Entries tagged with “Eugene van Zyl”.


imageOn Wednesday I attended the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Association Top 10 Challenge award presentation at Delaire Graff wine estate in Stellenbosch, at the invitation of Waterford Communications. (more…)

Cook Franschhoek 3A number of Franschhoek’s top chefs will pair their delectable dishes with the wines of the local wine estates at ‘Cook Franschhoek’, running from 13 – 15 June, sharing their special cooking tips, reflecting the food trend of getting back to basics.

Spread around the wine estates and restaurants of Franschhoek, the participating chefs will allow workshop participants into their domains, and share their cooking secrets, while the winemakers will guide the attendees on choosing the most suitable wines to pair with each dish made.  At the end of each workshop, the dishes cooked and the wines paired will be available to taste.  It also allows one to interact with the chefs and winemakers in small groups, and to ask more specific questions.

The participating Franschhoek chefs subscroibe to the cooking basics, such as ‘snout-to-tail’ food usage, meaning that every piece of an animal such as a pig is used (such as witnessed on MasterChef SA Season 2 when Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte cooked a pig’s head to make a terrine); sourcing ingredients fresh from the farm to the table, within close proximity to the restaurants; smoking meats, charcuterie being the speciality of Chef Neil Jewell of Bread & Wine; cooking over a fire, including a rotisserie, a Green Egg, and Weber; and Nordic cooking techniques of pickling, fermenting, and preserving. (more…)

When superb wine marketer and CEO Hein Koegelenberg is involved in a project one can expect it to be of a superlative quality, reflecting La Motte’s slogan of ‘A Culture of Excellence’. So it was on Wednesday, when we were invited to attend the launch of ‘sister’ wine brand Leopard’s Leap’s new Culinaria Collection of six wines, a range developed on the basis of terroir, inspired by the regionality of French wines, and its suitability for different food types. (more…)

The Franschhoek Wine Valley tourism organisation is celebrating the cooking talents of its top restaurant chefs and its award-winning wines by pairing them in ‘Cook Franschhoek‘, a festival of cooking running over this coming long weekend, from 14 – 16 June.

Taking the form of cooking demonstrations in the chefs’ restaurant kitchens, food and wine lovers will be shown how to prepare the chefs’ special dishes, and will be taken through wine tastings, with a Franschhoek winery paired with each restaurant.  The cost of demonstrations ranges from R85 – R2100 each.

Participating restaurants are :

*   Antonij Rupert Tasting Room/L’Omarins – guided tour of culinary and medicinal herb garden with glass of L’Omarins sparkling wine, olive oil tasting, and a goodie bag. Friday 9h30 -11h00 and 15h00 – 16h30, Saturday 9h30 – 11h00 and 15h00 – 16h30,  Sunday 9h30 – 11h00 and 15h00 – 16h30, R85 each.

*   Le Quartier Français/Môreson – Tandoori chicken demo and tasting by Chef Vanie Padayachee. Friday 10h00 and Saturday 10h00, R370 each.

*   Leopard’s Leap Rotisserie/Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards – Chef Pieter de Jager will demonstrate making a salt meringue Santer on garlic brochette, paired with Leopard’s Leap Culinary Pinot Noir, introduced by Eugene van Zyl.  Friday 10h30;  Breakfast Tart demo, paired with Leopard’s Leap Culinary Methodé Cap Classique, Saturday 9h30,  R110 each.

*   Terra del Capo Tasting Room – Chef HW Pieterse will host an Italian food and Italian wine variety pairing at Antonij Rupert. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday 11h00 – 12h00, R85 each.

*   Ryan’s Kitchen/Rickety Bridge – Chef Ryan Smith will demonstrate the making of a guava and vanilla soufflé with a Tennis Biscuit ice cream, and serve a 2 course meal, paired with Rickety Bridge Paulina Reserve Chenin Blanc by winemaker Danie de Bruyn. Friday 12h00, R300;  Chicken and crab curry lunch paired with Paulina Reserve Semillon, and includes 2 course meal. Saturday 12h00, R300.

