Distell has expanded its UK office as it aims to become the "reference South African wine business in Europe".

The wine and spirits group, producer of wine brands including Nederburg, has opened larger offices in Middlesex and seen the first fruits of a recently signed distribution deal with Waverley TBS with a listing in UK retailer Waitrose.

A Distell spokesman insisted the company's "scale, experience and skills" would make it the leading South African wine producer in Europe.

"There is great interest and potential in the quality and diversity of the wines from the Cape and this is, perhaps, under-represented in the UK and Europe," he told just-drinks today (13 September).

"Given the scale, experience and skills coupled with the resources here in Europe and back in South Africa, Distell believes it can become the 'reference South African wine business in Europe."

Despite Distell's claims that Nederburg is South Africa's most "celebrated" wine, Constellation Brands' Kumala has led and driven the category in the UK in recent years.

The spokesman acknowledged Kumala's success but added: "We feel Distell can fully reflect the nature, diversity and personality of South Africa wines. In relation to Nederburg, the comparison is quite marked."

Late last month, Distell posted a 12.6% rise in sales for 2005 to ZAR6.7bn (US$912.7m) with wine exports up 20%.