Our guest this evening produces some of South Africa’s most coveted premium wines under the labels of Fairview Estate, a third-generation family-owned farm, located on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain in the winelands of the Western Cape with a winemaking heritage that dates back to 1693.
He also founded one of the most successful black empowerment labels, Fairvalley. However, you may be more familiar with his more playful line of wines, Goats do Roam and the Goat-Father among others – a brand which went on to become the highest selling South African wine brand in the United States following its introduction in 2000.
He is known as one of the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the wine world. In 2017, Charles Back became one of the most awarded winemakers in South Africa, honoured with prestigious titles such as the 1659 Wine Industry Medal of Honour 2017 and the South African Farmer of the Year 2017.
And he joins me live now from his winery in Paarl, South Africa: Welcome to the Sunday Sipper Club Charles Back!
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Charles Louis Back is the third generation owner of South African wine and cheese producer Fairview, in Paarl in the Western Cape Province. Charles Back studied winemaking at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. He officially joined his family’s company in 1978 and took over full control in 1995 after the death of his father, Cyril.
Today, Charles Back is known as one of the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the wine world – an individual who likes nothing more to swim against the stream. From the start, he has done things differently, introducing Mediterranean grapes such as Viognier, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Petite Sirah to the Cape. He then expanded the Fairview umbrella to three arterial sub brands – La Capra, Bloemcool and Goats Do Roam – a brand which went on to become the highest selling South African wine brand in the United States following its introduction in 2000.
Charles has always been an advocate of social development in the Cape. Under Apartheid, he was one of a number or producers who campaigned for and implemented better conditions for farm workers. In 1997, he established the Fair Valley workers association, which gave is employees a chance to farm their own land. More recently, he’s given shares in Fairview to longstanding employees from previously disadvantaged backgrounds, a project that is complemented by FAIRTRADE accreditation.
You’ve named some of your wines Goats do Roam and Goat-Rotie—they sound remarkably like some of France’s famous wine regions, Côtes-du-Rhône and Côte Rôtie. Is that merely coincidence?
What did you do when France threatened to sue you for trademark infringement?
Were these labels part of the critter label craze a while back that involved penguins and kangaroos?
Why is humour important?
Do you risk not having your wines taken seriously?
How much of your goat wines do you export?
In North America, winemakers deal with predators such as deer and starlings who like to eat the grapes, but do you have a different breed of predator?
Why do you also make cheese?
How many goats do you have?
Always one to take a risk on new projects, Charles is also the man who pioneered what subsequently became the Swartland Revolution, rediscovering an area that is now one of the hippest and most exciting in the Cape. After stumbling across an old Tobacco farm in Malmesbury, he opened the cellar doors to his second premium wine brand, Spice Route Wines, which has its tasting room at his popular tourist attraction next door to Fairview, Spice Route Destination in Paarl.
How much cheese do you produce a month?
Let’s turn to a more serious subject. In the late 1980s, twenty-three nations, including Canada, the U.S. and the U.K., imposed economic sanctions against South Africa to protest apartheid (separateness), the racial segregation of blacks and whites. What impact did Apartheid have on the wine industry?
What’s happened since?
Was there any positive impact on the wine industry from apartheid?
How many of the country’s wineries are owned by blacks?
Tell me about Fairvalley?
What inspired you to create Fairvalley?
How much wine does Fairvalley produce? How many people does it employ?
In 2017, Charles Back became one of the most awarded winemakers in South Africa, honoured with prestigious titles such as the 1659 Wine Industry Medal of Honour 2017 and the South African Farmer of the Year 2017. He continues to pursue his passion for uplifting his community, working with the people on the farm and delivering a consistently high-quality and value-filled product to his customers.
About Fairview Farm:
Fairview Estate is a third-generation family-owned farm, located on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain in the winelands of the Western Cape. With a winemaking heritage that dates back to 1693, Fairview has developed a reputation as one of South Africa’s leading wine producers that has been bottling wine under its own label since 1974. Under the guidance of owner Charles Back, who joined his father at the farm in 1978, Fairview is driven by its philosophy of being authentic, honouring the farm’s heritage and always innovating.
The Goatfather 2015
Coastal Region W.O., South Africa
Fairview Chenin Blanc 2017
Paarl, Coastal Region W.O., South Africa
Goats do Roam 2016
Paarl Valley, Western Cape, South Africa
Goats do Roam White Blend 2017
Western Cape, South Africa
Fairview Old Piekenierskloof Bush Vines Grenache 2016
Paarl W.O. , South Africa
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2016
Paarl, South Africa
Lori Sweet58:34 Great discussion as always. Will be off the grid in Ecuador and Galapagos for the next few weeks. I will be looking for some wine there.
Paul E Hollander26:26 Over dinner last night several of us were enjoying a bottle by Ken Forrester and then discussed SA wines. Glad to see you looking so well.
Sam Hauck30:59 I hear a lot about the quality of South African wines. Love to travel there one day.
Paul E Hollander5:32 Good evening, Charles. My wife and I enjoyed Goats do Roam several times.
Lori Sweet33:42 I am working on a visit to South Africa to visit some wineries. Looking forward to it.
Dave Head41:48 Just opened a Peter Barlow Rustenberg CS yum. Visited SA a few years ago, long trip… but worth it.
Natalie: 00:01 All right, you may be familiar with this label, it’s a extremely
popular, but there is a fascinating backstory behind it. Goats to
Rome. Does it sound like a familiar French region? I’m sure
that’s just coincidence, but our guest on the Sunday supper club
tonight has wonderful stories to tell about this, but also about
what’s happening with South African wine. some interesting
developments, things that are actually going to surprise you.
