Madiba’s Lessons For Business

The children were always close to Madiba's heart. We try to perpetuate this love - showing it through the Fairhills learner nutrition programme, amongst others.

The children were always close to Madiba’s heart. We try to perpetuate this love – showing it through the Fairhills learner nutrition programme, amongst others.

The father of modern South Africa passed away peacefully on the 5th of December at 20:40 SAST. This marked the end of an era for our nation, an era of transformation, reconciliation and selfless leadership lead by the moral compass of our greatest son. This great southern nation has just concluded ten days of mourning in what has been, an emotional roller-coaster for most. Obviously, he too is only mortal, and all mortals have their detractors. Minority negativity aside, no man has done more to unite differing opinion, ethnicities, ideologies and religions than Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela.

Does this mean South Africa’s work is over? No, furthest from it. Mandela merely built a multi-racial and democratic foundation on which the hopes and dreams of all South Africans must be built. He could never have fixed decades of legislated segregation and centuries of ethnic bigotry in his five year presidency and near twenty-four years of post-imprisonment. His work is up to us now; the torch of his legacy has been passed to the fifty-million children of the south.

South African businesses have their role to play. Madiba has also taught the private-sector valuable lessons about becoming part of positive change. It has been said by some that he was a socialist, even a communist, at heart. There is truth in this. However, Mandela was foremost a pragmatist, a learned man and a listener; he realised the world had changed, he realised all sectors were needed to build a nation, non-governmental, governmental and private. Rather than being a rigid idealist, he adapted his vision to a changing world, just as he expected far-Right-and-Left South Africans to adapt theirs. Instead of nationalising every strategic industry, he chose to teach industry something more valuable.

Ubuntu: Encompassing all noble human virtues, I am me because of you. So it must be with business in South Africa. Business will always need to pursue a profit, for without profit, small businesses, entrepreneurs and corporations cease to exist. Without it, job-creation will unsustainably fall completely upon the shoulders of the State and entrepreneurship and private-innovation will perish. However, we must do so responsibly, sustainably and inclusively. We must do so in the spirit of Ubuntu, where no cog within the machine of humanity and indeed, business, can exist without the other; the hands that pick, the hands that transport, the hands that vinify, the hands that market and those that manage; neither can work if the other does not.

With our troubled past, the need for corporate social responsibility in no stronger than in South Africa. Madiba had influenced our company, as we awoke early to the needs of our community. Thus, we did not hesitate to join Origin Wines in starting our FairTrade, Fairhills project. He opened our eyes to our responsibility as not only being to our clientèle, but also to our people.

We pledge as a company to live his ideals, we promise to perpetuate his legacy in our own small way. We are all responsible: labour, business, individuals, government, irrespective of dark or light complexion. It may sound opportunistic for a company to hop on the Mabida bandwagon. However, his call for change, his call for compassion and his call for Pan-African-betterment knew no bounds. We will continue to do what we can to fulfil his dreams. For his dreams weren’t his own, they were the dreams of a nation.

By Andres de Wet

Building Trust in Critical Thought

Johan de Wet (DuToitskloof Wines chairperson) left with (2013 winner) Tim James right.

Johan de Wet (DuToitskloof Wines chairperson) left with (2013 winner) Tim James right.

On the 22nd of November, Du Toitskloof Wines and Standard Bank awarded the first annual Wine Writer of the Year Award to Tim James. A prize of R30,000 was given for his critical piece on the impacts of climate change on the South African wine industry. The actual article is still under embargo, for the exclusivity of publishing houses.

Wine writers do not have it particularly easy. Their reputation as leaders of critical thought may proceed them, but the payment for the value they add is not always forthcoming. The South African wine industry is notoriously small. This can complicate the environment for those who wish to point out inconsistencies in the industry, who wish to be critical of cellars or appellations, or those who wish to push the envelope of free thought.

