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Resurrected Western Wines concept focuses on post-referendum opportunities for UK bottling

Published:  02 February, 2017

The family behind the now defunct Western Wines is re-launching part of its business model to export South African bulk to wine to the UK.

The family behind the now defunct Western Wines is re-launching part of its business model to export South African bulk to wine to the UK.

Cape Wine Exporters (CWE) was originally conceived of in 1995, but only now in 2017 has been fully launched to procure and supply bulk wines for international multiple retailers and on trade.

The CWE winemaking team will be responsible for producing, blending and procuring bulk in South Africa for sale in both the domestic and international market, with the UK, USA, Canada, China and Japan being the main targets.

However, CWE will focus primarily on the UK during its launch phase, thanks to the effect of currency fluctuations opening up opportunities for exporters outside of Europe.

Managing director, Rollo Gabb, told Harpers: "The decision to launch now was driven by the weakness of sterling and the continued likelihood of sterling remaining depressed, which in my view will lead to requirement for more UK-bottled product.

"Europe has had to increase its prices due to sterling's decline. I see an opportunity for South Africa to deliver quality wine at lower prices."

The venture is a partnership between Rollo Gabb, his father Roger Gabb, Ben Jordaan and Leon Estrhuizen, with the first shipments due to reach UK ports within the next week.

Cape Wine Exporters was initially set up by Roger Gabb in 1995, the same year that the Gabb family created and launched wine brand Kumala in the UK, under their business Western Wines.

However, it then lay dormant for over two decades following years of mergers and acquisitions involving Vincor International, South Australian company Accolade Wines and US-based alcohol giant Constellation Brands.

The Gabb family's wine brand, Kumala, is still part of Accolade South Africa's portfolio.

The Gabb family also own and produce Journey's End in Stellenbosch - which is focused on the premium on-trade in the UK - but are keen to distance the premium product from the bulk wine venture which will not participate in the distribution of the label.

The two will remain completely separate. 

While the new venture is aimed at the bulk wine market, retailing between £4.99 and £7.99 in the UK, parts of the model aim to follow the blueprint of Western Wines, which was responsible for 45% of all South African Wine exports between 1995 and 2006.

Today, Gabb said he has pulled together an 'A-Team' to deal with procurement and logistics, including Ben Jordaan, long-time head of winemaking and procurement at Accolade South Africa.

Further support will come from Journey's End head winemaker and general manager, Leon Esterhuizen; Wendy Wynand who will head up compliance; and Derik Visser, previously at major volume exporters Origin Wines and also Lourensford, will be joining the company as head of production.

Gabb explained how the family business has come full circle, with members of the original Western Wines team re-joining to finally make the CWE venture a reality: "Previously, Western Wines South Africa was the procurement and logistics arm for Western Wines UK, and we see now the opportunity to resurrect CWE to procure wine for international retail.

"We wanted to share our knowledge of market that we learned through our Western Wines days and bring together some of those who were integral to Western Wines in its heyday," he said.

CWE will be selling bulk wines for both customer own label, exclusive labels and CWE own-branded products internationally and here in the UK.