Natalie: 01:56 our guests this evening produces some of South Africa’s most
coveted premium wines under the labels of Fairview state, a
third generation family owned farm located on the slopes of
Parle mountain in the wildlands of the Western Cape of South
Africa with a winemaking heritage that dates back to 1693. He
also founded one of the most successful black empowerment
labels, fair valley. However, you may be more familiar with his
more playful lines, a line of wines, Goats do Roam, and the Goat
Father among others, a brand which went on to become the
highest selling South American wine brand in the United States.
Following in its introduction in 2000, he is known as one of the
great entrepreneurs and innovators in the wine world. In 2017,
he became one of the most awarded winemakers in South
Africa with honored with prestigious titles such as the 16, 59
wine industry medal of honor, 2017 and the South African wine
farmer or farmer of the year. And he joins me now, live from his
winery in powerful South Africa. Welcome to the Sunday Sipper
club. Charles back. Hello.
Charles: 03:47 Hello everybody. Nice to be with you.
Natalie: 03:49 Oh, it’s so great to have it. You feel like you’re next door,
Charles. Like the. The reception is great. I love this connection
that we’re getting like on opposite sides of the planet here
Charles: 03:59 Tiny differences. It’s past midnight in South Africa at the
moment. We are still having fun.
Natalie: 04:06 That’s great. You are a sport to be up this late. Thank you so
much. I appreciate this. Charles. So you have got so many
interesting stories, but I think the label people know best
perhaps is your goats do Roam. There are goats do Roam. White
and red. There’s Goat Father. Now Goats Do Roam and Goat Roti
is a coincidence that they just happened to sound like a French
wine region. We know.
Charles: 05:44 That’s absolute. Incidents It started at Fairview we have a goat
tower. We’re the highest producing goats of the week. Have a
free weekend in the tower. the spiral staircase that runs up. And
one day my mischief son opened the gate of the goats and the
goats ran into the vineyard and the most dangerous thing to
have goats marauding through vineyards because you can
imagine the devastation that can cause, but I’ll go to a quite
specific about what they wanted and we watch them go
through the vineyard and they had some Shiraz and they missed
up the merlot then they went to carrying on and missed up of
the cabernet and then they went and we’ve picked up a pattern
as they went along and they were very specific. And, I’ve
watched this and I got to the wine and I said, just do me a
favor. Send the laboratory technician out with a clipboard and
let it take notes of what the goats are eating. So roughly how
much they’re consuming. And then we bought the gold blend
back to the laboratory and compiled with a constructed the
blend according to the specific taste. It was an amazing wine. Then
we came up with this wine and it, we didn’t know what to call it.
And we thought, well the goats are roaming through the
vineyards, let’s call it Goats do Roam We couldn’t understand all
of the complications that followed after that.
Natalie: 07:02 So it was very scientific. You were recording what the goats ate,
the percentage of different grapes from traditional Rhone Valley
grapes. But that’s coincidental as well. And that made up the
blend. That’s how you decided how to blend this wine.
Charles: 07:17 Exactly right. And then what happened, It wasn’t my doing.
Somebody slipped in a bottle of Goats Do in a lineup in the
English wine magazine, that tasting of Rhone wines. And
unfortunately I think Goats do Roam It came out very close to
the top, I think it was, and they’d beaten a number of very, very
serious Rhone producers and that started the whole uproar and
people are very upset about that. Understanding So I was a
Rhone producer. It’s probably I would have done the same and
that’s when we ran into trouble with Goats Do Roam.
Natalie: 07:54 Well it seems like not to make a pun, but yes, I will. You like to
butt heads with French authorities because they, they decided
to try to sue you for copy or trademark infringement. What
Charles: 08:06 It was a catastrophe is I was far as I was concerned because of
that stage just got Goats Do Roam to America and it was the
first South African wine to find a foothold in America. And it
started growing quite rapidly and then we had this whole
trademark infringement case going on. And, we actually made
history in South Africa. It was the first protest march, I think in
our political past were a landowner. wine vineyard owner an
march to the French embassy in Cape Town. And it caught the
attention of a lot of international press that CNN covered it. And
it’s went global. In fact, I’ll show. I’ll have something yet. We all,
Charles: 08:56 dressed up in these masks and then if you can see it. Yes. The
goat mask. Yes. We put it on our heads and we all went up to
the French embassy. How on Earth did CNN here about this? I
wonder, was it just coincidence,
Charles: 09:11 one of our goats whispered in the ear and then, you know,
when the farmers have an altercation in France, what they
normally do, they drive into Paris with big truckloads, loads of
manure and dump it on the Sean’s Elisa and so I thought lit
being African and we’re going to be a bit more sophisticated
then that and I vacuum packed. Some good droppings did take
to their ambassador because they’ve got a beautiful garden and I
thought there could be fertilized goat droppings and that
presented to him with a beautiful breed that we make at
Fairview and obviously a magnum of goats do roam and do all it
ended in a good spirit and a, they stopped pursuing the
trademark infringement. And today I own the trademark Goats
Natalie: 09:59 That is fabulous. And so did the publicity help at all with all this
Charles: 10:07 I think that’s the reason why they stopped I wish they carried on
because I subsequently, I subsequently registered goats Roti,
which is a roasted goats. Then we also had Bordeaux. A doe is a
female. goat says you’re very bored because she’s not
permitted to grow five varieties of red, which is terrible. So we
had Bordeaux and then we went into an Italian blend called the
Charles: 10:36 They exactly
Charles: 10:38 resemblance apparently between myself and that goat We had
a lot of fun doing it. That must be honest.