When one believes one’s work is not adjudicated without bias, is can be disheartening. There is nothing greater that shackles the creative-mind more, than the notion that independent opinion is stifled and that free thought goes uncelebrated. However, this slight negativity has been turned on its head by the ironclad vetting, strict auditing and administrative integrity of the Du Toitskloof Wines and Standard Bank Wine Writer of the Year Awards.

The awe was palpable at the awards evening, held on the 22nd of November at Terra Mare in Paarl. There was a relieved disbelief that Du Toitskloof Wines and Standard Bank, the convener and headline sponsor, had no knowledge of who the entrants were, until that night; that names were only given by the independent auditors PriceWaterhouseCoopers, to the PR agency, for invitational purposes only. Entrants were astounded by the organiser’s lack of inside information.

This is how it should be done. This allows that free thought and independent opinion to be just that, free and independent. The fervor with which PriceWaterhouseCoopers kept any details under lock-and-key rendered undue influence impossible. 

It is also important to note, that the judging panel was academic-heavy. If the judging is seen as being populated by industry insiders, credibility goes a begging. However, when you have the esteemed Dr. Gawie Botma, chair of the Stellenbosch Department of Journalism, convening a panel of academics and writers, like Erns Grundling, Maureen Joubert and Prof. Ian Glen, the quality of interpretation of opinion is cemented. Despite the reported high-quality of each entrant, the judging panel was unanimous in its decision of the 2013 winner, highlighting the exemplary nature of Tim James’ writing.

It came to light that only five entrants were received; albeit a small step forward, a cursory glance around the venue would have you believe that all the top wine writers were present and this was indeed the case. All the biggest names entered. It is acknowledged however, that new blood is necessary, for new blood is to the body as new thought is to critical opinion.

The value of translating scientific jargon into layman’s terms is unquantifiable. The research, effort and subsequent simplification of Climate Change terminology is invaluable, as it is now within easy reach of the industry and those interested in it. The publication possibilities and knowledge gained, by writing about such a critical issue, cannot be underestimated.

It is also hoped, the competition will gain traction and fame as the years go by, transforming the notion that the-other-side-of-the-mountain is ‘that lesser part of the Winelands,’ to being ‘a region synonymous with excellence, global-reach and innovative ideas.’

One cannot expect the wine writing fraternity to fall in love with another competition overnight. Trust and respect is earned. We hope our respectful actions will embolden that trust. It is clear for us and for Standard Bank that 2013 was just the beginning for Wine Writer of the Year. The affections from those who entered gave us a similar indication of long-term commitment. That 2014 will see a greater influx as credibility of the process is made known.

We raise a glass of Brut to the custodians of free thought. We raise this glass to those who had initial confidence in us. We raise the glass to those who will follow suit in 2014. As long as we are the purveyors of value-for-money wines, we will be the purveyors of progress and excellence in a notoriously difficult industry, for without critical self-reflection, we cannot hope to grow and improve. 

By Andres de Wet

Age Time Bomb

In numerous developed countries, particularly places like Italy and Japan, an ageing demographic is becoming problematic. The recent financial crisis was a contributing factor to short term economic contraction, but gone are the days of long-term rapid growth for these nations, as the population shrinks and the workforce ages.

It may be somewhat shocking to our colleagues in the developed world, but farm employers are responsible for housing their employees and immediate families from birth to death. No other sector in South Africa works in this way, and probably few economic sectors anywhere in the world. Whatever the argument may be for and against, this is the status quo that has been entrenched in our labour legislation and secure of tenure.

This creates a plural problem; agriculture is heavily burdened by additional responsibility and financial burden, as rural employees are burdened by their work and domicile being inextricably linked. It creates a level of insecurity amongst both parties: employer and employee. As aforementioned, it is the standard arrangement from the distant past. Creating more independence will be difficult and may take a generation or two. As for now, farm-owner and farmer-worker remain linked by land, law and legacy.

One issue threatens employer and employee: an ageing workforce. Just as the introductory analogy places strain on developed nations, the swelling population of rural retirees is causing logistical stress and infrastructural shortages. By law, retirees must be accommodated on the farms where previously employed; but there are just so many homes.

