Reporting On The Year That Was

DTW-Xmas

The wine industry is a fickle beast, never particularly stable, seldom predictable, always at the whims of the weather gods and often, victim of seismic shifts in fashion, political power-plays and exchange rates. Despite this, with our amazing team, from the hands that tend the soil, to those running from office to client, Du Toitskloof has managed to have a mostly positive 2013 and is looking forward to a promising new year.

We were fortunate to have had a decent harvest in early-2013. This is the cornerstone of our entire year. A failed harvest can make the following 12-months, waiting for the next income injection, an unpleasant experience indeed. Unlike most industries, one event predetermines the upcoming 12-months.

We have been blessed with a market that has been loyal to our brand. This enables us to bottle our wines in early-Autumn with confidence, knowing that most, if not all, of our cultivars will be sold-out by the time bottling takes place post-harvest in 2014.

Autumn came early, then late. Our rains arrived on schedule around Easter, but then stopped. We became quite concerned when some new vines attempted to bud in late-May. Heat suddenly surged in the late season and leaf-colouring was erratic. Luckily though, the seasons got back on track and in the last week of May, winter begun in earnest. Despite a lengthy hiatus of warmth in July, the remainder of our rainy season from August till late-September was cold and very wet.

We had two significant snow events in August and September. People outside the industry do not often realise how important winter is to us. Significant mountain snow means significant rest for the vines and we all know that great sleep makes for energetic wakefulness; this bodes well for the growing season beyond. Spring came very late, but rapidly; this has reflected in our later-than-normal season. Our Jacaranda’s only concluded flowering in mid-December – in Gauteng, it’s over by early-November.

Spring not only saw new growth on the vines. It saw the second annual Cape Cuisine Cook-off with Muratie Estate. A successful event that grows from year-to-year, bringing two cellars and the who’s who of the culinary arts together in the Cape Winelands. This year’s theme was Cape-Malay cuisine. We look forward to the fresh, new, endemic ideas for the 2014 event to be held at our cellar once more.

Soon thereafter, we announced the inaugural Wine Writer of the Year Award, in conjunction with Standard Bank. It was to have an esteemed panel of judges and outstanding auditing standards, ensuring objectivity and absolute credibility. We wanted to become synonymous with supporting free-thought and fresh ideas in the wine industry, becoming an incubator for our industry’s creative talent.

The culinary developments with our brand didn’t just stop with the Cape Cuisine Cook-off. In late-Spring, the announcement of the year came, Du Toitskloof Wines would become the official sponsor of South Africa’s premier Afrikaans-language cooking competition, Kokkedoor. This would catapult the brand into more Southern African homes than ever before.

To complement this, we needed to think bigger when it came to distribution. If we were to be distributed digitally over satellite throughout DStv’s footprint, to complement this, we needed our bottles to be distributed far-and-wide, from Kalahari to coast. The partnership between Namaqua Distribution and ourselves was born, taking our wines to more corners of the sub-continent than ever before.

In late-November, the first annual Wine Writer of the Year Award went to Tim James. Despite having few entries, the famous names in this arena were represented. Standard Bank recommitted themselves to 2014. It’s certain, given the credibility earned, that the competition will continue to grow and new names will begin to enter in the coming years.

We had quite a scare in November, when a vicious Black Southeaster combined with a cut-off-low to bring the Western Cape some of the heaviest rainfall ever recorded in November. Some regions of our province, like Somerset West, experienced significant damage and some loss of life was even recorded. We were fortunate to come out relatively unscathed, except for some sporadic damage near rivers draining mountains to the south-west. Our harvest seems to have weathered the storm mostly unscathed.

Now as 2013 draws to a close, the summer heats up and the grapes ripen, our 2014 harvest is looking pretty good, despite the ups and downs. Plus, with our new partnerships and sponsorship deals, the new year is looking bright and hopefully, prosperous. We hope we can pass this prosperity on to our producers, our staff and our FairTrade empowerment project, as well as you, by continuing to provide exemplary wines at approachable prices.

Du Toitskloof wishes you and yours a joyous holiday season and a fun-filled new year; may 2014’s challenges bear fruit and may you look back on this coming year in late-2014 with fondness. We look forward to being in your homes’ and at your special occasions’ in 2014 and in many years to come. 

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