Tag Archives: Dana Buys

Tracy van Maaren Wines presents its portfolio of fine boutique wines!

Tracy van Maaren Tracy Whale Cottage PortfolioLast night I attended the first Tracy van Maaren Wines Trade Tasting, representing a handful of select fine boutique wine estates, held at Auslese. Each of the wine estate’s wines offered for tasting was personally paired with a canapé designed by Chef Harald Bresselschmidt of Aubergine.

Tracy started her wine career by working as PA to Dana Buys at Vrede en Lust.  She then moved into the clothing industry, but regretted this move.  She returned to the wine industry, working at Jordan.  Almost nine years ago she started her company, her first wine clients being Vriesenhof, Raats, and Catherine Marshall.   She represents her clients’ wines in the ‘mid to top restaurants’ and independent retailers (e.g. Caroline’s, Wine Concepts, and Vino Pronto) in Cape Town and Stellenbosch, with Paarl and Franschhoek.

Auslese is a renovated house, available to rent for functions, about two blocks from Aubergine.  It has a smallish kitchen, and the space was cleverly used to set up tasting tables for nine brands, with Pol Roger (Churchill’s favourite champagne) represented in the entrance hall by Great Domaines’ Derek Kilpin andTracy van Maaren Pol Roger Whale Cottage Portfolio their brand new French import Morgan Delacloche.

Arriving at about 18h30, there was no crush, and one could get to easily taste the wines and food pairings, chat to the wine representatives, and to the invited guests, which included John Maytham of Cape Talk, Mark Bland of Expresso, Mandi Jarman of Aquila, Chef Vanessa Marx and her colleague  Rumby of Dear Me, Catharina’s Manager Ronel Smidt, sommelier and consultant Jörg Pfützner, John and Lynne Ford, and Mike Duggan of Wine Concepts. Continue reading →

Vrede en Lust showcases its white wine portfolio, luscious lunch at Lust Bistro & Bakery!

V&L Entrance Whale Cottage PortfolioYesterday we were invited to a first media event at Vrede en Lust at the outskirts of Franschhoek, with the specific purpose to expose the wine estate’s ten white wines, making up about one-third of its production, given that Vrede en Lust is perceived as a predominantly red wine producing wine farm.

The origin of Vrede en Lust dates back to 1688, owned by French Huguenot Jacques de Savoye, who planted 10000 vines in 1691.  The Buys family bought the farm in 1996, modernising it by building on its 320 year heritage. Former Nederburg winemaker Günter Brözel helped them build the cellar, and acts as a consultant when needed.  About 36 ha of the 55 ha farm is planted to vines.  They have recently bought Ricton close by, with a capacity of 60 ha.  In addition, they own Casey’s Ridge in the Kogelberg Biosphere in Elgin, with 54 ha of vineyards.  Vrede en Lust produces 30000 9 litre cases of wines per year, made from 800 tonnes of grapes.  Of their production, 68% is sold via their Tasting Room and at shows, while 15% is exported.  They have 1200 Wine Club members.

We met in the tasting room, having to do the tasting inside due to the unexpected rain and cooler weather. We were welcomed by Etienne Buys, brother of farm owner Dana Buys, who has taken over the management and viticulture of V&L Etienne Buys Whale Cottage PortfolioVrede en Lust, so that Dana can spend more time with his first love, being IT.

Charming winemaker Susan Erasmus, expecting her second child in May and previously at Neethlingshof (and having done harvests at Groot Constantia, Zevenwacht, and St Emilion), was a confident presenter of her white wine ‘babies‘, although she used technical terminology at times, where some of us got lost.  Interesting was observing the tastings continue in the Tasting Room, Continue reading →

Pendock picks Pinotage to open his new Wine Gallery at Taj Cape Town!

