Sudden departure of Distell head winemaker

Razvan Macici in early 2016 in a vineyard in Ceres providing riesling for Nederburg

On Monday this week Razvan Macici had served his last day as Distell’s Head Winemaker, after less than two years in the job, which he took after fifteen years as Nederburg winemaker. Those Nederburg years were remarkably successful – under his direction the label was turned around, winning a prestige and a success it hadn’t had for a long time.

There have been some very recent rumours that Razvan was leaving Distell, and not doing so voluntarily, but we are probably unlikely to ever hear the truth of it, one way or another. Distell has not yet issued even the bland notice about Razvan leaving, assuring us of their esteem and their gratitude for all his work for them, etc. And Razvan himself was – in his usual charming, friendly manner – not giving anything significant away when I spoke to him this morning. Mutual agreement, etc etc. I’m trying to get something from Distell, but I doubt if it’s going to say anything useful. (I’ll mention it here if and when anything comes.)

But how to disguise the strangeness of a situation where a chief winemaker – without a cellar of his own to manage, but with a hands-on involvement in all the Distell wineries – leaves in virtually the middle of a harvest? If there was, say, a disagreement over strategy, would it necessitate what seems like such an abrupt departure?

Razvan is Romanian by birth, but now rather regards himself as a South African – he has a South African wife, Melani. He has wine interests in Romania and says that Eastern Europe is now “the new New World” of wine, and so pretty interesting, but is not intending to leave South Africa, though it seems he has nothing lined up immediately. But “I’m not going to start selling corks!” he says. For the next few months he will be staying in his house on Nederburg estate.

There’s no reason why Razvan, with his experience, skills and personality, shouldn’t have a bright future in Cape wine. I certainly wish him very well. And he can take with him the satisfaction of a job at Nederburg remarkably well done.

POSTSCRIPT, some hours later: I have received the following comment from Distell – not nearly as regretful as I was expecting. No regrets at all, in fact:

In response to your query, Distell confirms that Mr Razvan Macici is no longer in the employ of the company.

In line with good business practice and our integrated talent management approach, business will continue as normal. The company has invested in sufficient depth in our people, who have had shared responsibility for the quality and growth of our key wine brands.

We will be engaging in a targeted search to appoint a new Chief Winemaker.

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