When a family home is occupied by an unproductive retiree, it means that a productive young family cannot be accommodated and more jobs cannot be created. This is a cruel truism, not to insinuate our elderly do not require our care and affection, but rather to find a workable solution that sees the elderly, the productive youthful and agri-business owner benefit. This too, is important for a country with chronic unemployment and farms that are generally understaffed and financially overburdened.

Looking for a holistic solution, we would like to embark on the same mutually beneficial journey we have taken with Lorraine Primary School, our early-childhood development programme and the FairExchange Healthcare Post. The long-term solution is not working farm-by-farm, but by looking after the needs of the aged as an entire Fairhills community. The retirees have similar needs and similar issues, these might include lack-of-mobility, need for additional healthcare, easily managed and maintained housing etc.

The darker side lurks beneath; where as any young family could become aggrieved by elderly parents resisting their moving into the limelight, so a similar specter can lurk in farming communities. This happens when retirees become belligerent when asked to move to smaller staff-homes for a couple, allowing working families with children to move into the larger family staff-homes. This downsizing with age is a natural progression, but this logic is often conflated with being relegated. This could be remedied if the elderly have a life-path that provides late-in-life dignity and services, but allows farms to get on with what they’re supposed to do, produce. Effective production can only occur if the infrastructure is used at optimum and the workforce is productive.

We need to work steadily towards a revolutionary retirement policy and plan for the Fairhills community. As we have pioneered healthcare and education through our stellar Fairtrade project, so we can pioneer a new vision for the rural aged; one of dignity, care and mutual benefit, thereby giving the old, young and business peace-of-mind.

Cooking Show Bonanza

Season 1

Season 1

With the meteoric rise of Gordon Ramsay, came a new trend. Once a place only reserved for the Lady Gaga’s, Orlando Bloom’s and Paris Hilton’s of this world; the rise of the celebrity chef and the popularisation of the culinary arts began. We have transcended the time when a chef school was the preserve of the artistic urban dweller with a well-tuned palate. Cooking has become fashion, cooking has become cool, cooking has become entertainment.

Whilst Gordon Ramsay is famous to some, and infamous to others, as his personality can be magnetic or repulsive, depending on your individual moral code; family-friendly cookertainment options are a plenty. It would seem in South Africa, our options are even more diverse, as Anglophones may be unawares of Kokkedoor as the Afrikaans-speaker may be less inclined to Masterchef.

However, both are proudly based in the province that is undoubtedly South Africa’s capital of the culinary and viticultural arts, the paragon chic country living, the Western Cape. The English-language competition is based in Paarl, ironically, at the point-of-origin of the only Germanic language to have evolved outside of Europe: Afrikaans; lingua franca of Kokkedoor, based some 350km further north-east, in the quaint Great Karoo village of Prince Albert.

Season 1 winners of Kokkedoor

Season 1 winners of Kokkedoor

Du Toitskloof is en route between the two points. This progressive cellar, which has popularised value-for-money wines, has unsurprisingly loosely associated itself with cooking competitions; as witnessed in the guest list for the Cape Cuisine Cook-off, held with Muratie at the end of each winter. This casual association is about to become a full matrimonial pledge.

Du Toitskloof is already in numerous South African homes, particularly in urban centres. Who better to pair with the popularisation of the culinary arts, than them? Last week, the cellar’s management signed a three-year official sponsorship agreement with the good folks of KykNET and Kokkedoor. It is reported as a match made in heaven, as both parties are ideologically singing from the same hymn sheet. Both were as pleased as punch with this marriage; a culinary Brangelina.

Du Toitskloof is the epitome of the Jack-of-all-Trades, who is master of many. The numerous awards testify to this statement. With a range second-to-none, there is a wine to go with a mezze, entrée or dessert challenge. One could only imagine the perfect harmony, of the spicy berry fruit of the Dimension Red with a Karoo lamb challenge, the crisp, tropical-fruit undertones of Sauvignon Blanc with light, mezze eats, or the smooth, sweet, silkiness of Muscadel with dessert.