*   Franschhoek Kitchen/Holden Manz Winery – Chef Maryna Frederiksen will demonstrate the use of fresh herbs in creative ways, and a light lunch will be served, winemaker Schalk Opperman introducing  their 2012 Chardonnay and 2010 Merlot. Friday 12h30 and at 16h00, Saturday 12h00, R220 each.

*   Café BonBon/Haut Espoir – Chef Tijn Hahndiek will demonstrate the making of Butter chicken curry and basmati rice. One course lunch and gift. Friday 14h00, R220; Eggs Benedict demo, inclusive of breakfast and gift, Saturday 10h30, R110;  Home-made pasta demo with one course lunch and gift, Saturday 14h00, R220.

*   Allora/Rickety Bridge – Chef Roaan Erasmus will demonstrate making gnocchi and folded pasta, paired with Rickety Bridge wines by winemaker Danie de Bruyn. Lunch included. Friday 15h00, Saturday 12h00, R220 each.

*   SalmonBar/Haut Espoir – owner Gregg Stubbs will demonstrate how to debone and fillet trout, and tasting of cold smoked, hot smoked, cured, marinated, and grilled salmon.  Friday 17h00, R250; sustainability talk and salmon tasting, Saturday 17h00, R250.

*   Haute Cabrière/Pierre Jourdan – 6 course Pinot Noir winter Tasting Menu prepared by Chef Ryan Shell and presented with Takuan von Arnim, Friday and Saturday at 19h00, R655 each.

*   Bread & Wine/Môreson – Chef Neil Jewell will demonstrate Wagyu beef three ways, with winemaker Clayton Reabow pouring the wine. Saturday 10h00, R110.

*   Paulina’s at Rickety Bridge/Rickety Bridge Winery – Chef Melissa Bruyns will demonstrate making seafood risotto, paired with a tasting of Chenin Blanc by winemaker Wynand Grobler. Saturday and Sunday 11h00, R180 each.

*   Fyndraai/Solms-Delta – Chef Shaun Schoeman will demonstrate the use of culinary fynbos flowers, with a 3-course meal and wine pairing by Joan Heatlie of The Vastrap Chenin Blend and The Hiervandaan Shiraz Blend, Saturday and Sunday 12h00, R320.

*   Pierneef à La Motte/La Motte – Chef Chris Erasmus will demonstrate making classic pâté and terrines, paired with La Motte wines by Michael Langenhoven, Saturday 17h00, R165.

*   Reuben’s/L’Omarins – Chef Reuben Riffel will take attendees to Antonij Rupert Wines, to taste their sparkling wine and to see the culinary and medicinal herb garden, followed by lunch at Chef Reuben’s home, winemaker Dawie Botha pouring L’Omarins wines, with a gift pack and herb bouquet, Sunday 12h00 – 15h00, R2100.

Cook Franschhoek, 14 – 16 June. www.cookfranschhoek.co.za. Tel (021) 876 2861.  www.webtickets.co.za

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

About two weeks ago German wine writer Mario Scheuermann put out an appeal to his local connections, requesting that top Pinot Noir winemaker in Germany, Bernhard Huber of Weingut Huber in Breisgau in Baden, be looked after over his two week holiday in the Winelands.   We offered to show off Franschhoek, and Bernhard and his wife Barbara were blown away by the quality of the wines in Franschhoek, and the generosity and friendliness extended to them. The flagship wine of Weingut Huber, in a region that has a 700 year history of growing Pinot Noir, is their Pinot Noir, of which only 2500 bottles are produced, and sell at €120 each.

We started our journey at our Whale Cottage Franschhoek with a glass of sparkling wine, explaining some background to the village and the influence left by the French Huguenots, in naming their farms after the towns and districts they had come from in France, and planting the first vines in the valley.  Restaurant recommendations were provided, should the Hubers have time to come back for another visit to Franschhoek.   We talked through the Platter guide, which Bernhard knew, but he had not seen the 2013 edition, so we gave him our copy as a present, to accompany him on the remainder of his holiday.  We described how Franschhoek’s reputation as a wine-producing region has grown, having been mocked until a few years ago for having such poor terroir that farmers had to buy in grapes to make excellent wines, to now having a Platter Winery of the Year in the valley two years running!

