Oozing opulence, the South African wine industry has evolved into a key sector that contributes towards the country’s GDP. As a generational industry, transformation and development have been a constant cavity. New players within this $2.24-billion (R25-billion) industry are making world-respected wines, while also changing realities around black and female participation.
The Cape Winelands is the ultimate wine lovers’ pilgrimage. Most of the gems in South African winemaking can be found here. It is compared to the well-renowned Napa Valley in the United States and some of the greatest wine-making communities in Europe.
Initially seen as an old-money hobby, winemaking in South Africa has grown to such an extent that it is on par and in some cases superseding the quality of wines produced by the industry’s international counterparts.
Female winemakers, such as Rose Jordaan, have changed the perception of women within the industry. Through dedication and consistency in quality winemaking, this former architect partnered with her husband – now exiting CEO of First National Bank, Michael Jordaan – and opened Bartinney Wine Estate in 2006. The 40-hectare estate is situated in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape. The charm of the property, combined with the quality of the wine produced, is a clear symbol of how this entrepreneur, mother and tri-athlete appreciates her life – simple, balanced and strategic.
“My first career as an architect groomed me for my current career as a wine proprietor. There are huge similarities, for instance conceiving a building with its context and constraints is similar to conceiving a vineyard within a unique territory,” says Jordaan.
Growing up in the winelands, winemaking has always been at the back of Jordaan’s mind and when the opportunity to purchase a fix-me-upper wine estate arose, she jumped at it.
“There is something extraordinary about being involved in such an ancient art that includes passion and guts,” she adds.
With her passion and commitment nestled in conservation and environmental protection initiatives, Bartinney wines are farmed organically – although still awaiting certification – with no pesticides or herbicides.
Jordaan started the Banhoek Conservancy, which has signed 95% of the land owners in Banhoek, Stellenbosch, with a commitment to further the aims of social and environmental issues in the valley. Bartinney is carbon neutral in both farming practice and winemaking. It reduces its carbon footprint by planting mostly endemic trees (over 7,000), and it has a photovoltaic bank (solar energy), which reduces power usage from the national grid by 50%. She has recently planted a ‘walking fynbos vineyard’, the first of its kind, and the permanent cover crop is planted with endemic grasses and smaller fynbos plants. Unemployment is high in South Africa and the decision to go without mechanization means that people are employed instead.
While Jordaan might be the new kid on the block, her short tenure has already seen her elected as the chairwoman of the Women in Wine Exchange.
“In this industry I have learned that through hard work and commitment you are able to receive tremendous support and generosity in return,” she says.
This role is to ensure that the female winemakers meet every two months to exchange ideas and empower one another through network building and identifying solutions to the day-to-day challenges that they face.
“There is a tremendous need for young women within the industry to unite in an effort to change the face of the industry.”
She identifies the need for transformation within the industry, from gender issues to dissolving the color lines, as an imperative.
“The South African wine industry is one of the fastest-transforming industries with both the entry of women and the opening of doors to previously disadvantaged communities.
“I recently gave a lecture on the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (BWI) of which we have Champion Status at the Pinotage Institute [a disadvantaged youth initiative], where the youngsters were very excited by the idea of conservation as an integral part of wine farming,” she says.
She understands that change is essential for an industry that is characteristically kept within the family. Jordaan is optimistic about the direction in which the change is occurring, but sees the government as a potential obstacle to the rate at which change could occur.
“Government taxes the wine industry heavily, I believe if all that tax money could go into educating the youth in the wine industry as well as supporting the disadvantaged communities involved in the industry, we would generally be moving in the right direction much faster,” she says.
Recently, a group of winemakers from the Cape Winelands collaborated with AfrAsia Bank in an effort to curb the affects of generations of great economic and social divide within the wine industry. The resulting AfrAsia Bank Cape Wineland Auction was launched in October, at the same hour in eight of the world’s most iconic wine-loving locations: São Paolo, Seattle, Zurich, Franschhoek, Mauritius, Hong Kong, Manila and Sydney.
This year will see the start of an exclusive wine auction with a difference. Its aim is to raise funds to improve the quality of education of children living in the Wineland regions. The three-day gathering for the AfrAsia Bank Cape Wine Auction opens on the night of March 13 with a party hosted by one of South Africa’s most prestigious Franschhoek properties. Multiple high-end Winelands events will follow before it will culminate with a luncheon and auction – a celebratory tour de force of wine and culinary elegance hosted by the country’s top winemakers and a culinary team lead by grande chef Margot Janse of Le Quartier Français.
Curated by 20 specially designated ambassadors, of which Jordaan is one, the auction offers everything from a single rare vintage to wine experiences to those who crave exclusive access to the beating heart of the wine industry. It’ll also provide Jordaan the space to grow further.