I have the highest regard for the passion and energy of Hein Koegelenberg, who wears a number of hats, including heading up the operation of La Motte, founder of Meridian (a local distribution and sales company for 24 leading wine brands) and Historic Wines of the Cape (a warehousing, labelling and shipping company), and co-owner of Leopard’s Leap with his wife Hannelie Rupert-Koegelenberg.   I was delighted that Hein made time last week to share the planned developments at Leopards’ Leap, which is set to open a Tasting Room as well as a Cookery School in October, next door to La Motte in Franschhoek.

On the 10 hectare farm with its 400 square meter building being built, the Leopard’s Leap brand will have its first home, having been produced at the La Motte cellars in the past.  The brand sells six times as much as La Motte in volume, a total of 600 000 cases of six bottles.   The brand was created eleven years ago, as a second label to the Rupert wine brands La Motte, Rupert & Rothschild, and L’Ormarins.  Originally the brand was made from the left-over grapes from these three properties, but now Hein and his team buy in wine from Perdeberg, Wamakersvallei, Ashton Winery, Darling Winery, Leeuwenkuil and La Motte to create Leopard’s Leap wines.  The wines have been bottled at the KWV to date.  

A recent development is that Leopard’s Leap is bulk shipped to the United Kingdom, where it is bottled under the supervision of the winemaker, to save up to half of his shipping costs, given the Rand risk, Hein said.  Almost a quarter of Leopard’s Leap production has been bottled in the UK.  This is the way in which Leopard’s Leap has reacted to changing market conditions, and Hein’s philosophy is to adapt, saying one must make things work for your business when the external environment changes.   Hein is not optimistic that the strength of the Rand will change in the next 3 – 5 years.  Having withdrawn from the American market for some time, Hein says the time is right to go back into the USA with Leopard’s Leap and La Motte, an agent just having been appointed to sell the brands there.  

The three leopards on the Leopard’s Leap label have energy, and depict the personality which Hein and his wife wish to create at their new Tasting Room.  They have therefore appointed Mokena Makeka, a ‘hot’ young architect from Cape Town, whose Makeka Design Laboratory recently re-designed the Cape Town Station for the World Cup. The interior decor will be handled by Christo Barnard, who did the decor of Pierneef à La Motte.    The design will reflect that the brand’s target market is younger, and enjoy drinking this wine at a lower price point.  The building will have a lot of glass, to bring the outside in, and a large outside sitting area too.   A tasting room, delicatessen offering picnics, and wine sales facility make up the core of the new building.

A cutting-edge demonstration kitchen with 24 state-of-the-art work stations will also be built for the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School  branch opening at Leopards’ Leap, with owner Liam Tomlin and his wife moving to Franschhoek.  Tomlin has worked in leading restaurants in the UK, Europe and Sydney, including Banc in Sydney, about which he wrote a book with the same name, and another entitled “Season to Taste”. He opened the Chef’s Warehouse and Cookery School in Cape Town a year ago. The Cookery School will offer a wide range of classes, presented by Tomlin as well as by top local and international chefs.  The Chef’s Warehouse will sell a wide range of kitchen products, to offer participants the tools to make at home what they have learnt at the Cookery School.

The food to be served at Leopard’s Leap will be picnics. Tomlin and Barnard are currently working on the picnic concept, to develop a unique offering relative to what is currently being served at other wine farms, to create a unique identity for Leopards’ Leap.   Hein described the Leopard’s Leap brand as ‘pastel, earthy, funky, trendy, with energy”, and this will guide the interior decor and personality of the new Leopard’s Leap building. 

The Food & Wine Bloggers’ Club  will visit Leopards’ Leap on a Saturday on Saturday 12 November.   Further details can be obtained by e-mailing whalecot@iafrica.com

Leopard’s Leap Wines: www.leopards-leap.com

Chris von Ulmenstein, Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com