Birch: "South Africa in great shape"

Wines of South Africa’s departing head says the country is in its “best position for years” as her replacement prepares to take the reins.

Su Birch is stepping down from the role after 13 years next month, handing over to Siobhan Thompson, Distell’s head of global marketing for spirit brand Amarula.

Birch said: “I feel South Africa is in a better position now than it’s been in the last few years, and the premium end is looking particularly strong. It’s always going to be a challenge in the UK and over the last two years people have almost turned away from it, but not now.

"Suppliers have realised you can make money here if you’re smart.”

She added that South Africa was significantly ahead of rivals in terms of its links to Fairtrade and sustainability, which is a lead it could develop.

“Consumers might not be thinking about these things now, but they will be in the future,” she said.

Thompson’s appointment follows a year-long recruitment search and calls from suppliers for the generic body to look at candidates beyond the wine industry.

Under Thompson’s leadership, Amarula has been “consistently ranked as one of the world’s fastest-growing liqueurs by international drinks research analysts,” WOSA said.Looking good: Siobhan Thompson, who takes over from Su Birch

She was previously Distell’s group general marketing manager for brandy and cognac, including Bisquit.

She also marketed the company’s sparkling wines and was responsible for the launch of the luxury Pongracz Desiderius Cap Classique sparkling wine.

WOSA chairman Johann Krige said: “She is a highly-respected, results-orientated, marketing professional. Her seasoned exposure to traditional and developing markets and her conversancy with the alcohol category inspire great confidence. We look forward to her leadership in taking South African wine to the next phase of its development in the international arena.”

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