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Indie supply disruptor Propeller ramps up distribution with SA’s Ross Sleet

Published:  15 April, 2021

Indies distribution incubator Propeller has teamed up exclusively with the Ross Sleet founded South African négociant Rascallion as it grows its model-defying footprint in the UK market.

Drawing on a wealth of experience driving South African wine brands in Europe, most notably Kleine Zalze, Sleet will now be bringing his Rascallion portfolio to the UK in exclusive partnership with Propeller, the business founded by wine consultant and Wild Ferment MD Jamie Wynne-Griffiths.

Rascallion was launched in 2018 with the aim of creating a collection of “daring and unconventional” brands which centred on blends from across Southern France, Italy and the Iberian peninsula.

The négociantwill sit well in the portfolio of Propeller, which was established in October 2020 mid-pandemic as a way for boutique producers to access the UK without the need for conventional agency representation.

“Producers have been sitting on the side-lines trying to get into UK before Covid and Brexit, and particularly when it comes to the EU, for many [this ambition] has been a non-starter,” Wynne-Griffiths said.

“Wholesalers and the on-trade are still on life support and the complexities of Brexit has put off lot of producers. But there has also been a huge demand across the indie sector, which had its biggest year possibly ever in 2020. In terms of shopping behaviours, there is more reliance on local buying which has changed things irrevocably.”

Wynne-Griffiths told Harpers he wanted to help bridge the gap between producer and consumer, which is “difficult to do meaningfully”.

This includes offering more transparency to customers by providing monthly reports on where and how their wine is being sold in the UK.

As listings in the UK build, and with the support of an in-bond partnership with EWGA, Propeller hopes to help brands then mature to full agency representation.

“It’s been working incredibly well,” Wynne-Griffiths said. “We want to create the next superstars of the UK market.”

The business now has 13 producers to its name, including négociant Rascallion, with a further six currently in the offing.

Rascallion operates as a wholly négociant business, giving Sleet and consultant winemaker Rianie Strydom freedom to source wine from Stellenbosch, the Swartland, Darling, Robertson and Piekenierskloof.

Wines include With Love From The Cape, a “love letter” from South Africa Winelands, comprising five mono-varietal wines (Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinotage Rose, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon, RRP £9.99).

A portion of the sales price of every bottle supports Dignity Dreams, an NGO that provides comfort and menstrual health to young women and girls from disadvantaged communities.

The Word Series draws on Sleet’s love of literature and the English language, including Aquiver, a Chenin Blanc, Grenache and Sauvignon blend from three low yielding, single blocks around False Bay and Pandiculation, a Southern Rhone-inspired blend of high-altitude Shiraz and Grenache blocks in Stellenbosch (rrp: £13.99).

Propeller’s current clients include Canopy, Attis, Abbotts & Delaunay, Fourth Wave Wines, Bowl Grabber, Angel Champagne & Ostara Vermouth.