Natalie: 10:47 Absolutely. Well, whatever I can do to stir up the controversy
again because it generated so much. Great publicity. we’ll try to
do that tonight for you. That is fabulous. I just love those
stories. And so what, the goat tower, do you have a
bearded elder there? Is there one primary goat in residence? If
Charles: 11: 08, we, it’d be now. Then we have to select a special goat that
lives in the goat tower and the criteria that must have massive
horns and they have been imposing beard. And you mustn’t be
afraid of public and public speaking. So when you come to
Fairview you would find a special commitment every now and
then. Obviously, as time moves on, goats move on as well. Like
we all do. And the challenge has defined the replacement as time
moves on. So He’s been there. He’s been there since for the 40
years that have existed yet.
Natalie: 11:42 Well, I know when I was there and I asked chief goat herder, oh,
what’s the name of this goat? They said we don’t name them.
They go on to greener pastures.
Charles: 11:54 I believe we are now on number 17. So.
Natalie: 11:58 Okay, great. Awesome. and so how much of your goat wine
do you export the Goat brand, if you will?
Charles: 12:06 Um, I’ve been trying desperately to shed the goat over time
because, um, because that’s a humorous end of our winemaking
and where we have a lot of fun. I’m having said that we, the
most of our workers at the serious and, and every time I think I
went too slow to this goat and it pops up in the different parts
of the will and it went to drag in the states. It’s a running
candidate amendment and they’re doing well in, I think in
Norway. It’s the number one selling South African wine at the
moment. And it does well in Japan and it does well in Russia. So
we find that popping up all over the show while it’s doing that,
we put the best product in the bottle we possibly can because if
you having using so much humor, you have to count appointed
with real quality otherwise it’s not going to stick around as
long as it has.
Natalie: 12:57 Absolutely. And I’ve heard, you know, no matter what’s on the
label, whether it’s a bit of a play on words, uh, the first sale
perhaps is based on the label. The second sale is based on the
product that’s in there. And I must say, you know, at the value
for the price point and value and quality of taste of these wines
is superb. I mean, no wonder. And, I think, yeah, they’re the
number one brand of South African wine since their launch
here. I mean, it’s so memorable, but it’s a really decent, decent
quality for the price points which are
Charles: 13:29 when you’re when you’re having this playful that you have to
really work much harder on the quality of the product.
Otherwise, you get in there. And we just actually just produced a
new one. I of you can see this.
Natalie: 13:41 Yes. Hold it right up to the camera then. Yes.
Charles: 13:44 Is that. This is a, I think a three-liter bag in the box. It’s what I
redesigned a bag in the box. It looks like a Gucci Bag. Goatcci
bag. Even with, with a gold clasp from the bag
Natalie: 14:02 wine out of it. Do you sort of milk it or do you.
Charles: 14:05 No, no, no. It’s free-flowing. And another go that I’ve done all
the hard work for you so you don’t have to worry about that and
it’s going to tap on it. And this is the best way of adding,
enjoying Goats in Roam in Africa.
Natalie: 14:16 Is that, do you know if that’s available in other countries
Charles: 14:19 or is it something that we just do domestically and
we spent a lot of time designing this, uh, this bag and I think
it’s, I would like to get it into other parts of the world quite
Natalie: 14:31 That’d be great. Very fashionable. Yes. I remember when I
visited you, Charles, you, you called your chief goat herder. You
called him. I don’t. Maybe as another title. And you told him I
wanted the full farm experience. And then you made me milk
Charles: 15:52 opportunity for cheap labor.
Natalie: 15:54 Yeah, exactly. So you sent me off with him and then when I
came back you asked me what was that smell? I tracked the
barnyard smell, I think, but it was so much fun. It was so much
fun. Oh yes, I did have an idea for you though,
Charles, on a new label, a new goat label. How about what now
maybe you’ve already come up with this, but how about Get
your Goat, like with a label featuring French wine legislatures,
legislators sort of strategically placed over Ram’s horn,
something like that. Get your maybe something like that. I don’t
know. So, so were these labels at old sort of designed with the
critter craze in mind back when that was happening? From
Penguins to Kangaroos?
Charles: 16: 57, I think it was the beginning of the critic crazy. we did have no
idea that we wanted to do a critter crazed label. If you look at
our growth is very stylized, doesn’t look like a furry fuzzy little
animal that just got another sort of status and there’s quite a
gracious on the packaging so there’s not a furry, fuzzy, soft sort
of animal a feel about it. It’s got status and it wasn’t intended to
be a critter label. It was really intended to be a serious label for
a serious wine.
Natalie: 17:32 Interesting. That’s fascinating. Okay, and do you think like, I
absolutely love your sense of humor, but do you think there’s
ever any danger of not being taken seriously as a winemaker
and wines, do you think?
Charles: 17:45 Yeah, a big risk, a bit, a lot of pressure on us as a company
having something as frivolous as that and at the same time
making handcrafted the wines and the other end it. There is,
there has been tension in the brand for sure. So the Goats have
been fabulous for us to create awareness for South Africa is a
wine producing country, but the same time it’s been a challenge
for us to manage the success of goats was trying to build the top
end of our portfolio.
