Aussie wine­maker gets ex­ec­u­tive treat­ment

Big break with tra­di­tion at wine and spirit group

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - MARC HASEN­FUSS march@fin­week.co.za

TRA­DI­TION­AL­ISTS in South Africa’s wine in­dus­try will prob­a­bly shud­der to hear that Paarl­based brandy and wine pro­ducer KWV Ltd has ap­pointed an “Aussie” as their chief wine­maker. But that’s not the half of it. Richard Rowe – for­merly of the large but fi­nan­cially trou­bled Evans & Tate Win­ery in Mar­garet River, West­ern Aus­tralia – will be­come the first chief wine-maker to serve on KWV Ltd’s hal­lowed ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee.

Bring­ing Rowe into the ex­ec­u­tive fold forms part of a new strate­gic vi­sion be­ing im­ple­mented at KWV by CEO Thys Loub­ser, who since tak­ing the helm at KWV Ltd early last year has brushed away the last cob­webs of the for­mer co-op­er­a­tive set-up by sim­pli­fy­ing struc­tures and pushed a new sense of com­mer­cial­ism at the group.

Loub­ser says he ex­pects to take some nig­gle for ap­point­ing an “Aussie” as chief wine­maker. But he stresses that Rowe – hav­ing worked for a large com­mer­cial wine-mak­ing com­pany – brings with him valu­able com­mer­cial ex­pe­ri­ence in wine-mak­ing. By ap­point­ing Rowe to its ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee Loub­ser says he aims to bring the tech­ni­cal as­pect of the wine-mak­ing busi­ness closer to the com­mer­cial side.

One of Loub­ser’s key pil­lars in his re­struc­tur­ing plan is to “lis­ten to the voice of the cus­tomer”. That’s seen KWV Ltd – which only started com­pet­ing in the SA wine mar­ket a few years ago – start­ing to shed its dowdy im­age with new ranges such as Café Cul­ture, a new age Pino­tage with a very ur­bane im­age.

One of KWV Ltd’s ma­jor fu­ture chal­lenges is to wrench away suf­fi­cient mar­ket share in wine sales from es­tab­lished brands – at a time when the re­tail seg­ment is highly com­pet­i­tive due to a sur­feit of bou­tique wine brands on the shelves. Rowe will no doubt be a key driver in the suc­cess of KWV Ltd’s lo­cal mar­ket thrust. Rowe is ex­pected to work closely with pro­duc­tion ex­ec­u­tive Jo­hann von Wiel­ligh and com­mer­cial di­rec­tor Craig Ste­wart.

Loub­ser says a sim­i­lar po­si­tion on the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee could also be con­sid­ered for KWV Ltd’s chief brandy maker.

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