From the heart ...

“The heart is a pump,” cardiac surgeon Professor Chris Barnard famously said. In December it will be 54 years since he conducted the world’s first ever historic heart transplant at Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town.

Heart is not something South Africans lack. Despite the bold, sometimes brash and tough exterior we as a nation display, believing we can take on the world and win – there are times when our tough carapace is exposed as brittle. And tender hearts and genuine goodness lie exposed.

The winemaking community steps up when most needed. Just ask Lukas van Loggerenberg who discovered who his mates really were when he was almost immobilised with an injury in his first solo harvest. His friends rallied around and literally did the heavy lifting – in addition to having already put in the hard yards making their own wines. Hence the Break a Leg and Kamaradie wines... Or Samantha O’Keefe of Lismore whose Greyton winery burned down in a runaway fire 18 months ago.

In this rapid paced world where business can be brutal and margins tight, it’s rare to see caring and concern trump the bottom line. And yet... peoples’ hearts can be in the right place too. Thousands of British consumers happily backed the #SaveSAWine campaign over the past year after the alcohol bans and export shenanigans was broadcasted. Their kind actions helped keep people employed during the pandemic.

And so it was with the Imvini Wethu project which the Old Vines Project’s Andre Morgenthal admits fell into place within a matter of days – as though the stars and planets were aligned! WoSA’s woman in Germany, Petra Mayer, was approached by a group of importers, brand owners and industry professionals who were concerned at the situation SA wine farmers were experiencing under lockdown. Their hearts went out to the plight of producers and they wanted to help. They hit upon the idea of a unique bottling for their market.

“The concept and motivation came from them – and it is all about people!” Morgenthal said. Rosa Kruger, Andrea Mullineux and Andre put their heads together and blended cinsaut and pinotage, involving the CWG protégés in the exercise. (The cinsaut, for example, is from the venerable Franschhoek vineyard which usually supplies Mullineux’s Cape Winemakers Guild bottling.) The plan was for it to reflect old vine fruit but be classic, elegant and drinkable for the European palate, bearing in mind that it would be bought and consumed in the northern hemisphere winter.

The German proposal was for this exclusive bottling to benefit both the Cape Winemakers Guild protégé programme as well as the Old Vine Project since the wine is a certified heritage blend. “The proceeds of each bottle will be used for the protégé programme and from our side, the Old Vine Project, we intend using it to expand our vineyard worker skills programme – pruning and viticultural skills specifically,” he said.

“It was amazing! The wine was available, we did the blend, sourced bottles and Andrea managed to secure a bottling date so from start to finish it took three weeks! Blended, bottled and packaged in September and on the water to Europe in November. Everything just fell into place...,” said Morgenthal.

South African wine friends in Germany showed great heart. Which is also a natural segue to another Great Heart – a new employee empowerment project announced recently by Mullineux & Leeu Family Wines.

Johnny Clegg and Savuka sang about knowing they could make it on their own if they tried. “But I’m searching for a great heart to stand me by; underneath the African sky.” And it’s hard not to have that refrain reverberate when the context to the Great Heart white and red is revealed.

“To thank our employees who have shown commitment, we’ve made those who have worked for our winery for two years shareholders of Great Heart Wines,” Andrea Mullineux said. “They will directly benefit from the sales of Great Heart.”

Husband Chris said the pursuit of the greater good was never a given – particularly in business. “But it’s one that rings louder and truer for us with each passing moment. Great Heart is our way of addressing an array of important issues in our industry today. A heartfelt thank you to Waitrose for their belief and support for this very special project.”

“This is a huge opportunity to better lives and livelihoods, especially in this time of crisis,” said Gynore Fredericks, assistant winemaker at Mullineux & Leeu and winemaker for Great Heart wines. “I am proud to be part of a project I can call my own,” she said of the Swartland chenin blanc and the red blend of syrah, tinta barocca and cabernet sauvignon.

The intention is to change the way consumers think about the products they choose by sharing a story of the greater good – and redressing imbalances. And by sharing a vision “remind the world that by working together, businesses can be a mechanism for equity, inclusivity and meaningful transformation,” Chris Mullineux said. “Businesses today have the power to transform the world”

There’s a project to gladden one’s heart!

By Fiona McDonald