The importance of agriculture in Africa’s development agenda, as a driver of economic growth, transformation and in helping end hunger has been reiterated over the years if not decades.
The 2014 Malabo Declaration for example and the re-commitment to the principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) (which is Africa’s policy framework for agricultural transformation, wealth creation, food security and nutrition, economic growth and prosperity for all) by African Heads of State and Government in recent times, has heightened the importance of the agriculture sector as a driver towards shared prosperity and improved livelihoods.
But problems hindering the success of the sector persist. Key amongst them is the issue of post-harvest losses which accounts for more than 30 percent of foods wasted according to the food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 2013 reports. The situation is exacerbated by climate change, low farm productivity in most places and the global growing population despite advancements in technology.
So, is there a way out for African countries that are having issues with maximizing their potential when it comes to Agriculture despite the challenges mentioned above?
Well a trip to South Africa as part of the Wines of South Africa Sommelier Cup Final (#WOSA_ZA) in Cape Town and other parts of the Western Cape opened my eyes to what the potential of agriculture on the continent could be irrespective of the challenges. I would be focusing on the wineries as well as the wine estates that I encountered and the few things I picked up that inspired me.
First thing you must know is that production of wine in South Africa goes back centuries. Official reports say it all started with the arrival of the Dutch East India Company led by Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652. He recorded that the first wine was produced in the Cape, where they had landed on the February 2nd, 1659.
Fast forward by over 350 years to present date and you can say Mr. Riebeeck would be proud of the state of the wine industry in South Africa. Even though there has been a drought for the past 3 years or so (making management of water a priority) the total value of wines exported has improved. Value of wine exports grew by 4% in 2018 to R9,6bn, according to industry association Wines of South Africa (#WOSA_ZA).
“We can’t control nature, but what the drought means is that there is better concentration in the grapes and the quality of wines is good. And that helps in positioning South African as a premium wine production region. We do hope that the drought ends soon so we can boost volumes.” says Matome Mbatha (Africa Market Manager, WOSA) in an interview with Citi Business News in Cape Town.
Many farms or agricultural production outfits would have faltered or collapsed as a result of the drought facing the wineries in South Africa. But that’s not what we saw.
From Durbanville Hills, to Nederburg, Springfield Estate, Backsberg Estate and Overhex Wines International, we saw a commitment to the highest standards of production. From KWV Wine Emporium to Villiera Wines, Bridge of Hope Wines, Boschendal and Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate, innovation and adaptation were common themes.
Those were the areas the media from Ghana (Citi FM and Citi TV along with Business and Financial Times) visited in the Western Cape. But other major producers who have presence in Ghana and own some of the places we visited need to be mentioned. We are talking about great institutions like Accolade Wines South Africa, Distell Wines South Africa, DGB among others.
Provision of Extra Value
The provision of extra value for wine lovers hits you as the running theme among the many places we visited. While some estates were responsible for planting, harvesting and carefully processing their grapes into various wine brands, others procured the grapes from multiple farms and proceeded to carefully process them into their various wine brands. But they all did more than just produce wine.
In an attempt to better serve wine lovers and differentiate themselves, the wineries we visited provided other services and experiences that can easily be replicated by cocoa farmers or chocolate producers in Ghana and Ivory Coast or coffee producers in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. Here are some of the places we visited and the key observations I picked up as well as their offerings.
Situated a mere 20 minutes from Cape Town’s city centre, and overlooking Table Mountain, Table Bay and Robben Island, Durbanville Hills (using over 230 stainless steel tanks and about 500 French oak barrels), is able to produce some of the best red (matures in 12 to 16 months) and white wines to satisfy both fans of their large volume wines as well as patrons of their collector’s items.
Opened in 1999, and owned by Distell, Durbanville Hills due to its proximity to the ocean, has the cool climate and the mist rolling over their vineyards in both the summer and winter ensuring they produce cool, crisp and acidic wines.
Some notable wines you’ll find on offer include their Sauvignon Blanc 2018, Merlot 2017, Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc NV, as well as the Collectors reserve line which covers “The Cape Garden Chenin Blanc, The Cape Mist Sauvignon Blanc, The Cable Way Chardonnay and The Lighthouse Merlot”.
The facility goes on to offer patrons a world class restaurant with some of the most delicious meals as well as a venue for weddings and private functions.
