Wade Bales has been an integral part of South Africa’s wine industry since 1992 and launched his wine society seven years ago, offering a selection of the best and sometimes lesser known wines to society members. The idea is simple – get 12 locally produced top end wines, personally selected, by the Wade Bales team, delivered to you every two months.
You also have access to your personal wine advisor who provides a one-on-one service to you in obtaining wines for any specific occasion, based on your tastes and lifestyle.
Bales says the new wine club concept has evolved from a mixed case of wines selected by his team, to the client wanting more say in what they choose to accumulate or consume. “As you move on in the wine journey, you start realising what you like and what you don’t like, so the wine box concept doesn’t fulfil your needs. We now do a very thorough preference profile of the client and we purchase wine for them based on how much money they’ve accumulated in their wine fund.”
Minimum contributions to the wine fund are R800 per month and every quarter, wines that match the personal profile of the client are purchased on their behalf either to be cellared by the client or cellared on their behalf in an optimal storage facility. Bales emphasises that part of the client’s wine journey is storage and maintaining the best conditions within which to allow full development of the wine.
Part of the profile on each client is how they wish to split the wine between everyday drinking, medium to long term cellaring and investment wine. It’s the latter category that got us talking and Bales terms this wine ‘investment grade wine’ which needs to comply with certain criteria.
“It needs a track record of being able to fetch increasingly high pricing from an investment point of view and then it needs to be highly rated by international wine critics, so accolades and international awards are critical.”
He says it’s also got to have the quality of developing over long periods of time, meaning 20 years plus in its longevity. But what returns can you expect and how does a client track the returns in the same way an investor would track stocks through a specific index?
Bales says there are indices devoted to the wine trade for example Liv-ex but warns that the market has seen a slump since the pre-2010 days of high levels of luxury goods spend by the Chinese in particular. He says the market was also becoming overpriced, combined with inferior vintages in Europe in 2011, which saw the bottom fall out of the investment wine market. Prices are starting recover so it’s probably a good time to get into the market while it’s relatively cheap.
“Ultimately it’s about a balanced collection of wine that is achieved through interaction with your wine advisor. We see ourselves as the private bankers of the wine industry and we like to maintain high levels of personalisation when we deal with our clients.”
When Bales started in the wine industry there were 150 independent wineries in South Africa and that number has grown to over 700. He says the local wine industry has never been in better shape and we’re on the brink of very exciting times in South African wine. “It’s a double edged sword, on the one hand it’s negative because it’s overwhelming, confusing and it can even be intimidating. On the positive side there is now so much choice, there are so many wineries doing interesting stuff with their wines and there’s more for the consumer. Our role is to help people navigate the complex world of wine.”
Bales reckons the biggest fear that people have is the fear of making fools of themselves and wine sets you up perfectly for that because it’s always changing. Through the Investec Wine Cellar plan and the Wade bales Wine Society clients can appreciate the differences and serve their wines with confidence.
His biggest bugbear is the go-to brands with the marketing budgets that fly over many smaller brands, often doing better things within the wine industry but are constantly below the radar because they can’t market themselves. “I’m most passionate about finding these guys, hearing their stories and bringing them to market – introducing them to people who are interested.
The next step for Wade Bales? It’s started with pairing whisky and wine at his Wine and Malt Whisky Affair and now he has his eyes set on the international market and taking South African wines to discerning international clientele.
Tel: 021 794 2151
The Cellar, Klein Constantia Road,