Cape Legends marketing maven argues for terroir against bulk


Treasonable but sensible talk from Ross Sleet (below), marketing director at Cape Legends which is owned by Distell, custodians of some of the largest wine brands in SA like Two Oceans, Obikwa, Chateau Libertas, Graca, Fleur du Cap and Zonnebloem.

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Writing in Business Day, Ross makes the point “punting mass-market, cheaper wines exclusively is not going to pay off in the long run; SA needs to extol its own brand stories. We have a rich heritage, passionate wine makers and brand marketers, and specialist industry advocates of cultivars and types. Some farms of less than 100ha have nine soil types and seven slope aspects — we should focus on these extraordinary narratives and circumstances and let the commodities take care of themselves. Supermarkets can only gain from our enhanced stories and value offerings as this will drive up prices and profits over time. No-one seriously thinks that they are winning by over-promoting cheap and cheerful wines; they clog up valuable shelf space, and generate significantly lower margins than higher priced wines.”

So when can we expect to see a single vineyard wine in the Cape Legends portfolio? Of course their is Lomond, which could be the first swallow of a terroir summer. Their Pinot Noir 2012 is a stunna. A recurrent rumour in the Winelands is that new broom Distell CEO Richard Rushton would love to sell Cape Legends. 50% partner Hans Schreiber has long been a seller of LUSAN – five historic Stellenbosch estates with stories galore which are marketed by Cape Legends.

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I asked DGB CEO Tim Hutchinson (above) whether he was a buyer. “I have no desire to own land in Stellenbsoch” replied Tim, “but I’d take the brands in a shot.” Which confirms that Ross’s story model is not universally accepted by successful wine negociants. This is an argument with serious legs. Just like the Alto Shiraz 2011, a multi-storied wine.