One of the most awarded and oldest wine brands in South Africa (also under Distell), Nederburg traces its root to 1791 when Philippus Wolvaart bought the farm which formed the foundation on which the success of Nederburg continues to flourish.
As a well-recognized brand across the world, Nederburg has a big spectrum of wine varieties for different consumers. There’s the Nederburg Heritage Heroes range (The Anchorman, The Young Airhawk, The Motorcycle Marvel etc), Nederburg 56HUNDRED range (Palate, Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon etc), Nederburg Winemaster’s Reserve range (Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinotage, Edelrood etc) among others.
In addition to offering tours of their state-of-the-art cellar, visitors to Nederburg get to enjoy uninterrupted views of the majestic Drakensburg Mountains under shady oak trees in their sprawling garden, as well as paid-for picnics for adults and children.
Set in the heart of the mountain-ringed Robertson Valley in the Western Cape of South Africa, Springfield Estate is a family-run wine farm owned by ninth-generation descendants of French Huguenots, who came to South Africa from the Loire in 1688 with bundles of vines under their arms.
The present generation is boldly tending the rocky Springfield soils, are prepared to take risks to do what they love best – making wine. Assisted by a team of dedicated workers, many of whom have been with the Bruwers for decades, Springfield continues to set the standard for winemaking in South Africa.
Some of the many wine brands on offer include but not limited to “Life From Stone Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Special Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc, Miss Lucy, Pinot Noir 2015, Wild Yeast Chardonnay 2018 Etc.”
The picturesque farm of the estate has a dam (a new one is been built), complete with a sailing boat, and offers magnificent views of the mountain range of McGregor and the Langeberg mountains behind Robertson.
For 103 years, the Backsberg winemaking tradition has been growing. The philosophy of Backsberg remains that of providing pleasure and enjoyment to a broad range of wine lovers by producing wines, not only with structure and finesse, but with a high level of drinkability. Simply put, if you find their wines easy to drink and, above all, enjoyable, then this estate would say that they have been successful.
They offer a number of wine ranges such as the “Backsberg Family Reserve range (Red Blend and white blend), Black Label range (Pumphouse Shiraz, Sonop Chardonnay, Hillside Viognier etc), Premium range (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot), Fortified range (Pinneau and Cape Vintage reserve) among many others.”
As an Estate, Backsberg also offers one of the most sought after restaurants and wedding venues in the Paarl area, ensuring they provide more than just wine.
Overhex Wines International
Normal is not something that Overhex as a company wants to be. The company strives to incorporate uniqueness and excellence in all that they do.
Founded in 2007 and situated in the town of Worcester in the Western Cape, Overhex’s principal focus is on quality and adaptability. From humble beginnings, the Overhex Group has grown from strength to strength and is now proudly the eighth largest exporter of South African wines.
Overhex Wines International prides itself on having a market driven approach, which drives its innovative team in pursuing and responding to global wine trends.
The company offers three core brands (Balance, Mensa and Survivor) with unique sub-varieties. Under Balance you have offerings such as “Chenin Blanc 2019, Merlot 2018, Classic Semi-Sweet Rose 2019, and the Classic Cabernet Sauvignon / Merlot 2018 etc”.
The new Mensa line of exciting wine sees technology at work in both the Helix cork closures and augmented reality app which brings the wines’ intriguing labels and backstory to life. You’ll find wines such as “Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, Sauvignon Blanc 2019, Chardonnay Pinot Noir 2018” among others. Their Survivor range also makes exciting offers such as the “Pinotage 2018, Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2018, and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 etc”.
KWV Wine Emporium
Represented in over 100 markets globally, the 1918 established KWV (Producer of over a 100 products) is known as having maintained a century-long reputation for quality which is reflected in its globally admired status for fine wines, fortifieds and brandies. With grapes from over 50 farmers all over the Western Cape, KWV is not just producing some of South Africa’s best wines but some of the world’s very best.
Under their Roodeberg range, there are the “Dr. Charles Niehaus, Red, White and Rose” varieties. The Mentors Range offers even more. Varieties such as “Cabernet Sauvignon Stellenbosch, Shiraz, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc Darling among other” are on offer. Bands like “Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay” can be found under the Cathedral Cellar range. There is the Laborie range as well as Classic collection as well, which come with their own admirable world class offerings.