Natalie: 18:13 Right? So before we move off all things, critter, I’m now in
North America. The predators tend to be deer or sterling’s, who
love to eat those grapes around harvest time, which is right now
for us. You have a unique Predator though over there. What,
what is that?
Charles: 18:29 I have, we’ve got lots of predators. The loss with the lions and
elephant the Cape. unfortunately, the only real challenge we
have in that vignette is very small indigenous antelope, which
loved the phrase shoots of a newly planted vineyard. So that’s a
challenge. Other than that, we don’t have a lot of problems with
that. We have an indigenous wild Guinea fowl that roams the
vineyards as well and that actually helps us, all the things
that could be dangerous for vineyards or the dangerous harmful
insects. So the could dissolve gangsters, but you have a lot of
critters that work with us.
Natalie: 19:12 Okay. How about those marauding bands of baboons?
Charles: 19:15 that’s a bigger problem. But fortunately where we farm in the
mountains that we are at war, unfortunately, there aren’t
any more baboons. I would love to have them around, but they
were shot out yet. It was probably a hundred years ago and
there are some farms in more remote areas with baboons.
Course havoc. Okay. For sure. They do?
Natalie: 19:34 Yeah. Okay. So you also make cheese. So why? Why do you
make cheese? Why didn’t you just stick to wine? Why are you
also making cheese?
Charles: 19:45 And the main reason that I wouldn’t have to make a living and
it’s very difficult to make a living out of producing wine feeds
my passion. Wine is my passion. But many, many years ago, my
late father went and my mother went to trip to Rhone valley
and they, for the first time experience artificial cheese, goat’s
milk cheese, and came back with this idea which I thought was
absolutely ludicrous. And my dad started by putting a little
hurdle of Swiss milk edge and as soon as we started making
cheese I got a hospital boss and I was handed the cheeseboard
failure as well. So I made wine because she’s in the morning
from four to six and then from six. and that’s how
the cheese business started. Then today we sat Africa’s largest
producer of speciality cheese.
Natalie: 20:35 Wow. How much cheese do you produce?
Charles: 20:38 I do about 250 tons of cheese a month. And in the good months
200 to 250 tons and it all produces cheeses, can have brie and a
whole range of blues. But it’s a very nice industry to do, be in
alongside wine because if you take cheese from a technological
point of view, it’s about a decade ahead of wine. But if you take
a wine is about a decade ahead of cheese in the sense of
marketing and brand development. So there’s a nice synergy
between the two products and we can use them together as a
play of each other in the marketing perspective as well.
Natalie: 21:17 Alright. And how many goats do you have in the herd
Charles: 21:20 and at the moment, not enough because a good milk any makes
up about a half a percent of our total production. Most of it is a
jersey cow, which I think you have in Canada as well for the
high butterfat and protein. we have about 500 goats. I’m
hoping to step it up to 2000 gets invoked in the next couple of
Natalie: 21:38 There’s going to be a lot of competition for that tower for sure. I
might have to add the floor to the little goat elevator late for
them, for the lazy ones. So it must be different though, like
making wine sort of. It comes around once a year. You make all
the important decisions, you get one chance. But making cheese
that’s got to be a bit more like do correctly. Move on. Like it’s
a shorter timeline, right?
Charles: 22:12 No, just come back to wine. One really is not making them in the
cellar wines made in the vineyard. So we would spend the
entire year grew me in the vineyards, in sync with the type of
the product we would require from the, from the Vignette, but
harvest is a this the end of the road as far as winemaking the
cheesemaking every day, tomorrow morning within a couple of
hours, Chatswood and it’s a more exact science as more
following a specific recipe and sticking to that without
deviation, we’re winemaking. You got a bit more scope for
movement and you can be more innovative and you can try
things and you can always blend them away or fix up or this
wine can add some to another plane where she’s making you
make a mistake. You’ve made a mistake and that’s the end of
Natalie: 23:01 Huh? Interesting. So, Charles, I’m one of the cheeses that I
tasted there that was a favorite. I don’t know if you have it in
front of you. It was I think you called it a parlor Zan Pearl
is like, and it was a play on Parmesan. It was so cute. And then I
turned around the back of the package and there was this goat
nibbling its way across the barcode, eating it down like a grass. I
don’t know if you still have that one, but
Charles: 24:00 there was a little logo similar to a flower and flowers in amongst
the grass That draws from the Gators on the way to move that have
that product with me at the moment. I’ve got something. Yeah.
Which ideally, if you can see them if I hold it up,
Natalie: 24:23 I can see that. Yes. Lovely. What’s the swirl there?
Charles: 24:27 And that’s uh, I think surely and caramel swirl in the middle of
the gates. Small cheese on the back. Now that marijuana has
been legalized, we roll it in, in, in Marijuana. And then we’ll
have the Chili. I’m pulling your leg. Not True.
Natalie: 24:43 I’m such a gullible journalist anyway
Charles: 24:47 as coriander on the outside. Okay. And then we’ll have a Chilean
caramel on the inside. So we’re doing a whole host of these
topic cheeses at the moment. And then we also reinvented
cheddar. You can see this one have. Yeah, yes. Yeah. But
Bobotie indigenous and African flavor that the addition to food and
we added infused the Cheddar were there. And then I’ll tell you
something else will be about it with this is green. Can you see
the packaging as it is in a very traditional style? And we got two
ranges of the breed. One would he call ripe and ready and this is the
traditional one that we all know all over the world and the same
Natalie: 25:26 Okay. And live to Alexandra asking, do you export your cheeses?