We visited Boekenhoutskloof first, the Platter Winery of the Year 2012, and having collected the most 5-star wines of all the Franschhoek wine estates over the history of the Platter guide. The wine farm is one of the oldest in Franschhoek, having been awarded in 1776.  Innocent Mpahleni was our host, and led a winetasting for the Hubers, pulling out a number of wines, including Boekenhoutskloof wines, which are rarely offered in a tasting.  Innocent did a Cape Wine Academy course while he worked at Caroline’s, and has been at Boekenhoutskloof for five years already, he shared proudly. Boekenhoutskloof produces a total of 4 million bottles per year, of which 4% are made from grapes grown in their own 22 ha vineyard in Franschhoek.  The wine estate was bought in 1992 by six directors from the marketing industry, and its winemaker Marc Kent was added as the seventh director, explaining the seven chairs on the label.  Between 1994 – 1997 the fruit trees were removed from the farm, and vines were planted, pears, apples, oranges, limes, and stock farming having been practised before.  The Wolftrap is the entry level wine (with a range consisting of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, and Grenache Blanc blend; Rosé; and a Syrah, Mourvèdre and Viognier blend), and is named after the jackals, lynx, leopards, and wolves believed to have been responsible for the loss of cattle on the farm, necessitating a trap.   The farm is home to porcupines, and the farm tagged some of these and one can track their movement on their website. Porcupine Ridge is the mid-range wine range of Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier and Grenache Blanc blend, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Syrah/Viognier blend.   The Chocolate Block is a blend made of Syrah, Grenache, Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Viognier grapes coming from different vineyards. Wolftrap and Porcupine Ridge are made at the Helderberg Winery, which belongs to Boekenhoutskloof too. The Chocolate Block and Boekenhoutskloof wines are made on the Franschhoek farm.  They have recently started making the Porseleinberg Shiraz, which is exported to Sweden, and has a label made to resemble porcelain, receiving acclaim at CapeWine 2012 last September.  We found some bottles of a new brand Le Cap Maritime, made from grapes from the Hemel en Aarde valley, at Lizette’s KItchen in Hermanus, which is an airline brand too.

In 1996 the first 6000 bottles of Boekenhoutskloof were produced, from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes brought in from Eikehof in Franschhoek, and from Syrah grapes bought from Schalk Burger Snr’s Welbedacht in Wellington.  In 1997 the first Semillon was produced, the grapes coming from bushvines planted in 1899 at Eikehof.  Two years ago Marc uprooted most of his vines, and planted new ones, the Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Merlot, and Viognier being planted in the lower sections of the farm, and more planting to be done of Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon, Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Grenache, and Viognier higher up on the farm.  The grapes are grown organically, but not marketed as such due to the mix with grapes from other wine estates.

We tasted the Porcupine Ridge Sauvignon Blanc, and Innocent described it as ‘one of the best selling Sauvignon Blancs in the country‘, and as a ‘poolside drink’, drunk young. The grapes come from Robertson, Citrusdal, Malmesbury, and Franschhoek. One million bottles are made in the Porcupine Ridge range. They made a Viognier Grenache blend four years ago for the first time, sourcing the Viognier from Malmesbury and the Grenache from Citrusdal, and being oaked for 13 months.  Next up was The Wolftrap, a blend of 46% Viognier from Malmesbury, 28% Chenin Blanc from Stellenbosch, and 26% Grenache from Citrusdal, 600 litres of each being matured in their 24 cement egg tanks, as well as in French oak.  Chocolate Block was first produced in 2002, a mere 12 barrels, and its current production has grown to 1432 barrels, or 400000 bottles in 2011.  Grapes are hand picked, and they use interns, mainly from overseas, for the picking. Innocent said it is the ‘best selling wine in the country’ in terms of the speed at which it sells out, five months after production.

