The onset of spring this year marks two significant milestones in the 158-year existence of the Burger family wine farm – where time is naturally measured in tune with the seasonal rhythm of the vintages and their highlights.
The one significant new signpost is that owner-winemaker Kobus Burger can count 20 harvests behind him and go out to measure the quality and character of the 2022 vintage – packaged in 23 market-ready products in his portfolio – during the current competition season. This is with Vinimark – the Wine Company doing their specialist thing for 20 years in the marketplace as a national distributor.
For Kobus, it feels like yesterday when he fell in at the deep end with his father, Johnny Burger, in 2002 when the latter started focusing more on the production side. This was in the post-Bergkelder distribution era with the renowned Rietvallei Red Muscadel creating the first Rietvallei marketplace footprint in 1976 – a footprint that steadily grew and showed great potential by the turn of the century, but clearly in need of national and international market impetus.
This is where Vinimark came fray into the picture – having been formed in 1985 as an independent wine marketing and distribution company by Tim Rands. And today Kobus Burger cannot over-emphasise the value of fitting into the fold of more than 50 best-known South African brands through Vinimark and its WineWorx dynamism
“20 YEARS AND 23 WINES FURTHER” – KOBUS BURGER
“It really does not feel that long ago when my father and I had our first sit-down with Andrew Baker. Although we at the time had a long history in wine and a brand going back 26 years to 1976 when the first Rietvallei wine was released, we didn’t have much to offer a company like Vinimark.
We had only two wines, a Chardonnay and Red Muscadel and a close to non-existent market presence. All I can say is, thank you Andrew, thank you so much for giving us the opportunity to become part of the WineWorx/Vinimark team. I would also like to express my sincere thanks and appreciation to the whole Vinimark team, past and present.
Looking back now, 20 years later with 23 wines in the portfolio, a big thank you to each and every team member for all the support over the years. I look forward to the next 20 years with all of you by our side – can’t do it without you!”
It’s all about evolvement …
Of course, Kobus will not mention his own development and expertise in running today’s multi-faceted Rietvallei expansion and wine quality achievements. Certainly, the spate of competition successes in recent years has weighed in significantly to create a receptive marketplace and consumer acceptance.
This evolvement cannot be described more clearly than in the words of Andrew Baker, who walked every inch of the way along Rietvallei Estate’s path with Vinimark.
Andrew Baker, former Managing Director of WineWorx at Vinimark:
“Always quality and family heritage as a yardstick”
It so happened that out of the blue I got a call from the late Johnny Burger in 2002 asking if Wineworx would be interested in doing the distribution of their Muscadel as they were leaving Distell and were going to go on their own after many years with the Bergkelder.
It must have been a difficult decision for Johnny, but his mind was made up as he wanted to expand his offering to the marketplace, but Distell was only interested in the Muscadel.
I remember well how he and his son, Kobus – who at the time was working as a Mechanical Engineer with a view to getting involved in the farming side as well – came around for tea in my Stellenbosch Office and we had a really good chat.
They were clearly impressed with the wine-focussed approach and the opportunities Rietvallei could offer. They asked to come into the Portfolio in 2002, which I was delighted with and honoured by at the time as their brand was well known in the retail trade.
Kobus took over the winemaking initially under Johnny’s direction and it soon became very clear that he wanted to expand the range and this quickly developed.
Rietvallei and Kobus were always quick to seize on the trends in the market and release great wines at various price points and styles. He was in the enviable position of having the size and variety of vineyards to make incisive selections for the Rietvallei range and of course value-for-money wines such as the John B range, which I still enjoy today as a daily refreshing tipple. I’ve even aged some and they developed superbly!
I cannot fault Kobus’ enthusiasm and willingness to learn the industry and regularly pick my brain about ideas and opportunities out there. But at the same time he was determined to drive this fine brand to major heights in future, always using quality and family heritage as a yardstick.
Bob and Elaine Dudley – long-standing Rietvallei representatives
“Being involved in Rietvallei by marriage”
Key role players in Rietvallei Estate’s remarkable market-place footprint and today very much like part of the Burger family, are Bob Dudley and his wife Elaine, the latter who is officially a Rietvallei wine ambassador while Bob represents three wineries in the Southern and Eastern Cape regions, while “being involved in Rietvallei by marriage.”
Said Bob in a telephonic interview from their home in Sedgefield.
My wife joined Rietvallei 18 years ago as Vinimark’s representatives for these areas and we met the Burger family at Robertson’s regional wine show. This led to a lifelong friendship – which started on a high note by tasting their red muscadel served as a cocktail with strawberries on crushed ice.
I’ve since seen how they’ve developed a portfolio of really top wines over the years. Sauvignon Blanc is my thing and today the Rietvallei, John B and Stonedale labels have found acceptance and a good presence in these areas.
Kobus has excelled in winemaking ability and it is a privilege for me and my wife to be accepted in his family, which is something quite unusual for a rep or a PRO. Thanks to this association, working with their products has never felt like work for us,” concluded Bob.
Eckhart Gerber, CEO Vinimark – The Wine Company:
“The key to mutual success”
The date 5 September 2022 marks a valuable milestone – 20 years ago Rietvallei Wine Estate joined the Vinimark portfolio, with Johnny and Kobus Burger entrusting Vinimark with the responsibility to sell and distribute Rietvallei wines nationally.
It’s been an incredibly successful partnership, with consistently excellent wines and strong brand support resulting in the growth of Rietvallei and it being recognised as producer of consistently exceptional wines – ranging from super premium to easy drinking wines for any occasion.
Vinimark is proud to be associated with Rietvallei’s success and we look forward to the next 20 years of our journey with Rietvallei – we’re excited to witness its continued growth and the further enhancement of Rietvallei’s stature.
To Kobus and the Rietvallei Wine Estate Team: as we were humbled by your decision to place your trust in Vinimark back in 2002, it remains an honour to represent Rietvallei’s heritage representing more than 150 years and six generations of Burger family ownership. Working together for mutual success is key to any relationship and we thank you for your continued support over the past 20 years. Well done and best wishes for a prosperous future!
Riaan Rautenbach, Sales Director Vinimark – The Wine Company:
“A brand that consistently over-delivers”
I joined Vinimark in Feb 2017 and have been working with Kobus and the team for the past five years – during which time I’ve seen the Stonedale brand grow as it transitioned out of an On Con only brand to a brand that is now widely distributed. Cementing a reputation as a brand that consistently over-delivers on the price point.
The Rietvallei brand is seen as a brand that consistently delivers quality and award-winning wines, while Kobus and his team are a pleasure to work with. Both our businesses are built on strong family values and we complement each other.
Tackling the day-to-day challenges of doing business is done with a long term and sustainable view in mind and this to me has been instrumental in their success.
As a sales team, we know that we always have the support of the owner-winemaker and as a business, we know that we always have the support of the Rietvallei team as Brand Partner
Neil Stevens, Sales & Marketing Manager: Rietvallei Wine Estate:
“Boasting the knowledge and insights”
In the past ten years, I have worked with several distribution companies in both the food and liquor industries. The Vinimark team through all the organisation’s levels is simply top-notch. They boast the knowledge and insights and they move forward year after year with innovation and new methods in collaborating with the wine farms. For me, it’s only a pleasure working with Vinimark and the people behind it.