Charles: 25:31 Unfortunately we do not have enough change at the moment to
cope with the domestic market and the logistics of exporting
cheeses. Very difficult. The, however, we do export in the other
occasion to enter international competitions. And I have
explored to the American Wisconsin. I came second in the blue
cheese get degree and then I expanded to London for the world
cheese awards. We’re very fortunate for three years in a row
we won the best camera in the world.
Natalie: 26:01 Wow. Wow. You are just knocking it over all around. Awesome.
Let me go back to the comments and um, let’s see. Jemelle says,
I am told a component of fishes in the wine. Um, I’m not sure
what that one is, but I, I can answer that one. Okay, please. Yes.
Charles: 26:22 You know, if you, if you find the wine or stabilized one, the French
use the blue eight white fish, which is a protein, which then
you’ve got fish protein plus it’s called and they use that. But we
don’t do that at all. We don’t use any finding an agent
Natalie: 26:39 Oh, okay. Yes, I was thinking he was talking about the cheese.
I’m thinking there’s fish and, but it’s in the wine fish bladder but
also a more serious subject now Charles. and that’s in
the, in the late, just for, as a little summary for those who are
watching in the late 19 eighties, 23 countries including Canada,
the US, and the UK imposed economic sanctions on South Africa
to protest apartheid, which literally means separateness. The
racial segregation of blacks and whites. What impact do you
think apartheid had on the wine industry?
Charles: 28:06 I think it was a devastating impact. I think Canada, I think South
African wine, there’s particularly South African brandy was the
number one selling brand in your country. So immediately that
brisket and I completely agreed with the sanctions imposed
upon South Africa, it did help force and facilitate a change,
much needed check. So it had a catastrophic economic,
the economic impact on other wind industry and it stagnated
most probably for the period that the sanctions were imposed
in South Africa.
Natalie: 28:38 Hmm. Wow. Okay. And so with the wine industry, I mean the
specific impacts, I can only imagine that your winemakers
weren’t getting experienced around the world. The technology was
probably stifled investment. even I read somewhere where
Chardonnay, like vine stock, you couldn’t even test new vine
stocks. Chardonnay was illegal in the country. so then I’m
summarizing very quickly in 1999 or 1990, President Frederick,
declared began negotiations to end apartheid and Free Nelson
Mandela who had spent 27 years in prison. it was like the, they
say is like the knocking down the Berlin Wall. So what happened
for the wine industry after apartheid?
Charles: 29:28 Well, just to come back to the year or there was any. One good
thing that ever came out during that period was that winemakers
were forced to deal with a very limited market. So, and
you had the domestic market, then there was fierce
competition to find you a little bit of sunshine in the domestic
market. And it forced us to be very innovative and because you
had to please every year to optimize every opportunity he had.
So we were vague. We competed with each other. And that was
the birth of the South African wine tourism industry. and
everybody develops shuttered doors. Every opportunity you
could sell wine, you had to make the best of it. And that’s why I
South Africa did they miss probably is the most evolved and
developed cellar door experience in the wine world because of
that. So that was the only benefit, that poster part that the
gates floodgates opened and be for a short period of time with
the flavor of the month globally.
Charles: 30:26 And I do remember that day when Mandela was released, it was
a very emotional day for all of us and the national road from to
Cape Town runs to the bottom part of Fairview and I remember
getting right down to the bottom, part of the farm and sit,
standing up against the fence and watching the cavalcade go
pause because he was incarcerated first in Robin Island. And
then in the local prison quite near us. In fact, a couple of
kilometers from where I’m sitting now. And I saw the cavalcade
past the in one on the national road. And I saw the whole
cavalcade on the way to Cape. Then I realized with that, uh, my
life was South Afr life and my life had changed his amazing
opportunity that we had.
Natalie: 31:10 Yeah, that’s fabulous. What a great story. And the other thing
about apartheid, if anything, did it also kind of force a South
African winemakers to develop their own style, not to go with
that sort of homogenous international style that was happening
in the nineties, you know, with Chili and California and so on.
You kind of, you didn’t have access to the market, so you had to
hunker down and develop your own styles of wine too.
Charles: 31:36 I think our styles of wine, we’re out of sync with the
international market required. I think we weren’t. In fact, I think
I was one of the first ones who gave him the fruit forward style
of the whole bunch and out because I realized we had to. But
South Africa has got a very unique position in the global wine
business. We not as upfront as the new world would be like
they’d say Chili or California Australia to some degree and we’re
not as restrained and focuses. The old world would be. We
naturally gravitated somewhere in the middle and that’s where
our natural style stylized. So yes, we did develop it in an herb,
but I think we went completing, touch our wines with a little bit
astringent a bit tonic and the tenants were very dry and, and in
the mid-Penn it was a little bit patchy. So that was a challenge
we had with that are going to be reentering the international
Natalie: 32:30 Wow. So, today how many wineries are owned by blacks in
South Africa? Do you have any notion of what the percentage,
Charles: 32:39 the personal, uh, it’s in a black ownership is a priority in our
country and, and it normally to, uh, to uh, evolve from a white
dominated society and business side to one that reflects a
diversity at the ones that do the best fit or the things that
generate the most cash. So you would find banking comments,
mining the black empowerment process as far as a probe a lot
further there. Then in agriculture, agriculture, he’s the one of
the most difficult ones to do because I’m in the air for three
generations. We still struggling. So it’s going to be very difficult
to transform agriculture. There are black-owned farms. I do not
know how many they are and I think they need to be more, but
it’s like people that buy the people buying wine farms in South
Africa today are people that made a lot of money in some other
industry and they’re buying a farm to lose their fortune and I
then think that’s what empowerment or changing our economic
the reality for the majority of South Africans is going to be about
Natalie: 33:46 Absolutely. I’ve read that less than one percent are black
owned, but that there are initiatives, but including, um, the
projects that you’re doing, tell us about fair valley because of that
goes right to the heart of this issue.
