Constellation Europe is planning significant investment in the South African wine industry in an attempt to tap into the European market for ethical products.

The company has announced its intention to buy Flagstone, a premium South African winery, and confirmed it would be looking for other assets in the country.

It already owns Kumala, the UK's number one South African wine brand, which it bought as part of its acquisition of Vincor last year.

Tony Christensen, president of Constellation Europe, said he was hoping further investment would not only help the company become a market leader for South African wine but also contribute to its corporate social responsibility plans.

"The natural and social environment in South Africa offers wine companies the opportunity to participate in areas high on retailer and consumer agendas," he said.

"The lack of technology, the fertility of the soil, as well as environmental protection and the persistence of old farming methods, facilitate natural organic production."

The region had also done stellar work with fair trade to improve the working conditions of employees, and Black Economic Empowerment was working to support traditionally disadvantaged groups in the industry, Christensen said. "I believe the South African wine industry offers a huge opportunity for us to drive sales, generate profit and enhance our corporate image.

"The proposed purchase of such a high-profile South African winemaking company and its dynamic portfolio of wines will mean we have a credible premium-oriented portfolio to spearhead the development of South African wine in the UK and across Europe."

Jo Mason, UK market manager for generic promotional body Wines of South Africa said: "Constellation's acquisition of Flagstone is a very positive move and it is good to see a company of that size investing in the South African industry."