We chat with a cellar each month about their business, what makes them lie awake at night and what gives them hope. “Stay focused on high quality when it comes to wine production, diversify your entry points into the market and continue building strong relationships with your customers,” says Abrie Beeslaar, cellar master at Kanonkop Wine Estate.
1. Tell us more about Kanonkop?
Kanonkop Wine Estate is located on the foothills of the Simonsberg mountains, midway between Klapmuts and Stellenbosch on the R44. The larger farm that included Uitkyk has been in the Krige family for more than 100 years, but Kanonkop was separated from the rest of the farm in 1930.
We have 100 ha under vineyards that yield about 500 tons of wine grapes per year, but we also buy close to 2 000 tons of grapes in and produce around 2 million bottles of wine per year. Kanonkop specialises only in red wine and offers two wine ranges, namely the Kadette and Estate. The Kadette range’s wines have a softer, more fruit-driven style for earlier enjoyment and the grapes come from dedicated contract wine grape growers in the Stellenbosch region. The Estate range’s wines are only made from grapes from older vineyards on the Kanonkop farm, in a complex style with an extended ageing potential.
The typical target market for our wines varies, but mostly consists of wine lovers who want to enjoy wine with food and who value tradition. They are also consumers who do not really want to experiment, but rather stick to what they know.
We export about 60% of our wines and sell the rest locally. Apart from the sales online and through retail, we also have a tasting room on the farm which is quite busy at times. Kanonkop employs 70 people.
2. The past almost two years have certainly been the most challenging yet for the SA wine industry. What do you believe has been your saving grace during this time, and what lessons did you learn?
The Kanonkop brand has been in the market for a long time, and consumer confidence has been built up over many years. In difficult times, people opt for what they know, and they experiment less – I believe that was part of why we were able to survive. It is very important that you do not put all your eggs in one basket. Spread your sales across many countries, restaurants, supermarkets etc, and build strong relationships with your customers.
3. What makes your region special in terms of tourism, as well as the terroir and wine styles from this region?
Stellenbosch is a unique area in terms of our soil types, climate, terrain, etc. It’s a bit difficult to sum up our terroir, but it all boils down to all the factors working together. Our weathered granite soils, along with the proximity from the sea surely count as our biggest advantage.
The high quality of our wines, our beautiful scenery, excellent accommodation facilities and restaurants and the easy access from Cape Town all contribute to the Stellenbosch region being a popular tourist destination.
4. Any exciting plans under way?
We rarely take on new projects, but rather focus on improving each year on what we are already doing. We do not have a very large wine range, but we continuously strive for excellence in the wines we do offer. Furthermore, we’re increasingly focusing on farming in a more environmentally friendly way, while still being financially sustainable.
5. What is your message to other wine-related businesses about the road ahead?
Find out what works well in your area, and focus on cultivating it to the best of your ability. It is also important for us as South Africans to market and sell our exceptional products with confidence.
Above all else, stay on your knees, because we work with a God-given product, and there are many factors over which we have no control.