Charles: 34:02 Yep. Just to come back to it. When I, when I started farming,
which is now 40 years ago, after about a decade of farming, I
realize that our society on farms of a paternalistic, we always
think what’s good for other people around us. And I thought
that’s not the way to move forward. So I got a research institute
in and at that stage only had 57 workers working with me to
Dab, but 600 and we started the 57 workers in the completely
independent interview with each one of them to establish what
their requirements might be moving forward. And they the
five same things that all of us required. There’s a good salary.
Secondly, a good home, the good education, the children, a
good medical and a good pension, so exactly the same
requirements that everybody has fallen with, have them. So I
dressed that those issues and land ownership didn’t come up.
Charles: 34:55 I think there’s one person that said he wouldn’t mind a farming.
So I didn’t focus on the farming aspect that I’ve focused on
those five other, um, aspects. Having said that, uh, when the
opportunity arose just often Mandela was released and I could
acquire, let black people or people of color could acquire land.
We were the first people to do that. And we bought a piece of
adjacent land side, the fear valued farm workers association
with the sole intent of people owning their own homes over
time. And this approach is that you’re still busy with
Natalie: 35:28 wow and so how many people are involved in that? How has it
Charles: 35:34 57 members and to due date be able to house any nine of them
there because they’d been constraints for resigning has been a
problem. So we hit a lot of red tapes as well. But on my other
properties where was easy to find an adjacent township or
places where the subdivisions that had been taken place, it has
been relatively easy at my winery in, which is about 40 minutes
away from Paul in a little town all the farm workers in their
houses. Now the challenge on a farm in South Africa, if you have
a house on the farm, it remains a house, but if you have your
own house on a piece of land, you can turn it into a home and
that is liberated. The people unbelievably and my whole day,
my whole drive moving forward the next couple of years that
everybody that works with me, she would have them.
Natalie: 36:25 Well, and you know, of course when it’s one employee that
represents a whole family who’s probably, you know,
Charles: 36:33 the 66 dependents at least
Natalie: 36:35 exactly who are thriving based on that one job that’s pretty
Charles: 36:40 and not challenging on the other challenges that Africa is that
our unemployment is close to 30 percent. Um, so other than
other new world wine countries making wine in South Africa has
an extra dimension to it. You can use your success in wine or
success of your brand. You can use that to make a profound
impact on the whole lot of other people’s lives around you,
which you don’t enjoy in other parts of new worldwide
Natalie: 37:06 Cool. And how many cases approximately does fair valley
Charles: 37:12 I think that guys between 12 and 18,000 cases a year,
depending on the demand around the world, it’s very difficult.
It’s, it’s a, it’s a very difficult concept. A, and you do not want to
sell the wine on the basis that the team project, you must and
you must sell the wine on the value that the wind project, the
Natalie: 37:32 right? It. Because we also see the fair trade, I’m on labels and so is
that just in your mind? A bonus? Yeah,
Charles: 37:41 product first. I think fair trade is a very important
accreditation. All my products are produced. We don’t always
put the accreditation, the label, depending on the market, but
a, if a consumer buys a patron bottle of wine, they can be rest
assured it’s a very stringent than the very top accreditation to
take and it’s very well managed. And if you buy a bottle of 51
indigenous people in the area. But the first European settled in
16, Ninety-three. The first wine was made in 1699, which is
quite a long time, which makes that Africa, the oldest new
world wine producing country or the newest old world. And my
leg, my grandfather was a Lithuanian immigrant and he bought
the farm in 1937 and my father took over and I’m vignette for
40 years. So that’s the history of behavior in a nutshell.
Natalie: 40:53 Well, you, you, I think you’ve summed this up before, it just
Charles: 40:59 we could do something for 40 years. You can’t break it out.
Then they show me wrong.
Natalie: 41:03 That’s great. I should go. Well, maybe you can bring in a goat for
the next interview or something. Yes. But it’ll be better than I do
as you are doing just fine. This is great. Um, but soon I like the
way you put it, the newest old world country or the oldest new
world country. I love that sort of mix of that blend because of
the history. So with South Africa can and we’ll get to specific
tasting soon. I think it might surprise people that I believe
maybe my stats are out of date, but three quarters or
something like that, it is still white wine. We think of South
African as a red wine production come a country. But is it
mostly white still?
Charles: 41:50 I think the, I think it swings the 60 slash 40. I think not as a. not
as high as that. I think the last 25 years it’d be more red planted
them white, but tradition with our climate and much warmer
climate. The Mediterranean climate, I think white wine was the
preferred drink up until about 20 years ago. I think today its
sort of most probably 60, 40 red and why?
Natalie: 42:14 Hmm. And do you think that’s the future for South Africa that
they see that as a country you should be focused on the red
Charles: 42:22 you know, South Africa is a very interesting country when it
comes to cultural resources and it’s a very complex. You’ve
been yet a lot of towering mountain ranges, a lot of small valley’s
two big oceans, major oceans meeting and a lot of different
elevation. So you got a whole habit. There’s a winemaker to
produce a whole range of wine and that’s our challenge. You
went not like unlike parts of Chile, Argentina, Australia, where
you’ve got tracks of homogeneous soil using fantastic
chardonnay from the bottom to the top or murder on the
bottom that we’ve got a lot of complexities in our topography
and our terroir and which makes us a very difficult country to
understand even for us. Me. So you’ve got a whole host of
different styles coming from this country.