Innocent told us that the Boekenhoutskloof annual production of 6000 bottles is sold out in advance, and initially he received no stock for the tasting room.  That has changed, and he has at least one bottle in the range to offer for tasting every day.  Every year one can order one or more of the 2000 mixed Boekenhoutskloof cases of 3 Semillon, 3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 3 Syrah, and one The Journeyman (a Cabernet Franc/Cabernet Sauvignon blend), at R4000.  The bulk of the Boekenhoutskloof wine production goes to Caroline’s, Vaughn Johnson’s Wine Shop, La Cotte Wine Sales, and the directors of Boekenhoutskloof.  All labelling is hand applied, and the best quality cork and bottles are used.  The Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon cost R380 each, and 1100 and 1500 cases are made annually, respectively.  The Syrah grapes are hand picked over four days, and the wine spends 27 months in Barrique barrels, and egg white is added. 2400 bottles of Noble Late Harvest are produced, spending 30 months in new oak. Innocent shared that a Pinot Noir is planned.

We had time for a quick stop at Haute Cabriere, and Hildegard von Arnim impressed in juggling a tasting in French with French winelovers, whilst paying attention to the Hubers in German, sharing that her husband Achim had studied winemaking at Geisenheim, and had pioneered growing Pinot Noir locally. Over a glass of Pinot Noir 2009 (R160 per bottle), she animatedly told the story of how Achim had started a revolution in vinegrowing in our country. Together with a number of winemaking colleagues, including Hungarian Count Desiderius Poncrácz, they worked around a government quarantine of 9 – 12 years of imported grape varieties, to prevent importing viruses.  They decided to smuggle in some Pinot Noir on a truck via the then Rhodesia, and were eventually reported to the authorities by a ‘colleague’.  Before they got to court, Pongracz died in a car crash, leaving Achim and the other farmers to face the judge. He was a ‘good judge‘, Hildegard said, finding for the wine farmers, and instead of having them locked up, he had the quarantine law changed!

We were invited for lunch by Hannelie and Hein Koegelenberg at their new The Rotisserie at Leopard’s Leap (photograph above), which has a salad bar made from vegetables and herbs picked fresh out of their garden, to which one can add a wrap, a piece of chicken, and/or pork.  Chef Pieter de Jager sent a new creation to the table, beef topside rolled with a feta and pesto filling, which met with approval.  We tasted a Leopard’s Leap unoaked Chardonnay, of which 120000 bottles are made annually, by winemaker Eugene van Zyl, with grapes from Robertson, spending three months on the lees, and costing R42.  Hein explained that Leopard’s Leap was a second label for left-over Rupert wine estate grapes, but since 2005 it is a stand alone brand. They produce 4,2 million bottles in total, and export to 40 countries. L’Huguenot is a brand which was created for their alliance with Perfect China, and 3 million bottles are exported to that country, representing 50% of our country’s exports to Asia.  Having created a tasting room for the Leopard’s Leap brand just over a year ago, Hein feels that he needs one for L’Huguenot too, for Asian visitors, 600 – 1000 expected annually via an incentive program.  Hein shared that the market in Europe is difficult currently, with consumers buying down.  They are selling La Motte at €9.99 and Leopard’s Leap at €4.99.  The increasing excise duty, in the UK in particular, influences wine sales, representing R5,70 per bottle in that country.  The Leopard’s Leap Merlot is made from grapes coming from Agter Paarl and the Swartland, 60% being barrel fermented in French oak, and 80000 bottles are produced annually.  Organic farming at La Motte commenced ten years ago, which has brought balance to their vines, the acid is stable, the pH is low, they use less sulphur, and their yield is lower, reducing their carbon footprint.  Hein enthused about the 2013 vintage, given the winter rains, and the long late start to summer.  The Koegelenbergs and Hubers will see each other at ProWein in Düsseldorf in March, agreeing that it is the best wine show in the world.  We ended off the lunch with a tasting of the recently launched Leopard’s Leap MCC from the new Culinaria Collection, a 55% Chardonnay and 45% Pinot Noir blend.  Hein shared that Chile and Argentinia are fierce competition to South African wines internationally, given that their price points are lower.  Given the small harvests in Europe, South Africa will be pushed to export more of its bulk wine this year.  Bernhard said that 85% of wines drunk by Germans is from Germany, the balance being from Italy and France.  Bernhard was astounded at the volumes Hein was sharing about Leopard’s Leap, compared to his own small production runs.

