After having sold his multinational fast-food and ready-meal companies, Fons Aaldering decided that in his ‘second business career’ he would invest in an ‘all-or-nothing’ venture: producing top wines in Stellenbosch, South Africa: Aaldering Vineyards & Wines. “We do not compromise on quality, only the best is good enough – that is our mission”, says Fons about the wines that are exported all over the world.
In 2004, Fons (67) and his wife Marianne bought a 24-hectare estate in Devon Valley, Stellenbosch (South Africa). After decades of hard work in other industries, stepping into the wine business was quite a change. It was certainly no hobby project, retiring is the last thing on Fons’ mind. “Coming from an industry in which price, taste and quality need to be carefully balanced, I was up for the challenge. It became my goal to care for quality only, with no concessions whatsoever. And hence to become one of South Africa’s top wine producers.”
Eleven years later, Aaldering Vineyards & Wines’ website’s ‘accolades’ section mention several gold and silver medals and awards from Africa, Europe and even Japan and China. About thirty Michelin-star restaurants feature Aaldering’s wines. “Our wines are also featured in KLM’s World Business Class”, Fons Aaldering adds. The wine entrepreneur is particularly proud of his top products, the Lady M 2014 and the Pinotage Blanc 2014.
Locally sold wines
The Devon Valley estate initially only produced grapes that were processed by the local wine cooperation, for the production of locally sold wines. The estate has made a huge shift under the new management. Fons: “It took years of investing to get where we are now. Our dedicated staff improved the vines on the estate and new and sophisticated irrigation systems were constructed. We invested in a new winery with the latest technology. We created the right team, with a manager who understands the business and a creative and knowledgeable wine maker. Having the right vines, the soils and the equipment is only the beginning of success. All other details in the process are equally important to the end result.” Fons adds an important detail: “Building the company also required the stamina and the guts to deal – of go around – local red tape.”
Deep pockets needed
Fons Aaldering stresses that success is not quite the same as making a profit, although he hopes to reach that point later. “We knew what we were getting ourselves into. With the Rand as expensive as it is, you need deep pockets to develop an unknown South African wine business into an international acclaimed wine brand. It takes guts, belief, money. And, I might add, a European-style drive for success.”
The hard work is beginning to pay off. Aaldering wines – production 2014: 120.000 bottles – are exported to 26 countries. Aaldering works from Stellenbosch and Nijkerk, The Netherlands, for sales and marketing. The company recently opened a sales office in Xiamen, China, to cater for the increasingly wine-savvy Chinese market. In 2014, Aaldering sold 35,000 bottles in China.
Aaldering luxury lodges
The love of good wine has resulted in an interesting spin-off, a project that has a special place in the hearts of Fons and Marianne. In the middle of the Aaldering estate, they created three gorgeous 5-star Aaldering Luxury Lodges, rated 9.8 by TripAdvisor. In the middle of the vineyards, these three Cape Dutch Style lodges are a unique, romantic hideway where you can almost hear the grapes grow to perfection. “I have travelled the world for decades, I know what hospitality stands for. My wife Marianne, who was in the hotel business, poured all of our combined experiences and expertise into these lodges. Just three lodges, no more, offering a great taste of what makes the Stellenbosch such a wonderful area”, Fons Aaldering proudly announces.