Aussie winemaker gets executive treatment
Big break with tradition at wine and spirit group
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.