The generosity of time astounded the Hubers, as Hein had returned to the office from holiday that morning, and was flying out to London that evening, generously spending time with us for the lunch, and then personally taking us around La Motte and doing a tasting of their wines.  The wine farm was awarded to a French Huguenot in 1695, and the original wine cellar and manor house were built around 1750.  La Motte is 169ha in size, of which about half is planted to vine. In relaunching La Motte, they built a new winetasting centre, a museum, and a farm shop, as well as the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant, starting with 3000 visitors a month, which has grown to 8000 – 10000 per month now.  Hein shared the link to late artist JH Pierneef, whose family collection hangs in the museum, and after whom the Pierneef à La Motte restaurant was named, and their new vegetable and herb garden, their policy being to source organic and free range meat too.  We were shown the separated red and white wine facilities, 600000 cases of red wine being produced.  They double sort their grapes, and have a mobile bottling plant which can do 3600 bottles per hour.  The barrels are kept at low temperature and high humidity.  The Sauvignon Blanc 2012 production is just over half a million bottles per year and is the focus of the white wine winery, and 30 – 40% of the fruit comes from La Motte, the balance coming from Nieuwoudtville, Lutzville, Elands Bay, Elgin, Darling, Bot River, and Elim.  We then tasted the Pierneef Collection Sauvignon Blanc 2012, an organic wine, made from Bot River grapes.  Its production of 36000 bottles sells out quickly on allocation.  The Chardonnay is made from Franschhoek grapes, and 18000 bottles are produced. The Millenium 2010 is a Bordeaux Blend to which they have added Shiraz, 180000 bottles being produced. The Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 is made from grapes coming from the Swartland, Bot River, and Darling. The Shiraz 2009 is an excellent vintage, with just over 100000 bottles produced.  Grapes come from La Motte, Bot River, Agter Paarl, and Elim, and the wine reflects the La Motte style of red berry and black berry, with white peppery spices.  The La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Viognier 2009 is more feminine in character, Hein said, and its production of 36000 bottles is therefore made in a lighter and lower alcohol style.  Grapes come from Bot River and La Motte.  Only 12000 bottles of the La Motte Pierneef Shiraz Grenache 2008 were produced, the Grenache coming from 30 year old bush vines in Darling, and is more masculine in character. The Hannelie R is the pinnacle of their range, being ‘the best wine which we can make’, Hein said.  It is released five years after it is made, and only when the fruit is excellent. So far the wine has been made in 2005, 2007, and in 2009.  Only 3000 bottles are produced, the wine spending 48 months on wood and a year in the bottle. Each production sees a change in the blend composition.  Michael Fridjhon and Carrie Adams (of retailer Norman Goodfellows) sit on a panel to help decide which fruit should go into the blend, Hein shared.  It is sold at $100 per bottle.  Hein presented the Hubers with a copy, signed by Chef Chris Erasmus, of their ‘Cape Winelands Cuisine’ cookbook.

We made a quick stop at Grande Provence, showing the Hubers the impressive tasting room, restaurant and art gallery.  We were delighted to bump into GM Karl Lambour, and to discover that Grande Provence makes a Pinot Noir too, which he invited the Hubers to taste.

