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Vrede en Lust launches it's wine industry BEE Project

The farm Arieskraal is located in the south western region of Elgin, adjacent to the Palmiet River and the Kogelberg Hydro Electric dam. Vrede en Lust has helped the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) Staff Trust secure a 30% interest in this very high potential farm, in one of South Africa's most exciting new wine regions.

"We wanted to secure a source of top quality Sauvignon Blanc and address our BEE commitments at the same time. I believe that the partnership model has a great deal of merit as it overcomes the capital and skills problems that have plagued many BEE agricultural initiatives to date. The farm will operate on a long term lease model for the medium term. This model eliminates risk while the debt incurred is repaid and the orchards converted to vineyards", said Dana Buys, managing partner at Vrede en Lust.

In addition to Vrede en Lust, a few other high profile wineries have committed to the development of new vineyards under the long term lease model. Buys estimates that approximately 50 hectares will be converted to vineyards over the next 3 years, while the remaining 39 hectares will worked back to fynbos buffer areas in line with the South African wine industry's 'Biodiversity' initiative.

"Arieskraal is located in the magnificent Kogelberg Biosphere, which was proclaimed the first South African UNESCO Biosphere in 1998. We hope to build on the excellent environmental efforts of Elgin farmers such as James and Keith Downs at Shannon Vineyards. The goal is to restore alien invested land and steep orchards back to its original fynbos state," added Buys.

Vrede en Lust's assistant wine-maker, Bongani Sandu, is very excited about the opportunity: "I think this will be good news to those who will be involved in this project, not just good news, but a deal of a lifetime that the individuals can now participate in. Some of us have been working for many years in the vineyards, which is good, because valuable knowledge and know-how has been acquired over the years. Good capital management and input will now be required."

The Vrede en Lust team looked at many farms in the Elgin area and found the desired mix of well drained sandstone and deeper red soils at Arieskraal. It would seem that the stony white sandstone soils are very well suited to the production of top quality Sauvignon Blanc and possibly Shiraz. The stony, deep red soils may be more suitable to the production of high end Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and even the red grapes from Bordeaux on the warmer slopes.

The farm's position next to the mountains and large water body along the western edge of Elgin should provide the cool nights required for top quality grape production. Vrede en Lust will start purchasing some Sauvignon Blanc from the Elgin region during the 2006 harvest as it establishes an Elgin Sauvignon Blanc label ahead of its leased vineyards coming into production.