Three-year quality plan for Kumala

12 February, 2008

South African wine brand Kumala will be undertaking a “vineyard to the bottle” project over the next three years. The team behind the Constellation-owned range will work with the whole production chain from grape growers to winemakers in an effort to improve quality.

Head of winemaking Bruce Jack said his team would work with Chardonnay and Shiraz growers “following the grapes through the winemaking process – we’re going to be involved all the way to the bottle”.

He added: “We want to be able to know exactly where each grape is that goes into a Kumala bottle, how workers and land is treated, what their ethical and sustainable practices are. We’ve got the volume, and now we need the authenticity.”

Jack, who was recruited by brand owner Constellation last October to look after its South African portfolio, has already put steps in place to improve quality.

He said: “We’re really starting to see a resurgence in the brand. In August, our winemaker Ben Jordaan started procuring wine directly from producers.” The brand’s previous owners Vincor and Western Wines had sourced wine through brokers to keep up with demand. Constellation acquired the brand in 2006 when it bought Vincor.

The Kumala team has started to work more closely with wine producers to make sure they get “absolutely the best tanks for the money”, Jack said. “We can do it because we’re buying more wine than anyone else,” he added.

Jack said the focus would be on “rebuilding the brand from a quality perspective”. “Forgetting the hype and the marketing, I want to make Kumala a wine I’m really proud to stand beside when I talk to journalists and buyers," he said.

Nielsen figures for Kumala show an 11 per cent drop in value sales – to £85.5m – during the year to Jan 27 2007.

Constellation’s purchase of Jack’s former employer Flagstone vineyards has also been completed. Bruce Jack said the Flagstone team would focus on “upping the quality” of entry-level blends Noon Gun and Longitude. A Flagstone Riesling and a “super-premium” Semillon/Sauvignon are under development and a “super dooper whoopee” red blend – a Shiraz/Malbec/Tannat with some Portuguese varietals – is currently maturing and due to hit shelves in 2010.

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