The distribution timing could not be more perfect, as Du Toitskloof has signed an agreement with Namaqua Distribution to reach more South Africans than ever before. I’m certain many rural KykNET viewers will be relieved, as after watching the show, their craving for the wine will be satisfied by a proximal participating retail outlet, whether in Upington, Utrecht or Umkomaas.

From the latest press release: “The reality show sees amateur and qualified chefs pair in teams cooking a combination of traditional and new recipes in a highly entertaining yet fiercely competitive competition. Filming for the second series started last week in the picturesque Karoo town of Prince Albert.“

The first season already aired on DStv’s KykNET in April 2013 with 13 episodes, with the second season expected to hit Southern African television screens next April. The winning contestant of 20 participants could win a substantial cash prize and cookbook publishing deal.

Du Toitskloof Wines is looking forward to working together with this growing television show over the next three years. They’re also delighted to expand their household reach. It’s hoped the show will make more of South Africa’s populace, Du Toitskloof converts – we promise to make your assimilation a pleasurable one.

The Kokkedoor set in Prince Albert

The Kokkedoor set in Prince Albert

Building a Nation, Plate By Plate

South Africans celebrated National Heritage Day on the 24th of September. In a country with notorious divisions, yet famous for its diversity and ability to overcome differences to create a peaceful, cohesive nation; celebrating a singular South African heritage can be problematic. Can a single tile in a colourful mosaic be singled out to typify the entire artwork? Definitely not!

It has been a constant debate amongst thought-leaders, politicians and even large brands in South Africa; how do you typify ‘being South African, bringing all South Africans together for a common purpose?’ Despite the warm-and-fuzzy anthemesque adverts for certain beer brands, South Africa is not homogeneous and creating the ideal demographic togetherness, with so many varied cultural preferences, is difficult. So, bring on the food!

There are two things South Africans have in common, irrespective of linguistic preference, cultural ancestry, belief system, whom is chosen to love, or melanin content of the dermis: A moth-like affinity for fire and magnetism towards good, hearty food.

If there is any ubiquitous typecast for a South African, it would be burning wood or charcoal and a meaty meal; we don’t do vegetarian with great finesse. Thus, the National Braai (English: non-gas-fire barbeque) Day moniker, synchronous with National Heritage Day, being a pastime we all enjoy. Bring in Muratie Wine Estate and Du Toitskloof Wines and their hosting of the 2nd annual Cape Cuisine Cook-off on 19 September; celebrating Cape and South African heritage through the fruits of our soil and toil of our cooks.

Although a closed event by invitation only, it is a perfect opportunity to show off what our region is made of and showcase its diverse viticultural and gastronomic heritage. Less so a marketing opportunity and more about getting two exemplary wineries together to celebrate food and wine with some healthy competition; this time, to take on a Cape Malay Curry, a dish with Eastern, Western and African roots, reflecting the diversity of our country.

As quoted from the Muratie and Du Toitskloof joint press release:

Celebrity guests included Benny Masekwameng, highly-acclaimed chef and MasterChef SA judge; Arnold Tanzer, chef extraordinaire and Culinary Producer of MasterChef SA; and Cass Abrahams, well-loved foodie and specialist in Cape Malay cuisine. 

Du Toitskloof paired their Cape Malay curry with their 2013 Beaukett, an aromatic blend of muscat de frontignan, chenin blanc and gewürztraminer. This muscat-scented semi-sweet wine holds a combination of tropical fruit flavours with hints of honeysuckle and rose petals. Crisp and invigorating, this vibrant wine ends with a lovely refreshing finish. The 2013 Du Toitskloof Beaukett is also well suited to pairing with piquant cuisine and retails for about R30.