Our final stop was at Platter Winery of the Year 2013 Chamonix, an interesting experience.  Winemaker Gottfried Mocke was still on leave, but maverick owner Chris Hellinger welcomed us in his recently opened safari lodge perched high up the Mont Rochelle mountain overlooking Franschhoek, being 540 m above sea level.  The lodge was filled with stuffed animals which Mr Hellinger has hunted around the world.  We were invited to taste the noble 5-star Pinot Noir Reserve 2011 (costing R240 per bottle), the only Pinot Noir to achieve this quality in Franschhoek.  Mr Hellinger has been in South Africa for 44 years already, and bought Chamonix in 1991, a farm of 265ha, of which 55ha has been planted to vines, and also contains a game nature reserve. Mr Hellinger explained that their wines have become consistently better, and their higher vines get the sun later in the morning, and the temperature is cooler in the afternoon. Their use of compost is minimal. The farm had fruit trees, which they removed to plant vines.  They only make wines from their own grapes. He has invested R40 million in his estate.  Mr Hellinger said that they will work on reducing their wine range, but there is another ‘more exclusive wine to be created’‘.   He praised his winemaker, who has been with him for more than ten years, and he gives him a free hand in what to grow and to produce.  They use cement egg fermentation tanks too.

We received feedback subsequently that the Hubers thoroughly enjoyed their day in Franschhoek, and they graciously handed over a bottle of their noble Pinot Noir to each wine estate that hosted them.  We thank Boekenhoutskloof, Haute Cabriere, Leopard’s Leap, La Motte, Grande Provence, and Chamonix for their time and information shared with this important winemaking couple from Germany, and for growing my own knowledge about the Franschhoek Wine Valley too.

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

China is the ‘promised land’ of future tourism to our country, once the English of Chinese tourists improves, and they start becoming self-drive tourists.  The work that the South African wine industry is doing in general, and at La Motte and Leopard’s Leap specifically,  will have a tourism benefit, as they cannot sell the products without communicating its heritage and values, says Hein Koegelenberg, CEO of both wine companies.

Hein started the companies’ focus on China four years ago, having withdrawn from the USA due to an agency problem in that country.  This freed up time and money to invest in Asia, Hein working with agencies due to the difficulty in communicating the brand message in this region, especially as our country is not yet well-known to the Chinese. Having developed a distribution network for marketing La Motte and Leopard’s Leap wines locally and in Europe, Hein used this ‘intellectual property’, as he calls it, to develop a distribution network in China. Creating a link to the end consumer is important, he said.   James and Michelle Tan, who have previously marketed Rooibos tea and Northern Cape minerals to China, were brought on board to guide Hein in selling into China.  One of the first projects was to set up a selection of wines in golf clubs, one of the places in which Chinese drink wine outside of their homes (they do not drink it at home), leading to a type of vinotheque, which stores each golf club member’s wine collection at the club.  Ernie Els, La Motte, and Leopard’s Leap wines and more were offered as a package of good wine brands to the golf club members.  A substantial target has been set for sales of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte by the Tans.  Agencies were appointed to sell the wines into China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Laos, the emphasis being on marketing specific brand varieties into specific regions.

Within China, Hein is using three distribution systems for his wines:

*   Aussino Wines China,  the company’s CEO Robert Shen being named by Decanter as the 16th most influential person in the international wine world, and with a network of 120 wine shops.  His company sells 150000 bottles of Leopard’s Leap and La Motte, being the only South African brands stocked, by agreement.

*   A joint venture with Yangzhou Perfect, the second largest direct sales company selling only organic products, and has a turnover of R12 billion.   It has 5000 outlets in the Yangzhou region, and 500000 – 1 million agents buy the products of the company, add an agreed mark-up, and then sell them door to door, much like Tupperware sells its products.   Given the tax of 50 % of wine imported into China, efforts are underway with Wesgro, WOSA (WInes of South Africa) and the Department of Trade and Industry to get the tax reduced (New Zealand only pays 30%), the saving in tax being earmarked for the marketing of South Africa in China. Perfect created a wine brand to test sales via its distribution network, and sells 1,5 million bottles. In marketing wines in China, Hein emphasised that Biodiversity is an important foundation, in that it reflects family values and heritage, as well as caring for the environment and for people.  Selling product only leads to it being price-based, which does not create loyalty.  Chinese wine drinkers are trusting imported brands increasingly, having been exposed to fake Chinese wines.  Hein said that 25 % of all Chinese wine sales are of imported wines. Imported wines are predominantly from France (35), from Chile (8%), Australia (8%), with South Africa at 3%.  Half of the South African sales to China are for Hein’s brands.  Wine imports to China are expected to double to 50% of total wine sales in the next five years.  China is the sixth largest wine producing country in the world, ahead of South Africa at eighth position.