Pendock Wine Gallery full view Whale Cottage PortfolioNotorious Neil Pendock is launching his Pendock Wine Gallery at the Taj Cape Town hotel at 18h00, to many a most unusual move, in a minute space which would not allow more than a handful of persons to move inside the gallery at any time.  The Gallery concept and its link to the hotel’s Mint Restaurant is as quirky as Pendock is.

The roughly 2 by 4 meter space is half of the Edit[ed] hotel shop, and once inside Pendock’s Wine Gallery one can see inside the shop through a glass door, a design weakness, as it does not match the less-is-more sparse design of the Gallery.  Six ornate shelves will hold a bottle of wine each, according to a monthly theme, September being dedicated to Pinotage, but the choice of six is not explained, other than space constraints.  However, Pendock does pride himself on his selection, in that the six (Black Elephant Vintners, Diemersdal, Manley Continue reading →

‘Semi-Soet’ movie sweet marketing of Vrede en Lust and Franschhoek wine valley!

Last night I went to see ‘Semi-Soet‘, a locally produced romantic comedy which opened at 70 cinemas country-wide on Friday.  It was predominantly shot on Vrede en Lust wine estate at the entrance to Franschhoek, and I did not expect to enjoy the movie and laugh so much.  The movie can be expected to see hordes of locals descending on Franschhoek generally, and to Vrede en Lust specifically.

Semi-Soet’ was produced by James and Anel (who doubles up as the lead actress) Alexander’s Scramble Productions, using a cast of well-known television actors, Nico Panagio being one of the best known actors in the cast, being a Top Billing presenter, but the other actors are known from series such as 7de Laan, Binnelanders, and the movie Liefling, also produced by the Alexanders. The story line takes two advertising agency teams from Johannesburg to the Franschhoek wine estate, to be evaluated by Vrede en Lust owner ‘Andries Buys’ for the advertising account.  The teams are tested on the farm, in having to walk the ‘Vryersvoetpad’, a lover’s lane with challenges, not least of all being a pig!  They also have to pick grapes and stomp them in barrels, before doing a presentation to win the account.

How Vrede en Lust got to be involved in the movie is not known, with a choice of hundreds of wine estates in the Winelands.  Vrede en Lust owner Dana Buys writes on their website that they evaluated the past work of the Alexanders. They realised that a poor movie could badly affect their brand image, but the past work of the Alexanders (especially the movie ‘Discreet’) made them realise that the chances of the movie not being successful were small enough to make it worth their while to participate in the movie.  “We had high hopes for Semi-Soet, but I suspect the movie will do much better than our wildest expectations”.   There is copious branding for Vrede en Lust in the movie, not only in mentioning its name repeatedly throughout the movie, but also via a wine tasting of the flagship Boet Erasmus, wine bottles, and branded banners and a lectern.

The movie has received good reviews, and while some of the humour borders on slapstick, it is seen to be one of the best Afrikaans and local movies made to date.  English sub-titles make the movie accessible to all South Africans.

The movie presents Vrede en Lust, and Franschhoek with it, in its glorious beauty, mainly with the Simonsberg as a backdrop, but also the Paarl mountains on the other side.  Aerial shots over the farm and the Franschhoek wine valley, as well as the action filming in the vineyards, at the slave bell, and in the Manor House can only boost visitor numbers to Vrede en Lust, a wine estate that was established in 1688.  Vrede en Lust is one of the two best-known and  largest wedding venues in Franschhoek, and the movie ends off with a wedding of two of the movie characters, marketing this aspect of the wine estate too.  The storyline positions Vrede en Lust as a wine estate with family values, passion, hard work, and a vision, which no doubt pertains to the real Vrede en Lust too.  Interesting is that the farm owner pleads for non-pretentious descriptions of the wines tasted in the movie.

Funding for the film was received from the Industrial Development Corporation, and product placements were paid for in cash or as trade exchanges.  Brands seen in the movie, and acknowledged on the movie’s website, include Avis, 1Time, Alpha Pharm, Rhapsody’s restaurant, and many more.  The movie is good in encouraging wine-drinking, with an agency account win celebrated with sparkling wine, and the movie opening with wine-related illustrations, of wine glasses, bunches of grapes, and vine leaves.

