Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ovation wine range for Woolworths launched by Thokozani at Diemersfontein

Ten years ago, David & Sue Sonnenberg set up the Thokozani Trust for the Diemersfontein staff. This incredibly successful BEE initiative started with 35 shareholders, who had to buy their shares in the Trust. We were at the event held to hand over the initial share certificates and it was a very emotional occasion. Initially they had 30% share and now, with support, they have 80% ownership with 20% held by Diemersfontein. They run the 4 Star cottages, the Conference Centre and the wine brand. The Directors are nominated by the team.
There are some star stories of staff progressing. Cheslin Price was a general farm worker and, with rubies in his teeth, looked like a gangster. He had a makeover and he is now Liaison manager of Hospitality. Tholene Liebenberg a single mum and vineyard worker who wanted more for her family. Auban Williams, a tasting room assistant, is now its manager and travels in Africa to market the wines. Jason, who had no winemaking background, has done courses at Elsenburg and is now assistant winemaker. Tarryn was the receptionist and is now Hospitality manager
Ovation wine is a new initiative with Woolworths who wanted a genuine BEE label on their shelves. They asked several applicants to submit their wines for approval and Thokozani won. The wines have been made and blended to their strict specifications and will be on their shelves this month. It has been a long and arduous journey, but it has been achieved
We met on the verandah of the Manor house for a glass of rosé and a canapé
and then moved to the Conference Centre for speeches and to taste the wine
Grant Johnson was our MC for the event
Denise Stubbs told us about the journey ...
... and introduced us to her colleagues, she laughed, she cried and she showed her love for them all
The red wines will sell for R69. There is a 2014 Pinotage. It is not a coffee chocolate Pinotage, but is full of plums and black fruits, with long flavours and a soft finish. Very good with food
The Ovation Merlot needed to be good quality. Its had red berry fruit, spicy oak and soft tannins and is easy drinking. No greenness or mint visible
 Provincial Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde, Ministry of Agriculture, Economic Development and Tourism, (Provincial Cabinet, Western Cape Government). Lynne asked Minister Winde politely why the Department was not giving the wine industry more financial support to help market our wines overseas, especially as they are the third largest revenue earners for the Provincial government. He said "they were getting support, he is taking 17 wines to China soon". Oh, if only we had the support the EU and other national governments give to their wine industries. We so need to earn more foreign currency
Sally Liebetreu is the graphic designer who designed the new Ovation label
Ivan Oertle of Woolworths talking of the journey to produce the Ovation wines
Head of Department of Agriculture: Joyene Isaacs, who has supported the Thokozani Trust with money to make this happen. She gave the industry a tip: if you need money from the Department, ask her in August when she is drawing up the annual budget. And she said: "Let's make Agriculture sexy"
David and Sue Sonnenberg
David Sonnenberg spoke about the history of the farm which was bought by his grandfather in 1942 and told how they progressed from using the dop system (where workers received a weekly ration of wine as part of their earnings), which he wanted to address and lose, to building a school in 1979, and to starting Thokozani. They are a work in progress, with many challenges still to face. Profitability is very necessary, so are quality products. He gave a salute and thanks to the winemaking and creative teams and to Woolies for these efforts. Transformation is a vexing thing; there is a value in reflection of the project, it must not be idolised, you can get most things right by thoughtfulness. It is frustratingly slow, but do it properly and retain the genuineness
Winemaker Francois Roode (since 2003) told us lunch would show how the wines matched with food. He also told us that his assistant Jason had come first in his class on the four day VinPro Cellar Educational course and scored 94%. He told us Jason is also a good singer
The Sauvignon Blanc on ice. It has tropical flavours with some green pepper notes and is extremely quaffable
Lunch was prepared by chef Andy Eichelaar of the Season Restaurant on Diemersfontein. The starter of Salmon wrapped asparagus to go with the Sauvignon Blanc
Mediterranean grilled aubergine, topped with melted mozzarella cheese and basil, was the delicious vegetarian starter
The singer is Chantal Lewis from the Diemersfontein tasting room. She is incredibly talented and we all wondered when her first CD will be issued. We believe she received several bookings on the day. She sings soft jazzy numbers, old standards and some modern blockbusters like "I will survive"
David Sonnenberg being serenaded
Happy day
Smoked Duck breast with butternut and spring onion to go with the Merlot
The traditional vegetarian curry in roti cups was paired with the Pinotage, which always goes well with spicy food
Patricia van Jaarsveld with Judy Brower of Wine.co.za
The team take a bow: Sue Sonnenberg, Denise Stubbs, Francois Roode, Ivan Oertle, Rebecca Constable, David Sonnenberg, marketing manager Dian Joubert
Another main course: Slow braised lamb in red wine on couscous
Western Cape Minister of Economic Opportunities Alan Winde with the Ovation team
He accepts his gift of the three wines from Denise Stubbs. We all received one
Rich dark chocolate mousse pots for dessert
It’s time to celebrate. That is what Thokozani means. Let the party begin
Lets jive David Sonnenberg dancing with Judy Brower
David Sonnenberg dancing with the team
Diemersfontein Manor house, late afternoon
A Tortoise on the farm. We moved it off the field which was used for parking – a hazardous place for a small, slow creature
© John & Lynne Ford, Adamastor & Bacchus 2015

No comments: