Simonsvlei: New dawn beckons with R100 m investment
SOURCE OF ARTICLE: wine.co.za
The South African wine icon Simonsvlei, formerly an award-winning showcase and one of the trendsetters of the Cape Winelands, has a new owner aiming to once again make the winery a leading lifestyle destination on the Cape Wine Route.
The new owner, a European consortium with strong South African ties, will spend around R25 million on upgrades and renovations in the first phase of Simonsvlei’s revival. Further steps of expansion and improvements will follow.
Jacques Fourie, managing director of Simonsvlei, says the assignment he and his team received from the new owners is that Simonsvlei must rise again by giving impetus to the Greater Cape Town area, precisely to the Wineland’s world-renowned status as an exceptional lifestyle destination.
“Several authoritative world bodies and institutions annually recognise the Greater Cape Town and the Winelands’ exceptional offerings – with numerous places in the Greater Cape Town that have been classified as leading international destinations – either by overseas tourism organisations or media groups such as CNN, Time and the Daily Telegraph.”
Fourie continues: “Within that worldview, we want to continue to establish our offering as an affordable and superior experience for South Africans and foreigners.”
Part of the first phase is to renew a large part of the facility with a new tasting room, restaurant, relaxation area, delicatessen (which will sell authentic Boland home baked goods and fresh produce from the region), as well as a lifestyle area around the existing dam, where various new boutique offerings of craft beer, gin, vodka, rum and brandy will be presented.
Also, the characteristic giant wine bottle, already a landmark in the area for decades, is being renewed and will be prominently visible.
The lifestyle offering aims to provide more taste preferences and revive the winning past. Recipes and gourmet offerings, such as the exceptional Sunday buffet years ago, were widely known as one of the most excellent in the Cape.
End of business rescue
According to Fourie, it is common knowledge that Simonsvlei has been in business rescue since 2019.
“Long before the business rescue process the new owners recognised Simonsvlei’s strong brand that has existed since 1945, as well as the strategic location of the cellar.
“We are close to the N1, barely 5 minutes from the Paarl, about 30 minutes from Cape Town’s City Center, and even closer to the flourishing northern suburbs. Because our main focus is wine, we want to concentrate on offering people an exceptional experience, including great complementary offers, whether traditional foods or theme- specific events.”
According to Fourie, this is why Simonsvlei will build a new wine emporium and restaurant, as secondary offerings will flow from them with satellite stalls that will be theme and season specific. “Finally, we aim also to be a family destination, offering a wide experience.”
Fourie says that with the investment of the new owners, not only has the business rescue process ended, but all creditors have also fully been paid (with interest).
The possibility of the larger area being sold into smaller and diverse businesses and units has also been stopped. “We will focus on developing Simonsvlei as a strong brand and lifestyle destination under one roof.”
Still, the renewal also includes an office area that will be built above the existing facade, as well as a conference facility for smaller groups. The tenants on the premises, such as the boutique brewery Karoo and the American group Jackson Family Wines, will remain.
“The focus will be on the Simonsvlei brand and its development, but we also know what power there is in solid partnerships or collaboration under one roof. Our long-term goal is to establish an exceptional experience and superior presentation under one roof.”
Bennie van Rensburg, sales manager of Simonsvlei, says what stands out for him about the new plans is the focus on the revival of what Simonsvlei was in the eighties and early nineties.
“Despite the business rescue process, we still had a very loyal customer base. The new owners have various plans to reward that loyalty, which excites one,” says van Rensburg.
Although there are already advanced plans to offer a wider offering under the Simonsvlei brand – such as craft beer, brandy, gin and rum – the existing wine offering will be strengthened.
“We are certainly not going to have any restrictions on our red, white or sparkling wine; on the contrary, the plan is precisely to further develop its quality without giving up affordability and unrivalled value for money,” he says.
“We know Simonsvlei has a strong brand because it has won so many trophies in the past. Our brief is extensive but can be summarised by saying it entails revitalising the nostalgia and successes of our past and complementing it with value-for-money offerings.
And we were told that this should happen within a framework where exports must increase, but primary focus remains on the local market. In short, we need to grow by further strengthening our loyal customer base.”
A success story
Meanwhile, the business rescue practitioner David Hotz said the developments at Simonsvlei can be described as a success story about business rescue, because not only have the new owners fulfilled all financial obligations but they also have the capital to roll out a genuinely far-reaching business plan successfully.
“It is crucial but reassuring that the new owners realise how strong the Simonsvlei brand is. Also, they have the confidence in the existing core team to implement the plan, of course under the leadership of Jacques Fourie,” said Hotz.
Simonsvlei already offers the following services:
- Cellar services for wine, which include the storage of bulk wine, filtering, additions and blending as well as the loading of bulk wine to the port and other shipping points.
- Full pressing services for the 2023 crop.
- The storage of packaged products as well as the preparation of orders, all of which takes place within a bonded excise area.
Summary: Simonsvlei’s new business plan
In summary, the new business plan will focus on, among other things, the following:
- The development of the strong Simonsvlei brand locally and in the export market
- To develop more exclusive labels for customers.
- Building a new wine emporium and restaurant, which will be a unique experience for local and overseas visitors.
- Part of the development of the property will be the expansion of large cold storage facilities.
- The development of the entire property, with complementary offerings.
- The establishment of a conference facility for smaller groups.