France sees potential in South African wine. AdVini, a French corporation with more than a dozen wineries, has purchased a majority share in the Stellenbosch wine brand Ken Forrester. AdVini bought 51 percent of the brand, adding to their South African portfolio, which includes L'Avenir Vineyards and the recently purchased Le Bonheur Wine Estate. Neither side would disclose a price.
Ex-restaurateur Ken Forrester started his winery in 1994 with the purchase of a farm in the Helderberg, toward the south of Stellenbosch. Over the past 22 years he has become known as one of the most dynamic and charismatic wine producers, often referred to as the 'King of Chenin' due to his championship of quality wines made from South Africa's most-planted grape.
According to Forrester, the partnership with AdVini will make it possible for him to grow the business at a faster rate than he could manage on his own. "Up until now, my focus has been on developing the brand in the U.S. and the U.K. as well as at home in South Africa," Forrester told Wine Spectator. "The deal with AdVini is a fantastic opportunity for me to tie up with a massive distribution network and one which is especially strong in new markets for me, such as Europe and, in particular, Asia." Forrester will remain as CEO and still owns the property.
"I began talking to AdVini about four years ago when I was looking for a network to help me to expand into Asia," Forrester said. The plan is to increase sales from a current annual volume of 80,000 cases to over 200,000 cases within the next five years.
AdVini is listed on the Paris stock exchange and owns close to 5,000 acres of vineyards, mostly in France, and sells in more than 100 countries. According to Jean-Pierre Durand, the company's strategic marketing & communications manager, the decision to focus on South Africa began with the purchase of the Laroche brand in 2010, which included properties in Chablis and Chile, as well as L'Avenir in Stellenbosch. "We saw that there was a lot of development in Stellenbosch and lots of potential," said Durand. "We believe that South Africa makes really great wines."