A family run winery since its inception in 1983, Villiera continues to innovate and produce wine in one of the most sustainable fashions in South Africa. Even though it’s relatively young compared to the other wineries, Villiera is leading the way by pioneering a quality wine company committed to preserving the environment and have been rewarded with membership to the Biodiversity of Wine Initiative.
The company specializes in Cap Classique and have a strong reputation for Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Apart from committing themselves to on-going education and upliftment of their staff they are also WIETA accredited.
The special thing for me is how Villiera has incorporated a game reserve into its wine offerings which makes it one of the most unique experiences we had as part of the Wines of South Africa experience in the Western Cape.
Bridge of Hope Wines
The Bridge of Hope Wines was born out of an interest stirred in Rosemary Mosia after a research project about the wine industry, which she conducted whilst working towards her Master’s Degree in Business Leadership. However, developing her wine company and securing a production partner only became a reality in 2012.
The multiple award-winning Bridge of Hope Wines is created by Linton Park Wine Estate in Wellington, South Africa. The brand’s value proposition of ‘we will take you there’ encompasses the bridge of delivering a flavourful and characterful wine to move people from one varietal taste sensation to another.
The Premium range under the Bridge of Hope Wines banner includes “Cabernet Sauvignon, Café Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay, and Sauvignon Blanc”. On the Classic range side, you have brands like “Cabernet Sauvignon, Unwooded Chardonnay, Natural Sweet Red, and Rose as well as Sauvignon Blanc.”
Since 1685 the extensive and historic Boschendal estate (now owned by DGB Ltd), with its iconic white – gabled Manor House has been supplying one of the most impressive portfolios of wines in South Africa and the rest of the world. This historical winery with a rich cultural history offers a relaxed and contemporary soul-enriching Winelands experience.
On our visit to the over 2000 hectares owning estate, we were particularly impressed with the on-site production of almost all consumables, from fresh cut meats to bread, vegetables etc.
Joining the array of visitor attractions (over 500,000 visitors every year), which includes a wedding and conference venue, biking trail, lodging facility, and the ‘historic tasting’ of 5 wines representing Boschendal’s history, is the Heritage Rose Garden.
Let’s not forget about the offerings from this estate, as they are impressive. From their Reserve Collection (Methode Cap Classique Brut, Vin d’Or etc), 1685 range (Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Merlot, Chardonnay etc), Pavillion range, Sommellier Selection, to the Boschendal Classics, this establishment is leading the way on a lot of fronts in the South African wine industry.
Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate
Diemersfontein is known for its beauty, informal elegance, and grace – an idyllic wine estate only 45 minutes’ drive from Cape Town and is situated near the Cape & famous Wine Routes.
Their Premium range consists of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, which are lightly wooded and are bottled within twelve months of the harvest.
Of key importance is the empowerment partner company of the Diemersfontein Wine & Country Estate, which is Thokozani Wines. Under the Thokozani brand we have wines such as “SMV, Rose, and CCV”. There is also the Ovation range which offers exciting varieties like “Spumante, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon-Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc”.
The tranquil estate of Diemersfontein, allows for conferencing, weddings, and short or long-term stays on its land.
“Ghana’s Tourism & Agriculture sectors can pick a few lessons”
As to whether Ghanaian farmers, other African farmers and agricultural organizations can attain the heights of wine farmers in South Africa, I’ll just say anything is possible. What I am confident about though is that cocoa and rice farmers for example in Ghana can introduce other elements to turn their farms into attraction spots.
Elements such as short term food and lodging facilities for lovers of their produce. It doesn’t have to be the doing of farmers but can be a policy position of relevant Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) such as the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Ministry of Tourism, Culture & Creative Arts, the Ghana Tourism Authority, to carefully curate and develop attractive and accessible farmlands and plantations especially the cocoa growing areas (Since we are known for premium cocoa) to attract visitors both local and international, for more earnings.
The implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Area requires that we improve our ways in order to win, because South Africa is prepared to win, especially with its wines (and rightly so).
As I end this write-up, the 500,000 visitor traffic per annum to the Boschendal estate, for example, keeps ringing in my head. What if we could have a fraction of such visits to our beautiful farmlands?