Vrede en Lust has launched a Vryersvoetpad 2008 Merlot-dominant Bordeaux-style blend in honour of the movie, as a limited release of 1450 bottles.  Each bottle is numbered, and can be bought at Makro, eStore, and on the wine farm.

POSTSCRIPT 21/2:  I called Dana Buys after writing the blogpost, and he told me that they were approached by the producers to use his farm as the location.  No cash exchanged hands, but they provided the location and the accommodation on the farm, not accepting any wedding bookings during the filming period.  For the movie premieres around the country they had to provide the wine, and pay for the popcorn and colddrinks. From a brand awareness perspective, the movie will be excellent, especially when it goes to DVD and TV, he said.  The movie was shot in April/May last year, and the first sign of autumn is visible in the vineyards.  The grapes picked in the Merlot block were not real ones, he said, as they had long harvested at that time.

Vrede en Lust, R45, Franschhoek.  Tel (021)  874-1611  www.vnl.co.za Twitter: @DJBuys

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

Franschhoek winemakers resilient to credit crunch

The Franschhoek Month asked the Vignerons of Franschhoek what effect the recession is having on their wine sales.

The majority of the estates that replied stated that their wine sales have increased relative to the same period a year ago.

Dieter Sellmeyer of Lynx Wines writes as follows: Non-cellar door wine sales locally come mainly from restaurants and from mail campaigns and neither of these have suffered – in fact restaurant business is up, which may partly have to do with the evolution of the brand. We have never done a lot through retail outlets as the competition there is massive and yes, cut-throat.”

Haute Espoir, Rickety Bridge Winery, La Motte, Stony Brook Vineyards, Graham Beck Wines and Vrede & Lust also all report increased wine sales, and it would not appear that the visitors to the Franschhoek wine estates are trading down in their wine purchases, as was claimed in a recent article in the Cape Times.Dana Buys from Vrede & Lust describes how he has enhanced wine sales at his estate: Our sales are significantly up over last year. I think it is due to our wines improving and a strong focus on direct wine sales. Direct sales are important with more customers buying to drink at home versus while eating out. Our wines are priced well relative to the quality. We have significantly upgraded our cellar door team and they have done a great job building the new wine club and getting our European eStore sales humming”

Graham Beck Wines’ Etienne Heyns attributes their sales success to his cellar door staff: “Our staff makes a point of providing our visitors with extra hospitality and superb attention during such times when relatively fewer visits occur. In addition, we reward our visitors with an array of extra special offers on our wines. We value their custom and want them to leave our estate with an indelible impression – and a boot full of superb wines.” Werner Els of La Petite Ferme attributes their sales’ success to focusing on greater distribution in South Africa’s major cities.Vrede & Lust says that there are fewer tourists around this season. “To counteract the tough economy we work on ensuring that our pricing is correct for the climate and we understand that better cash-flow is often more important than higher profit margins – i.e. we are realistic about the laws of supply and demand! Most of all, we work hard to ensure that the customers who visit the farm have a fantastic experience here” says Dana Buys. Rickety Bridge Winery says that it offers a good quality product. “We put a lot of emphasis on giving guests an experience though good service and a good quality “product” in both our restaurant and with our wines. I believe we offer something for everybody – whether they are serious connoisseurs or just looking for a relaxing day in the winelands” says Jackie Rabe.When visitors come to the farm we sell them an experience – wine sales follow automatically and price hardly comes into it. Being small only I, as passionate owner/winemaker, or my equally passionate Assistant Winemaker, do the cellar tours and wine tasting” says Sellmeyer. “We have a few very loyal small tour operators. Their clientele is usually upmarket and interested in wine and more often than not they have wine sent back home. The tour operators know we offer cellar tours and tastings in German, and for that sector this is an immediate winner”.Haute Espoir exports its wines to Germany, New Zealand, Ireland, Sweden, Malaysia, Belgium and Singapore; Lynx sells to Denmark, Holland, Germany and the USA, but the USA sales “have almost vanished. Europe, on the other hand, has soaked up what the US didn’t take. Our Danish distributor reports the best season ever, and our wines are right up there – the result of joint marketing efforts with our distributor. Holland and Germany are not very different. In addition we have very recently received two significant orders from UK and Switzerland for the first time. With a bit of nurturing these will develop into repeat business.”

