Led by Johan Venter, a celebrated brandy master internationally recognised for his contribution to South African brandy, the centre will provide strategic guidance to the production arm of the company. It will also be responsible for maintaining excellence in farm management and viticulture and play a crucial role in building and expanding the company's luxury and craft portfolio. The centre forms part of the company's supply chain function, directed by Schalk Klopper.
Venter said with the company's growing international profile and its rising participation in fiercely contested developing and developed markets, it was essential that Distell not only maintain, but augment its established quality credentials by remaining at the forefront of skills development and technology.
Amongst those reporting to Venter are Razvan Macici, a former Diners Club Winemaker of the Year who was Nederburg's cellar master for 15 vintages and who built the winery's current international profile with a string of accolades and awards including Platter's South African Wine Guide Winery of the Year and most successful South African wine producer at IWSC. As Distell's head winemaker, his focus is to highlight style and innovation in a way that is aligned with the company's strategy.
Working closely with him is viticulturist Drikus Heyns, who holds a masters degree in viticulture and oenology from France's highly respected Montpellier University. He is responsible for all the company's own farms, its jointly-owned farms and the technical services that embrace wine, grape and apple supply.
Master distiller Andy Watts, who has put Bain's Cape Mountain Whisky and the Three Ships range of whiskies on the map internationally and has won a succession of the most coveted global whisky awards, will focus on the company's entire whisky portfolio, including all its Scottish brands, such as Bunnahabhain, Deanston, Tobermory, Black Bottle and Scottish Leader. This year's title holder of the “Rest of the World” Master Distiller/Master Blender title given at Whisky Magazine's Global Icons awards, he trained in whisky distilling in Scotland.
Mare-Loe Prinsloo, who holds a doctorate in organic chemistry, will be responsible for Distell's internationally lauded brandy and cognac portfolio as well as all other spirits apart from whisky. Amongst the brands involved are Van Ryn's, the country's most decorated name in brandy, prestige heritage House of Bisquit, as well as Oude Meester, Klipdrift and Richelieu.
Charles Osborne, who trained as a chemical engineer and has a Masters in wine biotechnology, is responsible for the cider portfolio and has been extensively involved in innovation and experimental research for the company's products. Hunter's is the world's number two cider brand and Savanna, the sixth, making Distell one of the biggest players in global cider.