Natalie: 43:12 I’m fascinated personally with Chenin Blanc, which is also called steam.
Um, what is that so iconic in South Africa? What is it about it
like it just so has drawn to that wine from the south,
Charles: 43:25 I think, I think in South Africa under conditions, the adaptability
of the variety, you can get beautiful Chenin Blanc in a cool climate
areas with a lovely age of minerality to it and then you get them
very tropical upfront with that guava flavors and then the new
young winemakers have really taken to the next level where
they’ve lived skin ferment and they put it in oak and they leave.
It’s silly and you get this complex one. So I think it’s a real
a workhorse of the industry and produces a whole wide range of
fantastic wines at the moment.
Natalie: 43:58 Awesome. So I’m not that. This talk has been dry by any means,
but I keep putting this off but I don’t want to run out of
time. I want to taste the wines that I have here. So let’s start
with um, the goats do roam the white. And this is a blend I
would assume, have a traditional Rhone variety can describe
Charles: 44:18 I think it’s a, it’s a very modern rendition of the runway
technically. Well made, I wouldn’t see them and it’s a grenache
blanc, a loosened and Janya blend, and we use the plan to give
the acidity and the backbone and freshness, the idea to have
the nice tropical notes on, on the nose and the reason to give
her beautiful mid-palate and flesh it out in complexity.
Natalie: 44:45 Okay. That is lovely. It’s so lovely. It’s not over the top. It’s just
Charles: 44:50 we try and we try and restrain our starts in South Africa to make
, big bold wines and homogenize the whole style and we try and
get personality and texture and each one that we did this and
it’s so nice. It’s so nice having this 1:00 in the.
Charles: 45:06 Great. Thank you so much. You’re such a sport. It’s funny. I’m in
your time. Yes. Okay. Let’s just keep going.
Charles: 45:16 I have to. Gets you and
Natalie: 45:18 a couple of hours. My goodness. What a grueling schedule. Um,
this is lovely. Absolutely lovely. So floral. It’s so delicate. Yet just
nicely balanced. Good acidity, great. Fresh seafood. So Nice.
Okay, so let us do the other goat wines here that I’ve been
holding up. This Goats do Roam.
Charles: 45:42 Yeah, I’ve got. I’ve got this one. So just hang your goactci bag.
Natalie: 45:51 Great. And then blend or the percentage of grapes changes
each year, I’m sure,
Charles: 45:58 depending on the vintage, a Roman-inspired, goat
inspired, actually not writing spikes are inspired to grow and the
last couple of years we planted quite a bit of good Nash, which
is doing exceptionally well on the Cape conditions, so being,
lifting the percentage as the vintages go on to introduce a bit
more lightness, freshness and a bit softer fruit on the
planet and be reduced over the years. Influenced by oak on it,
which is a, we preferred this style.
Natalie: 46:26 Okay. I love it. I mean really for this price point, it’s amazing
Charles: 46:31 what must be a. because I lose money on it.
Charles: 46:36 Yeah, there’s a tagline that’s great. Mine because we lose
money on every bottle. Excellent.
Natalie: 46:42 it’s gorgeous. Like plum rich, fleshy plugs, no heavy oak,
good vibrant acidity wets your palate juicy. Okay, very good.
Alright, the goat father.
Charles: 46:58 So are we onto Italian varieties? Italian varieties, I guess? Yes.
Charles: 47:07 I guess when there’s such stress with the, with the French
assault call on the distance from Sicily and he was the godfather
and he protects the hood at the moment.
Natalie: 47:17 Oh Nice. And does this pair well with a smoldering Sicilian bride
Charles: 47:22 that would do exactly that. And it’s a blend of Sangiovese
Beatty, I think. Cab Merlot,
Natalie: 47:29 yes.
Charles: 47:31 Very nice. Very zesty on the nose, lots of dark fruit. Smells like
pasta to me appearing very easy drinking again, full body, but
very sort of supple, smooth, nice blend. We’ve spent a lot of
time in the vineyard to flesh out the mid-palate of our wine and
make sure we have tenants that are powdery. So that’s been
the focus and I think. And we also have funny enough in our
winemaking team, seven people in the team, a half of which
are ladies, women. And I think the influence of the ladies of the
last couple of years of even the wine, they’re far more refined
and delicate and more interesting. I would like to believe.
Natalie: 48:18 so that’s the those are the three a goat wines that I
have though I wish I had Bordeaux. She’s in that, that deer in
front of it, like a Bordeaux looking chateau or turret.
Charles: 48:47 That’s actually. Yes, it could look. A lot of Bordeaux labels had
copied that one. That’s where you find a similarity.
Natalie: 48:53 I love that. Anyway. Okay. So I’ve got some. Oh No, I have a
Chenin blanc from Fairview. So this is, is this old fines? Yes.
Charles: 49:05 Yeah, that is from Rhone, from where I’m sitting. Just across the
road from and Chenin Blanc is ideally suited to fall. That’s
quite a rich a style. We got to Chenin blanc one from a cooler
region and this is a more full body. The more fat that style,
which has stopped.
Natalie: 49:26 Does Chenin Blanc go through a dumb stage? Like where it’s
Charles: 49:29 like the stage, the stage that I’m in for the last year.