Rickety Bridge exports to the UK and the USA; Vrede & Lust exports to Canada and Europe; Stony Brook focuses its exports on Europe; La Petite Ferme exports to the UK, Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and America; Graham Beck sells its products in 40 countries, but Sweden and the USA are its two most important foreign markets; and La Motte exports to Europe, Africa and the Far East.

The visitor profile of visitors to the wine estates appears to be varied. Graham Beck Wines estimates that more of their visitors are foreigners than South Africans, in line with 65 % of its wine production being exported. La Petite Ferme receives mainly European visitors, Vrede & Lust is visited by locals, British visitors and Americans; Rickety Bridge Winery says 40 % of its visitors are South African, and the balance are from the UK, USA and France; Lynx sells to visitors from the UK, Germany, USA, Sweden and Holland, as well as South Africans from Gauteng. Some wineries appeal more to older wine lovers, others to younger visitors. “Swallows” are an important part of the winetasting mix at La Motte, says Werner Briederhann, probably due to their exposure to the wines at the monthly La Motte concerts.

When asked how the Vignerons can assist in attracting tourists to Franschhoek, Haute Espoir’s Rob Armstrong said :’“Strive to enhance the experience visitors to our valley have in every aspect, to make this the most attractive destination in South Africa.” Jacky of Rickety Bridge Winery suggested that: “I think it is important to create as much a positive feeling about what you do, get the name out there, get people talking about what you have to offer, make sure your staff are positive and send that message through to customers. Don’t ride on your laurels and expect business to come to you, do as much as you can to drive business to you. Evaluate what you offer and see whether you are really offering guests the best you can, in terms of price, quality and service. If not, how can you expect people to come back. I think in these tough times consumers become sharper, will shop around for good value and will not support places that are taking advantage. I also think that business will have to work harder and smarter to achieve the same business they did in more liquid times.”

Buys says that ‘great customer experience and value’ are key. “We compete with many other destinations in South Africa and elsewhere, and the overall value proposition must be very competitive.”

“We just try to do great value for money wines and give friendly, personal attention to visitors who come to the farm.  We believe in word of mouth advertising and our customers have been very loyal, even when times are tough” says Stony Brook Vineyards. For Els of La Petite Ferme it’s a change of focus to the South African market, while Graham Beck Wines’ Heyns says its “service, service, service!”

Sellmeyer is ‘proudly-Franschhoek’, and makes an important point in this regard: The best way is to send out the message of what a great place Franschhoek is, and all that it has to offer. To do this the most important thing is to remain upbeat, particularly in communications to the media and in newsletters. Visitors don’t like to go to a place that is depressed and down. But the Vignerons won’t be able to attract visitors on their own – they’re only one element of the Franschhoek experience. It’s a joint effort between all players, and just like I only recommend restaurants in the Valley, I would expect the converse to be the case. When I hear about guesthouses only recommending wineries on the other side of the mountain I ask myself ‘why?’- it’s like shooting yourself in the foot. It’s great if tourists go back and tell friends how much the Cape Winelands have to offer, but it would be better still if they told their friends how much Franschhoek has to offer.”

This article was written by Chris von Ulmenstein and was first published in the July 2009 issue of The Franschhoek Month.

Whale Cottage Portfolio: www.whalecottage.com