Muratie selected their flagship Laurens Campher 2012, named after the first owner of the farm, to pair with their Cape Malay curry. This aromatic off-dry wine is a seamless blend of four varietals, displaying lively fresh lemon and lime notes from the chenin and sauvignon blanc and fragrant floral hints from the verdelho and viognier. Elegant and complex, its flavours range from honeysuckle, lime marmalade and pineapple to fresh almonds, all wrapped in creamy oak. Zippy acidity runs through the wine until the eminently satisfying, lengthy finish. The fine balance of sugar and acidity makes for a gratifying fresh style. This wine lends itself favourably to spicy cuisine and retails for about R95.

Chefs Elrine Thomson of Du Toitskloof and Kim Melck of Muratie both displayed their culinary expertise, presenting deliciously spiced curries, after which the guests were called upon to cast their votes for the best dish of the day. Muratie was named the ‘2013 winelands cook-off champion’ having taken the vote by a narrow margin. The 2013 Muratie Du Toitskloof ‘winelands cook-off’ was a follow-on from their inaugural 2012 waterblommetjie bredie ‘cook-off’ hosted at Du Toitskloof where the home team took the honours with a one-vote lead. 

Article (1st half) by Andres de Wet

Team Du Toitskloof cooking up a storm in the kitchen...

Team Du Toitskloof cooking up a storm in the kitchen…

Our special guests...

Our special guests…

Muratie's award winning Cape Malay dish

Muratie’s award winning Cape Malay dish

Leveraging Seasonal Tourism

In the Cape, we’re extremely adept at doing summer. As a person who is a vehement foe of excessive heat, I don’t quite get it. I understand most enjoy the constant sun and heat of lengthy days; however, we are typecasting the Cape to our seasonal detriment. The Secret Season movement has had a limited impact.

This lopsided view of what quantifies as an asset to the Cape, is evident in Lufthansa, Virgin Atlantic, Edelweiss and Air France withdrawing and many other air carriers offering a reduced service during the austral winter.  Is May to October in the Cape really that bad? Whose view have we listened to on what is good weather and what is not? If it’s our fellow South Africans, then we’re getting the wrong advice from a biased source. The rest of South Africa knows the milder days of bone-dry winters; of course they’d lament ours.

Northern European summers often resemble our good winter days and some countries are crying out for 16°C highs between May and September. BRICS-nations, like India and China, are stiflingly humid and hot during these months and obviously, the Gulf States are like blast furnaces. The Indians and Chinese would relish our off-season. Although our friends from the UAE, Oman and Qatar may not indulge in the wine, they’ll revel in the associated amenities and other tourism activities.

The Cape is one of the few places on the African continent that truly has seasons, and seasons are a valuable asset. Just ask the town of Bright in Victoria, Australia. Its tourism marketing is focused on the town’s plethora of northern hemisphere trees that change vivid shades in the austral autumn, exceedingly rare to see in our hemisphere.

Locally, the West Coast and Namaqualand does this well during the springtime. Granted, some areas of this region can appear pretty barren during the rest of the year; daisies popping up on any open piece of land are a welcome scenic respite and an obvious draw-card.

The Cape Winelands and the Western Cape as a whole, should be making a more concerted and consolidated effort to debunk the myth that seasons = bad. Not that the provincial tourism authorities haven’t tried, but the entire tourism/conferencing industry, and even local governments, need to help in debunking this myth, to build a more calendar-ubiquitous tourism economy.

Seasons offer diversity and choice. Durban may offer ‘South Africa’s warmest welcome.’ However, where we can offer a warm welcome, a mild welcome or a refreshing welcome, Durban only has a warmest and outright sweaty welcome on offer. Seasons are an asset, we should use it.

No insult intended – just not a personal fan of humidity with heat… Some like it hot ;-)

Urban and some rural landscaping in parts of the Western Cape have failed to cement this. There has been a huge push nationally to use indigenous trees only. This has often resulted in towns planting Fever Trees and other odd choices as street trees. Guess what landscape designers? A tree knows no geo-political boundaries. A tree, although classified as South African indigenous, if from the Lowveld (or elsewhere in SA), is still as exotic to the Cape as an Oak or Liquidambar. If it’s not from the Cape Floristic Kingdom, to nature, it’s foreign. Plus, the aesthetic treatment given to our Winelands towns is the Phalaborwa-look; neither unique, nor apt. A town good at preserving Wineland’s heritage, is Stellenbosch, ardently preserving the Eikestad (oak city) moniker and using urban landscape as a tourism draw.

