Thursday, April 10, 2014



Some classics never dim, as Zonnebloem, one of South Africa's longest-established wine brands, is proving.

Known to generations of local wine lovers, it not only remains as relevant today as it was 70 years ago when it began winning a steady stream of awards, but it is growing way ahead of its rivals, says global marketing manager Dè-Mari Kellerman. This is despite a changed landscape with over 7 300 local offerings to tempt shoppers. While the domestic market is growing volumes by 2%, according to SAWIS data, Zonnebloem's year-on-year sales volumes are rising by double digits.

Kellerman believes the brand’s promise of classical wines styled in a modern idiom is what remains appealing to South African consumers. "We are crafting what we call contemporary classics, consistently offering well-made, well-balanced wines, where flavour is backed by structure. That is what keeps Zonnebloem relevant, amidst an ever-growing profusion of choices."

The cellar, she says, sources its fruit from an enviable list of 330 vineyard blocks, many of them belonging to some of the Cape's best wine-growers. Carefully nurtured relationships built over generations ensure a supply of top-quality grapes for the range. The highly focused Zonnebloem team of vineyard specialists, led by Annelie Viljoen, and winemakers work very closely with suppliers, striving for optimally balanced grapes that by the time they are ready for picking, have pronounced fruit flavours and good acidity. All fruit is hand-picked.

"Then it's up to us, "says cellarmaster Deon Boshoff.  "Our craftsmanship demands a finely-honed balance. For Zonnebloem that balance entails matching grace with power. Our job in the cellar is to express that rich, succulent concentration of fruit with body and structure, so the wines are bursting with flavour but are also elegant and refreshing.

"When it comes to the reds, they should be attractively soft-textured, supported by smooth but firm tannins with the ability to age. Here, we take our cue from the Zonnebloem reds from the 1960s and onwards that still attract high prices on auction."

Last year, one of the highest prices fetched on the Nederburg Auction was for a 1973 Zonnebloem Cabernet Sauvignon. A three-bottle case went to a buyer from Nigeria for R22 000, translating into a per bottle price of just over R7 333 for the 40-year-old wine.

Boshoff and his dynamic young winemaking team come with impressive experience. He is supported by Bonny van Niekerk, who makes the reds, Elize Coetzee, who makes the whites and a new generation of assistant winemakers in Praisy Dlamini, Michelle Louw and James Ochse.  Whether locally or internationally, they have been mentored by top talents and they bring to the cellar what Boshoff describes as "a clarity of craftsmanship dedicated to making full-bodied, well-toned Zonnebloem wines full of life".

That their approach is working, is borne out by rising sales not just in South Africa, but in many other markets too, including those in Africa, Europe and now the US.