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Long Time Stellenbosch Winery Weathers the Fall-Out from South Africa’s Recent Alcohol Bans

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Prescient Mulderbosch Vineyards leans into history of exports to the U.S.

Stellenbosch, South Africa (February 16, 2021) – The impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has been a setback to the wine industry in many ways. In South Africa, where domestic alcohol sales bans had punishing effects on the country’s wine regions. Although the most recent ban was lifted, the South African wine industry has suffered in the aftermath. The bans impaired domestic sales channels, reduced tourism, and left significant amounts of inventory in cellars with the 2021 grape harvest in full throttle. Rational for the bans was that without alcohol sales, there would be fewer patients at hospitals and trauma units due to a reduced number of traffic accidents and crimes.

Mulderbosch Vineyards, founded in 1989 and located in Stellenbosch, the country’s coastal wine region, might have the upper hand against the ban’s lasting effects. A well-planned export model is earning the company global distribution—most aggressively in the U.S. market. Mulderbosch CEO Chrianto Oosthuizen states, “We believe it is essential in the interests of managing risk that we market across a wide range of geographies.” The winery exports to the United Kingdom, across Europe, and in the East, but Oosthuizen is particularly bullish on the U.S. market. Mulderbosch was already in the U.S. market when, in 2018, it struck a deal with Third Leaf Partners, a San Francisco–based investment and advisory company. Third Leaf invests in, manages, advises, and operates global beverage and luxury hospitality businesses. Its wine division, Third Leaf Wines, boasts a portfolio of established brands and beverages that have helped pave a path to major distribution for Mulderbosch’ s classic and smartly priced range of South African wines. Third Leaf’s VP of sales, Bob Guinn, explains, “At start of the partnership, we focused on a change in the route to market to ensure profitable growth in the U.S. The first year was tough, but in 2020 we saw a 139 percent sales increase versus 2019, even in the pandemic. This truly shows how strong the brand is and how it resonates with the U.S. consumer, even at the higher but still value-driven price point.” CEO Oosthuizen adds, “It is fortuitous that we established our U.S. export channel and, with Third Leaf, established appropriate pricing long before heading into the bans here in South Africa.”

Attuned to US tastes, the line of wines in the Mulderbosch portfolio is part of a multipronged strategy to maintain relevance and a quality statement for signature wines from South Africa in the U.S. market. In June 2020, critically acclaimed winemaker, Henry Kotzé was appointed to lead Mulderbosch’ s winemaking team. Mentored by Pierre Lurton of Château d’Yquem and Château Cheval Blanc, Kotzé works with winemaker Morné McGear to produce Mulderbosch’s well-regarded line of wines, including single-lot and barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé of Cabernet, and the highly praised South African Bordeaux-style blend Faithful Hound. Kotzé and his team are determining the best vineyard lots, aiming for wines of substance and inherent South African fruit expression.

About Mulderbosch Vineyards

Mulderbosch Vineyards was founded in 1989 and is widely accepted as one of South Africa’s foremost wine producers. Situated in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape province of South Africa, Mulderbosch has energized wine lovers to the potential of the country’s wines, rapidly acquiring a reputation for high-quality, distinctive wines. Products include barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Rosé of Cabernet Sauvignon, and the Bordeaux-styled blend Faithful Hound. 

Contact Keelyn Gibbons, [email protected]

About Third Leaf Wines

Third Leaf Wines, a strategic U.S. sales and marketing company, focuses on fine wine and sake brands from around the world. Executing specific route-to-market strategies tailored to fit the needs of each brand, Third Leaf grows sales at the distributor and account levels to increase consumer brand awareness and availability. Third Leaf represents such iconic brands as California’s Toad Hollow Vineyards, Empire Estate in the New York Finger Lakes region, ENTER.Sake from Japan, Waters Winery in Washington State, and VINNY, a fast-growing U.S. brand of canned wines. Third Leaf prides itself on developing, implementing, and executing a strategy that ensures brand integrity, growth, and consistency while adjusting to specific market needs.

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