Other towns can and must do the same, especially those struggling to get on the tourist map. Let’s leverage every asset we have; the blossoming orchards in spring, the warm, balmy grape harvest of summer, the vivid tones of changing leaves of autumn and the verdant fields and snow-capped peaks of winter. Lastly, we need to sell it!

The passage of seasons near Du Toitskloof Cellar - from the same spot at 9:00am in May, July, October & January

The passage of seasons near Du Toitskloof Cellar – from the same spot at 9:00am in May, July, October & January

By: Andres de Wet

The CO2 Belch

I always seem to find myself in the unfortunate position of punting a Climate Change agenda in the coldest time of the year. This gains me little traction with the Cape-majority, begging for the onset of spring. Being in the minority as a winter-person, who relishes the cool, green, freshness of the June to September season, writing this remains critical, as winter only lasts so long and our summers have become vicious indeed.

With the Wine Writer of the Year competition deadline looming on the 27th of September at 16:00 SAST, it is critical to explore this subject one last time. It’s implications are R30,000 for the winning scribe, but millions, if not billions of rands for South African viticulture.

With the Cape winter entering its final month, it gives us time to reflect on the rainy season up until now. Our region is currently on 75% of its annual precipitation. With additional rainfall anticipated for August, we should be able to attain, at or near, average rainfall this year. What we have critically lacked, is cold-days and mountain snowfall. On both counts, this winter has been both erratic and downright dangerously below-average.

Matroosberg Private Nature Reserve in Ceres must be as frustrated is all hell. With no 1,000m snow events for years, it must be harming their winter tourism, not to mention their adjacent cherry farm crop. These snow events used to be a once or twice a season occurrence. This seldom happens anymore. However, does this impact viticulture? Absolutely! If you want to see a wine-farmer freak out, simply see vines trying to bud-break in early-August. This is exactly what we noticed this year, after an unseasonable hot couple of weeks the heart of winter, from late-July to early-August.

The cold, wet and windy weather did return. Albeit not critical at this point, early budding can cause the industry to lose their entire crop. An early-budding event, coupled with late frost and/or a powerful cold front with damaging winds can decimate the delicate grape flowers. The aberrance of the weather can wreak havoc with the industry.

Many urban-dwellers lament the constant cold and rain in the Cape. However, even at my youthful age, I can remember winters of yore, when the sun failed to shine for two-weeks, snow fell habitually on the lower peaks and rain fell almost non-stop. This was the normal Cape winter. What we experience now is a product of human-induced Climate Change. The winter we have today is downright subtropical compared to 20-years ago, never mind in the days of the grandparents.

There are always those who question the human-induced charge, some even debunking change in the climate is even happening. So, let’s look at a nightclub. When the club is empty and the air-conditioner is on, it’s positively frigid. Now pack it with people going ape till all hours of the morning and pretty soon, it is indoor tropical and unpleasantly sticky: Earth, 1800AD, 950-million humans living meagerly; Earth today, 7-billion humans going bananas and still growing. This is case-in-point! The atmosphere is a closed system.

There is simply no logic in the assertion that this unprecedented species-population-explosion would have no impact. Even less logically, when that species is sentient, can terraform thousands of square kilometers in one swoop and that this species loves to “belch” carbon dioxide.

If there’s any doubt that the Wine Writer of the Year competition doesn’t mean the world to us as a climate-sensitive industry, the aforementioned should dispel that. The insights that will be revealed, when the articles are released on the 30th of November, will be an invaluable source of information and may even inform how South African viticulture prepares itself for 2050.

Bud-break and flowering occurring earlier each year.

Bud-break and flowering occurring earlier each year.