artistic label,” says Jacques.

According to Jacques, you can only get away with a heritage label if you have the history and provenance. “If you are a wine farm established in 2003, don’t go there. Heritage labels also mean little to Europeans, who really do have wine estates that are hundreds of years old.”

According to the feedback from their customers, clean labels with just the name of the wine estate, the type of wine and vintage, usually work well, although these wines could have some difficulty in standing out from the crowd. Artistic labels with graphics and images, if used judiciously in an understated way, often hit the mark.  

“Hamilton Russell is a great example of a heritage label. Creation is a perfect example of a clean label while Ataraxia is a good example of an art label with their limited use of silver foil,” says Jacques.

Interestingly, labels with animals on them tend to turn consumers off as they often associate these wines with those for sale in airports. “There are exceptions, of course, such as Southern Right where the name of the wine estate and the label tie together and their artwork is clean and classy,” says Jacques. “But, as soon as you put animals or animal names on the label, it becomes a novelty wine like the ‘Big Five’. So people look at the bottle on the wine wall, they say that they are not going to pay a premium for that.”

When it comes to the shape of the wine bottle, Jacques says they have found that this is not a deciding factor among consumers. “It may be important for really premium wines where you have connoisseurs who are going to buy into it. But for the most part, people don’t really care what bottle a wine comes in,” he says. 

“Ultimately, there is a market for every type of wine, of course, but this is what we have learnt from our customers’ feedback.”

You’ll find The Wine Glass at 2 Harbour Road, Hermanus. It is open Monday to Saturday from 08:00 – 23:00 and on Sunday from 11:00 – 23:00 for wine tasting (whether by the glass, the bottle or in a tasting flight of six), great coffee and scrumptious food inspired by local cuisine. Visit www.thewineglass.guru for more information or call 082 082 0007 to book a table.

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