Wine is full of stories of ingenuity, and of resilience.

Kebo Noir wines, formed from the partnership between Tebogo Motsepe, Kensani Nobanda and Mzamo Ntuthuko Xala is a brilliantly named brand from marketing masterminds. From a Sesotho colloquialism which means ‘it is to drink’. The name is a play on the ‘noir’ which labels black grapes. An initial release of a NV Blanc de Blanc Cap Classique, 2022 Chenin Blanc and 2019 Sauvignon Blanc, the start-up is forged by negociants and wine enthusiasts and shows great promise.

Similarly, Redamancy Vineyards began with love at its heart. Redamancy Vineyards was forged from the love shared between its founders Marc (an agronomic science engineer in development aid) and Antoinette (an interior architect), whose frequent visits to Devon Valley in Stellenbosch resulted in the purchase of land in the area in 2015. Redamancy represents requited love through their Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon.

A start-up story with wings, The SMCG Group and The Beast Wine Collection is co-founded by Patrick McGee and Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira. Their collaboration with Benguela Cove, Arra Vineyards, Cape Point Vineyards and Holden Manz wines leverages off of its founders’ incredible international network of oenophiles to take premium South African wines to an international market, subsequent to The Beast’s 2019 Rugby World Cup success. Tendai explains: “for me, it was love at first taste, but wine became something of an obsession to me, I started collecting wine in every country that we traveled in.”

Top image: Tendai Mtawarira, Patrick McGee launch The Beast Wine Collection with Gerard Holden

The start-up grind has even extended to veterans of the South African wine industry.

“It feels strange talking about myself as a start-up,” Kevin Arnold says as he peers over a glass of The Family wines, his phoenix song and new venture, post Waterford.

A less than amicable parting from Waterford Wine Estate after over two decades almost left Kevin Arnold out in the cold, but the South African wine industry rallied around him as he renegotiated his future.

Kevin’s friend, Dan Nicholl described him as one of the aristocrats of the South African wine business. Chef Ransley Pietersen cooked an intimate chef’s table luncheon co-hosted by Dan Nicholl at The Old Oak Restaurant to introduce Kevin’s The Family wines to a few friends in Johannesburg. Dan, Miguel Chan, Michael Fridjhon and I were regaled with tales from Kevin’s forty-seven year-long career in wine.

Incidentally, friendship and family helped Kevin to reignite his wine flame after it was extinguished by his former partners in an unfortunate ending to a partnership forged to create Waterford in 1998. Alongside the other challenges that framed the end of the partnership, Kevin, like Halston and other creative talents whose names had been used to license and sell products, was unable to use his name on future wines that he desired to produce and commercialize.

Kevin’s reputation has been built through barrels of stories and wine brands that are always at the tip of the tongue. As assistant winemaker at Delheim, Kevin first cut his teeth alongside Spatz Sperling at Delheim, where the renowned Delheim Grande Reserve forged part of his legacy. Kevin became one of the founding members of the Cape (Independent) Winemakers Guild. He subsequently worked at Ruste-en-Vrede, where the Cabernet Sauvignon-Shiraz blend, the Ruste en Vrede blend further lit up his legendary legacy. At Waterford, Kevin Arnold Shiraz has left an indelible mark in the Cape wine legacy.

The first iteration of The Family Wines are a tribute to his three children, and his wife, Heather. The style of the three wines are approachable, but still race with exuberance and excellence, much like their winemaker.

Friends like Chris Alheit helped Kevin to craft The Family Chenin Blanc 2022. Kevin says: “my philosophy about Chenin is it’s all about texture and mouthfeel.”

The Chenin with its stone fruit characteristics, for Kevin is reminiscent of a Sutherland Chardonnay. He says: “it’s incredible to see that this is what nature gives you.”

Nature and good natured friendship, alongside his own knowledge and experience enabled Kevin to seek out a Chenin Blanc and a Grenche-Mourvedre-Shiraz Rhone-style blend from Stellenbosch, and a Sauvignon-Blanc Semillon from the Cape Agulhas region. The promise of some formidable The Family red wines in the future lights up Kevin’s eyes.

The Family Wines bear the names of Kevin and Heather’s three children’s names, Robert; Lloyd and Nadine on the label.

“A good wine has got to be about the next generation - that’s the Robert Mondavi approach, the children will choose one of these wines each, and it’s my responsibility to make sure that they get made by one of my friends,” Kevin says.

“Through the generosity of the winemakers who offered me space, I chose to accept the challenge and get up and run,” Kevin says.

Kevin’s wines are being sold through a network of friendship, email and his personal phone.

“That’s what wine’s about,” Kevin says, “connection.”

Blog by Tšepang Molisana