It’s a rare bright spot in a not so shining economy: South Africa’s winemakers are winning new markets around the world and with that they are carving out a niche for themselves. Although on a whole the country is struggling when it comes to a slump in demand for commodities, Africa’s most developed country is teetering on the brink of recession and unemployment is rising, but the wine industry is thriving.
The country’s winemakers have a very different story to tell when it comes to success. Exports were up nearly 5% in 2015, and the industry is predicting more growth in 2016.
Many do not know that South Africa is the world’s 7th largest wine producer. That’s correct the 7th largest. Its vineyards account for nearly 4% of global wine output, and volumes have increased 20% over four years to about 420 million liters annually.
It might seem odd considering they are a nation of beer lovers — South Africans drink 10 times as much beer as wine — more than half of that is destined for the export market. Global consumers on average pay four times more for a bottle of South African wine than local buyers.
The U.K., Europe and the rest of Africa are major buyers. And while China’s commodity imports may have slowed, South Africa’s exports of wine to the Asia powerhouse jumped 40% last year.
China’s emerging middle classes are good for sales volumes but aren’t willing to pay top dollar for premium wines, according to Ntsiki Biyela, South Africa’s first black female winemaker.
That’s why her vineyard — Stellekaya — has pulled out of China to focus on more lucrative markets in the U.S.
Stellekaya has also broken into California, the heart of U.S. winemaking, and New York.
South Africa has been producing wine since 1659. It grows white wine grape varieties, including chenin blanc, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc, and red varieties include pinotage, which was created in South Africa.
Information originally appeared on CNN money