Hein has formed Perfect Wines of South Africa, 51% owned by Yangzhou Perfect and 49 % by Leopard’s Leap. For this new venture they have created a new wine brand called L’Huguenot, with more sugar (5% compared to 4 % locally), and choosing wines that pair well with the more spicy Chinese food, being a 50%/50% Shiraz/Pinotage blend, a Chenin Blanc, and a La Motte-style Shiraz.  This new L’Huguenot brand sold 400000 bottles in the first ten days of its launch in China, about 30% of its initial sales target, which will grow to 2,5 million bottles.  The marketing of L’Huguenot, a brand name chosen specifically to link the brand to Franschhoek and its heritage, will also focus on the marketing of Franschhoek, and the Franschhoek Wine Valley association is working on how to do this in Chinese, probably starting off with a Chinese website page, as WOSA will be doing shortly.  Hein’s next challenge is to create a visible consumer interface for L’Huguenot, as he has just completed for Leopard’s Leap. His challenge is what to ‘pair’ with this new wine brand.

*   Hein has also created his own direct sales channel via a company he created, called Prestige Wines. He seeks corporate networks to link in to. The first network is with the Tsinghua University of Beijing, the largest business university of the city, with 3000 CEO members in its alumni club.  An agreement will bring four groups of 50 alumni each to Franschhoek a year, to grow to four groups of 100 over time, giving these influential alumni the opportunity to experience Franschhoek.  A group visited Franschhoek ten days ago, and they played golf, ate at Pierneef à La Motte, and were addressed by former President FW de Klerk, who pleaded to the businesspersons to bring investments to South Africa.  Hein told me at the Leopard’s Leap launch last Friday that they had signed up R1,5 million in wine sales from this lunch alone. They were shown the L’Ormarins Motor Museum, and had a hands-on experience with the harvesting of the vines and tasting of the wines.  A Golf Day which Hein had organised raised R1 million for the alumni bursary fund. Another project Hein is working on is providing a bottle of wine with every Mercedes Benz sold in China, this being the best selling car brand in the country.  A good working relationship has been developed with the 5-star Shangri-La hotel group, and a brand co-operation agreement will no doubt be put in place with them too.  Chef Chris Erasmus of Pierneef à La Motte is to travel to Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore later this year, Hein told me.

Leopard’s Leap sells its wines in 41 countries, with 20 % each sold locally, in the UK, and in Belgium/Holland. Sales to China are at 9%, and Hein is excited about the potential to double this.  The brand was started as a second label, taking up the left-over grapes of the three Rupert Franschhoek wine farms L’Omarins, Rupert & Rothschild, and La Motte, represented by the three leopards on the label.  The brand was created 12 years ago, and was initially only bottled and sold in the UK, with the assistance of Simon Halliday. Local sales started five years ago.

Hein believes in focus and excellence, and China will be his focus for this year, he said.  There are no new projects this year, with his focus on detail to achieve the goals. While Hein says that he has not had the time to learn Mandarin, he does have Chinese characters for his name and title on his business card.  He told me that his Chinese name is Gu Hai Ning, the last name meaning ‘calm ocean’, a description that he was given to describe his face.  Hein is the first to admit that the work and success is not his alone, and he praised his team of Wanda Vlok handling Marketing, Marius Kotze handling Sales, Leopard’s Leap winemaker Eugene van Zyl, and Kareen Neethling handling Logistics and Planning.  Grapes for the production of Leopard’s Leap wines are mainly sourced from Wellington, Ashton, and Perdeberg.

With the focus of La Motte, L’Huguenot, and Leopard’s Leap on the Chinese market, Franschhoek tourism players will need to start learning Mandarin, given the marketing benefit that the village is likely to experience in future.

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