Talk of the Town

The 2019  harvest surprises in terms of quality and volume, Second Chance is making use of the Wild Clover’s horses to connect with disadvantaged and challenged children and Stellenbosch Wine Routes shifts it’s focus to the global stage. Danie Keet brings us the latest news from in and around town.

Rebels of the vine’ take off

Black Elephant Vintners (BEV) was born out of synchronicity, fortuitous friendships and a love for wine. Following the sale of Black Elephant Investment Holdings’ stake in Noah Financial Innovation in 2011, co-founder Kevin Swart (the “Black” in the company name) uprooted his family and moved from Johannesburg to Franschhoek, where he purchased a charming boutique wine farm, La Petite Vigne, situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek.

Six months later, his business partner and co-founder of Black Elephant Investment Holdings, Raymond Ndlovu (the “Elephant”), followed suit and the Ndlovus joined the Swarts in their fearless uncovering of a new life in the Franschhoek Valley.

Having contracted Amistad Wine Company to assist in the winemaking at La Petite Vigne, Swart eagerly set about learning the art and quandaries of winemaking, while Ndlovu joined Invenfin to further hone his passion for business and private equity.

A chance discussion in November 2012 between Black Elephant and Amistad led to the joining of Black Elephant’s business skills and the Amistad winemaking expertise. This moment led to the arrival of winemaker Jacques Wentzel (the “Vintner”), and in January 2013 Black Elephant Vintners was created.

Today, BEV is the proud producer of several different wines bottled under various labels – from its Amistad Syrah and The Back Roads Grenache, Malbec, Viognier and Petite Sirah varietals to its The Fox & the Flamingo Rosé, Three Men in a Tub Pinotage and Two Dogs, a Peacock and a Horse Sauvignon Blanc.

Wine route looking inward too

Eikestadnuus asked Mike Ratcliffe, chairperson of Stellenbosch Wine Routes (SWR) for an update on strategies for marketing the SWR.
“The South African wine industry can’t afford to move within the confines of the past. We’ve expanded and outgrown our jumpers. South African wine is known – and respected – internationally. Our marketing strategies have to switch direction accordingly: we can no longer focus on our wine industry without considering the global landscape.”, says Ratcliffe.

How has this thinking impacted your approach at Stellenbosch Wine Routes?

“The brand equity of Stellenbosch is equally valuable to that of other famous wine regions like The Napa Valley, Hunter Valley or Bordeaux. We have shaken our ill-placed notion of inferiority and are determined to compete with the best. In this corner of the winelands we are richly endowed with world-class restaurants, hotels, wine producers and brands with huge global equity. The new Stellenbosch Wine Routes will continue to showcase our strengths by bringing wine and food lovers to our town, but we will also pivot to take our wine and food to the world.
The recent launch of a new Stellenbosch Wine Festival, presented by Pick n Pay in the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town, was the first big step towards this. The goal was to reach a culturally and demographically diverse audience and build interest in Stellenbosch as a brand. Judging by the thousands of smiling faces, the remarkable cultural and racial diversity of our guests and the incredible engagement across multiple social media channels, we exceeded our objectives. This strategy proved hugely successful. Our festival is now a regular fixture and a new highlight on the Cape Town calendar!”

“In the same “take-it-to-the-people” spirit we are staging the second annual Stellenbosch Wine Festival, presented by Pick n Pay in Johannesburg on 5 and 6 October 2019. Gauteng is an important market that is often neglected, and we have a massive loyal audience base to tap into.”

Equine therapy is popular as healing treatment

At the Equine Sport Centre (ESC) situated at Wild Clover estate on the R301, a non-profit organisation called Second Chance makes use of the centre’s horses to connect with children who are struggling with addiction, abuse, autism as well as HIV and rape victims.

Horses do the therapy

Corlia Meyer (29), is a postdoctoral fellow in Science Communication who was diagnosed with depression, anxiety as well as PTSD earlier in her life. She is one of ESC’s riders and livery clients who strongly believe in the therapeutic power of horses. As a child Meyer learnt to ride, but stopped at age 12. In 2017, her sister treated her to an outride at ESC. With both her sister and psychiatrist encouraging her, the experience was enough to get Meyer back in the saddle. She also realised something important; instead of feeling anxious, the riding experience gave her a structure to enjoy something. “You cannot overthink anything or feel anxious, as the horse can pick up on it. You have to be present in the moment, connecting with your horse. The therapeutic value of horses taught me to apply the same principle in my everyday life.”

