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