Happy New Year! We hope that 2013 will be a great year for you and your loved ones, with plenty of happiness, good health and friendship. Hope to see you on the farm and if not, at least at one of the wine shows we participate in during the year. We start off 2013 in high spirits, knowing that we have some very exciting new vintages to release this year.
The 2013 harvest looks very promising at this stage, with a cold winter, lots of rain, followed by a cool spring behind us. Early summer was cool with a hot week before Christmas. Lets hope the weather stays fairly moderate as we head into veraison. Susan and Ansoné are particularly interested in the Pinot Noir and Riesling coming into maiden vintage from our Elgin vineyards.
2012 kicked off on a very special and high note: the premiere of the hit Afrikaans romatic comedy, Semi-Soet which was shot on the estate and featured Vrede en Lust as itself (with some different characters of course!). The movie has done extremely well, running for a record season in the movies houses, then on to DVD release, Pay per View release on DSTV and now on Apple’s iTunes for all the overseas folks.
It was only a huge pleasure and privilege being able to work with Anel and James Alexander as well as their top notch team. Professional, friendly and just plain great people. Thanks Semi-Soet – you really helped up a LOT! We wish you well in your new ventures and you will always be friends of Vrede en Lust.
The 2012 harvest was a great one; both in terms of quality and quantity. We had no disease problems and a late harvest, which meant extra hang time for greater flavour development. We crushed just over 700 tons, our largest harvest to date. The Elgin vineyard are maturing into fine quality production and we had the best ever Cabernet Sauvignon from our Simonsberg vineyards. Susan gave birth to little Anna weeks after the harvest ended, so a tough one for Susan with lots of help from Ansoné.
Some of our 2012 wines have been released – the Jess 2012 in May 2012, the Mocholate Malbec 2012 in Oct, the Red Lady Merlot 2012 in November and the revamped Sarah 2012 in December. Sarah has graduated from high school and changed from an unwooded Chardonnay to a more complex and interesting Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc and Viognier blend that is flying out of the tasting room!
During the year, we started rolling out our updated label design, done by Vanessa Fogel. The brief was to create 4 more distinct tiers (Entry,Mid,Flagship plus Artisan), but to ensure visual continuity with the previous labels at the same time. I think she achieved the brief objectives perfectly! As we move to new vintage releases, the new labels will roll out across the range.
The 2012 cool climates whites from our Elgin vineyard are getting ready for release in the coming months. We aim to release them at least a year post harvest, in order to get them to the right level of maturation which is slower for cool climate wines. The 2011 Barrique and 2011 Artisan Range Chenin Blanc (single vineyard) were both rated 5 stars in Neil Pendock’s new blind tasted wine guide. The Barrique also rated in the Top 6 South African white blends by Classic Wine.
At Wine-X in Johannesburg we had the unique experience of 4 wines in the top 10 wines on show as rated by the public and in fact 7 wines in the top 20 overall. The Boet Erasmus 2009 was rated #1 red wine with the Barrique 2011 rated #2 white wine on show. The Jess 2012 was the only Rosé in the Top 10 white wines! That is really a fantastic achievement and testimony to the joint efforts in the vineyards, cellar and tasting team coming together perfectly.
In August Etienne took over the day to day management of Vrede en Lust, following 14 years as partner and manager of the farming and vineyard operations. The transition was smooth and easy. He has been doing a great job and his focus is evident in the solid growth achieved over last year. Etienne has a very strong team in place now, with lots of momentum. I continue as owner and ‘chairman’ of the business, working with the team re strategy and direction.
MeiJun Wu joined us as our first International employee, based in Shenzen, Guandong Province, China. We have been working on the Chinese market for a few years now, but decided that the language and communication barriers were too severe without local presence. May has done a great job so far, with the first container getting ready for shipment. We are very excited about the growth opportunities ahead in China, as the wine market there develops in leaps and bounds.
Tammy Bloom joined us as Johannesburg sales rep in October which has really helped grow the Gauteng sales. Karen Coyne joined as KZN sales rep late in the year, rounding out our regional sales team. We have done very well in the retail environment this year and will put more effort into the restaurant business in 2013.
Electricity became our second largest direct input expense, following years of relentless price hikes from ESKOM. Guided by our brother Johan Buys’ expertise in the solar energy field, we set up a plan to build an photo-voltaic solar energy plant large enough to meet the winery’s annual energy needs. Installation of the 220KWp plant started in November and is due for completion early in the new year. This will ensure we have much more control over our energy costs going forward whilst also making a significant contribution of the environment as part of our process of becoming a carbon neutral winery.
Our tasting room team has done so well, achieving both record wine sales and great reviews on TripAdvisor, where we are rated the #3 activity in the Franschhoek valley. Our hospitality division has also been pulling in solid reviews, with a significant move up into the TripAdvisor Franschhoek Top-10 under Lynne’s caring touch. Those of you who know the valley, will know there is a lot of serious competition here!
Last but not least, thanks to your support, we have had a very busy and successful Christmat/New Year holiday season at the farm!