It is also turning out to be a great corporate tool. In the case of a corporate group, the aim shifts to team building, learning how to communicate more effective and develop a level of trust. It is a purpose-driven experience where all boundaries are dropped.

A person does not have to be diagnosed with a mental disorder to enjoy the therapeutic advances of Equine therapy. One of ESC’s coaches, Uzel Mouton, is heading to New Zealand at the end of this year to represent South Africa at the English Mounted Games World Champs. Preparation for these endurance driven games includes mental and emotional training.

V The Equine Sport Centre can be reached at 0715972546 or via email at info@equinesportcentre.co.za

Harvest challenge is rewarding

In 2018, the Western Cape experienced the crescendo of one of its most severe droughts in decades. On average wine grape crops were 15% lower than the previous year, and it is safe to say that most farmers entered 2019 with a sense of trepidation.

However, with the harvest freshly put to bed, and with most of the grapes now fermenting in the cellars, wineries of Stellenbosch Wine Routes can collectively reflect on this year’s harvest. Overall, although the preceding drought resulted in a challenging vintage, most wineries predict that consumers can look forward to some exceptional wines.

At South Africa’s first Méthode Cap Classique producer, Simonsig Estate, harvest 2019 was off to an “anxious” start, following three years of drought in the Cape, but Johan Malan, owner and winemaker, says vintage 2019 surprised in terms of “quality and volume”. Especially pinot noir, used in the making of the estate’s world-famous Cap Classique wines, delivered excellent grapes. This is largely due to cooler periods during the grapes’ ripening periods, even in February, traditionally the winelands’ hottest month.

“Early in the season grapes had beautiful acidities and lower pH levels, which is perfect for the making of Cap Classique base wines and cuvées. Red grapes had phenolic ripeness at lower sugar levels, which will result in elegant wines with lower alcohol levels,” says Malan.

Beyers Truter, owner of Stellenbosch’s Beyerskloof, agrees that harvest 2019 was “interesting and difficult”, but not without its rewards. According to Truter, this year winemakers had to spend a lot of time in the vineyards, to taste for ripeness (of the grapes), rather than rely on historical data.

“The 2019 crop of reds was difficult and interesting, but very cold nights and cool mornings with occasional rain made the colour and the flavour of grapes extremely good. The wines will go into oak now and they are showing very good potential.”

Kayamandi High needs help

Elmarine Anthony

The community of Kayamandi needs to take ownership of Kayamandi High School.

This sentiment was expressed at a meeting involving school officials and Stellenbosch Executive Mayor Gesie van Deventer as well as Western Cape Minister of Education Debbie Schäfer.

She visited various schools in the Stellenbosch area recently, including Cloetesville High School, Stellenzicht High School and Kylemore Secondary School.

According to Van Deventer, education is a provincial mandate and municipalities can’t help with education-related challenges. However, she says, the municipality can help where schools have challenges with regard to services, and in many instances these challenges intersect with one another.

Some of the problems plaguing Kayamandi High School are a result of some of the social ills the surrounding community are facing.

The school is situated close to Nkanini, a densely overpopulated area.

Until recently, the school was in arrears on its electricity bill, which was unusually high as a result of illegal connections according to principal Maphelo Ntshanga. “Unfortunately the school is situated in an area that is not safe.”

Asked by Schäfer how they can get the community to take ownership of the school, the educators responded that major social ills remain a stumbling block to this. “People don’t work, and when they see a computer they see money,” one educator explained. “When they see any copper wire, or even the handles of the doors, they steel them.”

The Mayor said the municipality has started rolling out services in Enkanini, which previously had no services. “Unfortunately the area is very densely populated,” she told the meeting. “We may not get rid of all the social ills, but we are addressing the major concerns, one of which is access to electricity.

There are also frequent break-ins at the school even though security guards are stationed there. The area also had a neighbourhood watch, but according to the teachers it didn’t work because they did not have the back-up of the police. Van Deventer indicated a neighbourhood watch be established again, the municipality would assist as far as possible.