Creating ultra-premium estate wines, expanding existing top quality ranges of wine, as well as developing upmarket guesthouses and a boutique country hotel, are all plans on the drawing board of the rejuvenated Kosie Muller Wines. Kosie Muller has attracted attention in any venture he has undertaken, whether helping to elevate KWV’s ranges as a young up-and-coming winemaker, or since the prefixes of entrepreneur, marketer and businessman have been added onto his name. He has been through a tumultuous time since joining West Coast Vineyards (WCV) in early 2001. After taking full control of the company in 2003, he merged it with the Tomorrow Wine Company – a company he owned – under the Kosie Muller Wines (KMW) banner.
At the beginning of this year, he joined forces with Rickety Bridge Winery’s Duncan Spence. This high profile English businessman hails from the Channel Islands and has widespread business interests, among others, publishing, in Europe. They have amalgamated the marketing of their various brands under the KMW banner. His association with Duncan Spence, his winemaking and business links to the highly respected Cloete family from Alphen in Constantia and his close ties with Agterkliphoogte, a little known winery tucked away in a valley near Robertson, all form a solid foundation for him to achieve his goals of producing ranges of estate and other ultra-premium wines.
Cape Wine 2004 will serve as the launch pad for some of these new wines, though Muller said they would be only the start of an exciting new era. This would include the debut of his new Kleine Parys range of wines and specifically the 2003 Kleine Parys Beatrix Selection, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend. Besides the wine component in the company, a combination of luxurious guesthouses and cottages, together with a boutique country hotel, would give the company a well-balanced structure in the wine and tourism industry.
Duncan Spence already operates the Willowbrooke Lodge, a boutique hotel adjacent to the Erinvale Golf Course in Somerset West, while he is also converting the Manor House on his Rickety Bridge wine farm in Franschhoek to a super luxury guesthouse and holiday destination.
Kosie Muller purchased Kleine Parys in 2002 and is in the final planning stages of developing it into a top wine and tourism venue. This was one of the original Huguenot farms established in 1692. Duncan Spence also recently purchased Zonnebloem Vineyards near Simondium from which the original Zonnebloem label originated and it is destined to become home to a number of the company’s brands. Wine and food matching has always been one of the cornerstones of Muller’s philosophy.
To this end, he joined forces with catering entrepreneur Mark Maingard. He opened the Kosie Muller Wineshoppe next to the offices of KMW in Paarl, while Maingard completed the food-wine journey, establishing the 42 on Main Restaurant on the same premises. Leading South African chef Ralph van Pletzen formerly from Ralph’s Restaurant in Stellenbosch, recently joined 42 on Main.
“Mark intends making it one of the top 100 restaurants in South Africa and with Ralph coming onboard it will get the boost to achieve just that,” said Muller. A boutique hotel is also planned on the site.
“With regard to our wines, we have established a portfolio with a strong emphasis at the top end of the spectrum for both the local and international markets.
“We will, however, not neglect our existing structures and will also offer quality wines in the middle and lower tiers! Good marketing and distribution is of the utmost importance in supporting the full portfolio. We know this is all driven by having strong ultra-premium ranges.
“Besides the launch of the 2003 Kleine Parys Beatrix Selection at Cape Wine 2004, we will add either a top end Chenin Blanc or Chardonnay later in the year, while also phasing in other single varietal wines to a second tier in this brand.
“In due course, the Alphen Hill range from Constantia will be complemented by the Alphen range above it. This is an exciting project, which will see top class, niche wines on the market.
“Duncan’s Rickety Bridge range has already won numerous awards and will be further developed and fine-tuned into one of the finest boutique wineries in South Africa.
“Over the years I have also established a good working relationship with numerous wineries. Nursing, improving and expanding these relationships are the essence of what KMW is all about. We believe in helping these wineries and taking them with us in an effort to become a top quality wine producer.
“We are assisting them in developing their vineyards and wines to ensure that we can all compete successfully on the international market and so fulfill the needs and requirements of our clients.
“We have a number of mainstay brands that we have cultivated over the years and operate very successfully both locally and overseas. These include Marimba Dolphin Bay, Rising River and Due South.
“Due South is a brand marketed through Afrivin, which we started when still under West Coast Vineyards. Afrivin does the international marketing of labels from Bonnievale Cellars (Robertson), Du Toitskloof Winery (Worcester), Van Schoor Estate (Robertson), Klawer (Olifants River) and Pulpit Rock (Riebeeck Kasteel),” said Muller. Ansias Londt handles this portfolio.
Besides the domestic market, the company concentrates mainly on the UK and EU, as well as the Far East, where marketer Peter Milne has developed an enviable list of contacts. Kosie Muller has always been the eternal optimist, but has never been afraid to voice his opinion and has never stepped back from controversy or his detractors. In the short period since he left KWV, he has experienced the highs of a buoyant industry, streaking ahead with a drive to claim a share of the lucrative international wine market.
“Equally in that short period, I have also witnessed the dark underbelly of the industry and realised how cut-throat it can be,” said Muller.
He found how vital it was to adapt to changes and the challenges of the export and domestic markets. It took constant introspection of business structures and orientation where uncompromising integrity, even in the most difficult of decisions, was of the utmost importance in a dynamic, relatively small company. This, while seeking success in the competitive market and environment he operated in. Kosie Muller became a shareholder in WCV in early 2001, after leaving KWV. At the same time he was appointed as production director, responsible for establishing the right portfolio needed to build the company’s brands.
It was during this period that WCV purchased its head-office in Main Street Paarl and Kosie Muller acquired Kleine Parys. In June 2003 Muller acquired WCV from its other shareholders, then consolidated it under the KMW banner. The fact that Duncan Spence decided to invest into the company was indicative of the faith he had in the South African wine industry and more specifically in KMW, said Muller.
“Life is, however, too short to dwell in the past and I believe that the industry and our company have a great future. We are also aware that to succeed both locally and overseas it is imperative that we accept that oversupply on quality is a given, just as prices are almost not negotiable.
“What we concentrate on is service levels and continuing to establish solid relationships wherever we go. We are focussed on producing top quality products and allowing our clients to participate in the process, so that everybody involved is proud of the final results,” he said.
KMW was awarded the 2004 SAA Chairman’s Award for the company supplying the most wine for the 2004 SAA wine list. This short, sharp learning curve Muller has been through, has no doubt equipped him to deal with the curve balls life and the industry throw up in the future. Finding out he was to become a father of twins in May is one of the more pleasant curved balls he will have to field, while juggling the responsi-bilities of an up and coming company.