USATT explores the diverse stories and inimitable terroirs of uniWines’ Vineyards and interviewsThe Vineyards of uniWines in Breedekloof Valley, South Africa, are truly remarkable places to behold. Travelling east out of Cape Town, through the Huguenot Tunnel under the Hawequas Moutains, the beautiful Breedekloof Valley stretches out with the Matroosberg Mountain further still, looming on the horizon. With pastoral country painted in vineyards, country manors intermixed with homestead hamlets and farm land juxtaposed against rough outcrops, the vista is anybody’s idyllic painting of tranquility. The exceptional geography also lends itself to a diverse range of soils and both coastal and continental climates – the perfect conditions to grow brilliant wines.
Down in the Valley, there are over 22 wineries busily attending to visitors and producing their delightful wines. The Vineyards of uniWines, comprised of Ankerman, Palesa Wines, Meander, Groot Eiland, and Daschbosch, each have their story to tell and represent their own unique heritage.
A little left of centre. Says who exactly? Normal is as normal does in the Breedekloof Valley. In the Breedekloof Valley people take your most peculiar attribute, give you an affectionate nickname and forget your real name. It’s a place where people understand that the earth can give you all the resources you need. Where even time is told by the fall of the Horologekrans shadow. A valley where the mysterious Malkopklip turns in the soil every night, on the stroke of midnight.
The Ankerman lifestyle range is a top quality, value for money wine that encapsulates the quirks and eccentricities of life in the valley and gives the drinker some authentic tales to tell.
Meander is the easy drinking wine for the unpretentious drinker. Take a minute to soak it in. Relax and enjoy the moment.
Take an afternoon nap on the grass. Jump into a swimming pool with your clothes on. Walk around barefoot. Wake up as late as your body chooses. Ignore the tick of the clock.
Know that there’s always time for one more with friends. Laugh loudly, cry deeply, dance, fall and stand up again.
Embrace life with an open heart.
Palesa reflects the magnificent balance of qualities that characterise women. The softer virtues of compassion and empathy complimented by the stronger virtues of determination and willpower. It specifically embodies the richness and fullness of South African women. Their unbreakable spirit and exceptional durability.
African women are the mothers of the nation, the pillars of strength. They are the country’s conscience and the social glue that keeps us all together. They create change which is what Fairtrade is built upon. Through our Palesa sales we support various community projects and positive change.
Groot Eiland is an expression of all that is good in the soil, vines and terroir of the Breedekloof Valley. Groot Eiland offers you an introduction across all varietals. It is a quality, vineyard specific wine, that ages well.
USATT Interview uniWines’ Heinrich Venter
What are the business strengths of uniWines in terms of innovation in the marketplace?
A winemaking tradition and history dating back more than three centuries blends the restrained elegance of the Old World with the accessible fruit-driven styles of the New World, making for varied and exciting wines which eloquently express the unique terroir, extraordinary diversity and fascinating people of the Western Cape. uniWines’ strength lies in our market-focused approach rather than a production approach, as well as our large scale (4th largest production in South Africa) and diverse offering. This allows us to consistently explore new trends and adapt to what the consumers demand. Be it with packaging or product, we aim to offer products that offer “something extra” to the consumer. Our company is structured in a way that lessens the red tape that makes it difficult to respond to these demands, by making multilateral conversation easier and thus increasing flexibility.
What does it mean to be Fairtrade partners? And what is the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative? How do you leverage these business practices in terms of educating the world about what is important?
We have a saying “Fairtrade is not a hand-out, but rather a hand-up approach”. Fairtrade certified wine sales mean greater opportunities for workers in South Africa. We are actively doing our part as FT partners in the Breedekloof, having not only build two after-school computer and day care centers for the laborers’ children but also by recently acquiring a nearby farm which is 100% FT (all shares belong to the FT partners/laborers). We see it as possible the best means to uplift the communities who are dependent on the wine industry’s success and secure a future for their children.
The BWI (Biodiversity in Wine Initiative) is an industry-wide conservation initiative to help preserve our natural flora and fauna, indigenous to the Cape. The Cape is the world’s richest and smallest floral kingdom with over 9000 different plant species (6000 of which is found nowhere else in the world) and recognized as a World Heritage Site. Since about 95% of wine growing in South Africa takes place in this area, these indigenous species and their ecosystems have increasingly come under threat because of agriculture, urban development, and invasive alien species. In 2004, an industry-wide initiative was launched to re-establish and conserve these ecosystems. By committing 10% or more of their farms to conservation, producers become “BWI Champions”, but BWI Membership could also be obtained by committing to protecting their remaining highly threatened natural areas. Over 126 000 hectares of the natural area have been conserved by BWI producers in less than four years, substantially in excess of the total area under vines (currently around 102 000 hectares). BWI adds its value when it comes to tourism and wine marketing. The Cape has frequently been in the (international) news, voted as one of the top tourist destination in the world. The BWI assist in preserving the Cape’s natural beauty and creates a platform for the wine industry to adopt multi-dimensional marketing strategies, successfully engaging both the tourism industry and the wine industry.
What export markets to be the most receptive and why?
Until recently South Africa’s export markets have been quite “Eurocentric”. This has traditionally been a strong and stable market for us and continues to be one, but where we see the most growth is definitely in the Asian and African markets. The USA is also a major focus for us, given that it is the largest wine market in the world. Where the European and UK markets have matured, the wine trend under the African and Asian consumers have increased. South African wines are still relatively unknown in the US, even though I believe we are a perfect fit for the younger consumers emerging now, exploring new countries of origin, cultivars, and styles. Many African countries count under the fastest growing economies in the world and the Asian consumers have always had strong buying power. China, for example, will soon count under the list of largest wine producers in the world in terms of quantity, which will benefit the wine category as a whole in China, but the rest of the wine producing countries would need to rely on superior wine quality to remain dominant in that market. This is where we as South Africa and uniWines believe are strong suit lies quality of the offering.
What inventive support programs have you used for your brands in new markets?
Traditionally, only a handful of large wine and beverage companies in South Africa have had the means to finance and launch such support programs. uniWines’ strategy has always been to be present in our particular markets as frequently as possible. We will travel to our markets, meet with our clients and discuss how they feel the market needs to be approached. After all, your client (importer, retailer, distributor, etc.) knows his/her consumers and clients better than we do. We will then support their launch and subsequent promotional activities as far as we can.
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