Natalie: 49:33 I’m not implying anything. You’re so sensitive. You’re like
pinot noir is a grape.
Charles: 49:40 it depends what store you can make your style. Like this rich
foolish style. It does benefit from buffalo aging, but I wouldn’t
keep it in the bottle for too long. Three, four years.
Natalie: 49:51 Okay. So not benefiting from a lot of aging?
Charles: 49:54 No, not that upfront fruit and two years in the buckle. I think
two to three years is that way. You should be on that stopped.
Natalie: 50:02 Okay. Very zesty, very vibrant. Lemongrass. What do you think
is a great pairing for Shannon? Belong
Charles: 50:11 the cheese I just showed you now. I think that will work
perfectly. Nice. Bought and a cheese on the cheese board.
Natalie: 50:20 Very nice. Very nice. All right. Should we do the primo pinot
Taj or the Grenache next?
Charles: 50:27 I. How brave are you? I think that’s good. I wouldn’t do them
better. The both? Yes to the Grenache.
Natalie: 50:34 Right? This is very sleek. I was nipping into it earlier and it’s
beautiful. So let me go back to this Grenache. so you were saying you’re
trying to fill out the mid Palette with more grenache. What does
Grenache do for a wine? Is it a, a fat succulent wine or
Charles: 50:53 what I. I call it the poor man’s Pinot noir. Okay. So got some of
the characteristics is the Pinot noir is also the poor wine been
because it’s adapted to warm growing conditions and you get
fantastic soft fruit, much fruit on it and the nice detection,
smooth silky finish to it. I really love this variety to introduce
the group to blames and shop and blends at the same time. And it’s
nice on its own.
Natalie: 51:22 It’s beautiful. Beautiful. Just against fleshy ripe plums. So good.
And yet mouthwatering Oh my goodness. Wow. So I’m going to
keep motoring only because of the time. I can’t believe how fast
this has gone because I still want to taste your Pinot. Taj. Taj is a
cross between pinot noir and Cinsaut.
Charles: 51:46 And the correct in South Africa since I used to be called a
montage. And that’s where the name came from.
Natalie: 51:53 Ah Gotcha. Yes. And so why is this such an iconic wine or grape
for South Africa? That Pinot Taj,
Charles: 52:02 hey, there’s a label, you’ve got the label. Do you find the van?
That’s my pickup and the on the front label. That’s me
registration number or my vehicle and the reason why a lot of
people ask me why I’ve got my pickup on the front label. The
the reason why I’ve gotten this peanut dodge and to find
those blocks, you really need that four by four to get to where
we find these grapes, so we go all over the wine and defined the
base peanut dodge to put into this product is ideally suited
to this South African conditions and the challenge has been at
Taj in a rock in the beginning when we started exporting wines
to the rest of the world was a tenant profile wasn’t right. It was
a rusty nail and very tannic, but the winemakers got to grips
with it. Then we got new planting material and today the
a generation not being attached to the out there coupled with the
winemakers, the younger winemakers, the winds up fabulous
and it could be as good as any great burgundy and as the
potential to age it. Sort of a cross between burgundy and the
road in a kind of strange way.
Natalie: 53:09 This is early, early nasty Pinot Taj is that I’ve had had a
reputation for smelling like rubber. Why was that?
Charles: 53:19 I think the vineyards, the vineyards with virus-infected and
they were the last to be the new ones. All vidas free and
winemakers now to express the fruit today.
Natalie: 53:30 It’s beautiful. There’s not a hint of that. It’s a very elegant wine.
It’s a, it leans toward the full body, but it’s very elegant. Like you
say, where the cross between Pinot noir and Rome. I can see
that. Yeah. Awesome. So let me just check in with comments
because we are going to, um, wrap up here because of the time
factor. Guys, I appreciate you sticking with us and we have had
a steady group of people here tonight. Really great attendance.
I love it. If you’re watching the replay you can still comment and
that we’ll, you know, we’ll still get back to you and all that
because I know a lot of you catch us on the replay. So,
again, I haven’t got to the other 56 questions I was going to ask
you Charles, but is there anything we haven’t talked about
that you’d like to mention now?
Charles: 54:21 I don’t I just think the most important thing is that a South
Africa is an amazing country, amazing human resources, got
fabulous people and the diversity of people and the diversity of
wines, the diversity of opportunities we have here is mind
boggling. And if I had my life over, I’m so pleased my
grandfather made the voyage to this part of the world and are
very pleased to have made a very small contribution to my
country and I hope to do more of that in the future. And I’d love
all of you to come to visit our country. We got so much to offer
and because so many things that we can share with you, I would
love to share with you.
Natalie: 55:01 Beautiful. It is a gorgeous country to visit and yours is especially
a lovely winery to visit. I love the tasting rooms from the ones
that are actually milking pales to every single touch you’ve
thought about at all. It’s a wonderful place to visit. Thank you
Charles. So appreciate you spending your time with us tonight.
Well, it’s actually Monday for you, but um, so I, I gotta let you
go so that you get a little bit of sleep before you have to get up
and melt those goats was great
Charles: 55:30 drinking wine this time. The day you started a new trend.
Natalie: 55:34 Well, okay, good. I really appreciate you joining us on this sort
of time. So and so. Please stay with US folks. I’m not done, but
I’m Charles. Thank you again. And uh, we’re all looking forward
to trying more of your wines as they come out and, uh, in, in our
local liquor stores. Great stories. Thank you so much. Thank you
very much. Thank you. This thing. Alright, take care. Bye Bye.