They call themselves “the rebels of the vine”…..
Black Elephant Vintners (BEV) was born out of synchronicity, fortuitous friendships and a love for wine. Following the sale of Black Elephant Investment Holdings’ stake in Noah Financial Innovation in 2011, co-founder Kevin Swart (the ‘Black’ in the company’s name) uprooted his family and moved from Johannesburg to Franschhoek where he purchased a charming boutique wine farm, La Petite Vigne, situated on the outskirts of Franschhoek.
Six months later, his business partner and co-founder of Black Elephant Investment Holdings, Raymond Ndlovu (the ‘Elephant’), followed suit and the Ndlovus joined the Swarts in their fearless uncovering of a new life in the Franschhoek valley.
Having contracted Amistad Wine Company to assist in the winemaking at La Petite Vigne, Swart eagerly set about learning the art and quandaries of winemaking whilst Ndlovu joined Invenfin to further hone his passion for business and private equity.
A chance discussion in November 2012 between Black Elephant and Amistad led to the joining together of Black Elephant’s business skills and the Amistad winemaking expertise. This moment led to the arrival of winemaker Jacques Wentzel (the ‘Vintner’) and in January 2013, Black Elephant Vintners was created.
Today, BEV are the proud producers of a number of different wines bottled under various labels – from their Amistad Syrah and The Back Roads Grenache, Malbec, Viognier and Petite Sirah varietals to their The Fox & the Flamingo Rosé, Three Men in a Tub Pinotage and Two Dogs, a Peacock and a Horse Sauvignon Blanc.
So what makes this threesome function so brilliantly?
“Body, mind, and soul… it is the unique contributions each of us rebels bring to Black Elephant Vintners,” says Swart. “I am the body, providing the actual home where the wine is crafted, Raymond is the mind, bringing innovation through creatively cultivating radical ideas for growth and Jacques is the soul, finding immense value in how much clients appreciate the wine and how they become part of the tribe by selecting BEV wines for those special occasions.”
In advance of their presence at the Johannesburg Cap Classique and Champagne Festival – a special occasion indeed – we asked Wentzel a few questions about the BEV bubbly that will be showcased at the event:
Tell us about your BEV MCC
Black Elephant Brut Méthode Cap Classique is a modern, New World-style of MCC, focusing on capturing the fruit characteristics of the classic champagne varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
What can visitors to The Johannesburg Cap Classique & Champagne Festival expect with that first sip?
Light yeasty aromas and tones of citrus and fresh picked apples on the nose with rich creamy complexity and cherries on the palate. The exceptionally fine mousse contributes freshness and finesse.
Why do you believe there has been this huge surge in the popularity of South African sparkling wines and MCCs?
South African consumers have realised that, besides the fact that the grapes used for the production of MCC do not grow in Champagne (France), the wines are really of equal quality and, in some cases, superior.
Do SA consumers buy French champagne just for the image and how do we change that?
Champagne has done a great job of marketing themselves and their wines. I would go as far as saying they are the best in our industry. The only way to change perceptions is to engage with consumers and to let them taste MCC.
Give us three of your favourite BEV MCC and food pairings?
Neil Jewell’s charcuterie and fresh baked farm breads, fresh caught West Coast snoek on the braai and The Sound of Silence by Disturbed playing in the background.
Anything else you would like to add?
Please visit our website www.bevintners.co.za to book one of our unique Music & Wine pairing experiences or to join our “Rebels of the Vine” wine club.
More than 22 different bubbly will be available to taste and buy at The Johannesburg Cap Classique & Champagne Festival, including top local MCCs such as Genevieve, Krone, Simonsig, Paul René, L’Ormarins, Graham Beck, Silverthorn, Pierre Jourdan, Boschendal, Pongracz, Villiera, Bon Courage and Saronsberg as well as champagne from Taittinger, Bollinger, Nicolas Feuillatte and Luc Belaire and Prosecco from Sartori, Da Luca and Valdo.
Presented by Sanlam Private Wealth, The Johannesburg Cap Classique & Champagne Festival takes place on Saturday, April 13 and Sunday, April 14, from 12h00 to 17h00 at the glamorous Polo Club at Inanda.
Tickets for festival are available via www.webtickets.co.za and cost R380 per person, and includes a glass and 10 tasting coupons.