After 12 years of doing business mostly out of South Africa, Origin Wine is spreading its wings to source from France, Italy, Spain, Australia and New Zealand. However, at Origin it is not all about flying high, giving back has always been a priority. Giving back and changing people’s lives in the most fundamental of ways.

The latest project Origin Wine is busy embarking on is a marketing and distribution agreement with the Riebeek Valley Wine Partners (RVWP) to set up a new BEE project and without a doubt one that will change the lives of the 167 shareholders forever.

Origin Wine is involved in economic and human empowerment because it makes sense,” explains Origin Wine MD, Bernard Fontannaz.

“We need to fan the winds of change for sustainable transformation in the South African Wine Industry. We need to build a culture of meaning and stand for something more than economics.

I really believe in the concept of Return On Life (ROL). Balance is important. You have to stand for something in life, not only economics. Put back what you can, and you will reap the rewards!”

With this exciting new project, Riebeek Cellars will produce the wine for Partnership Vineyards and Origin Wine will position the brand locally and internationally securing the development of the brand and also the sustainability of the investment.

“These are certainly exciting times for Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment in the wine industry as for the first time a black owned brand will emanate from the Swartland region,” said Origin Wine CEO, Neville Carew.

New winter uniforms for the Brandvlei scholars
Origin's Bottling Line Social Contribution Project, a computer centre for the bottling line personnel.

History on project

RVWP started out in 2004, when Riebeek Cellars planted 15 hectares of Sauvignon Blanc to launch the Riebeek Valley’s first wine empowerment initiative. Named Partnership Vineyards, this venture has proven to be a model of co­operation and sustainability with three main factors to its advantage; excellent raw materials, a marketable final product and a partnership.

Consisting entirely of unirrigated trellised vines, the methods employed at Partnership Vineyards, represent a progressive move towards practices well-suited to winemaking in a hot, dry region.

The farm is situated west of Malmesbury and is ideal for the cultivation of white cultivars. The project revolves around the farm Highlands near Abbotsdale, consisting of 83 hectares that was purchased by the project, and which is currently being converted into a showcase wine farm by all those involved.

The farm is owned by the Riebeek Valley Wine Partners, of which 40% is owned by 167 previously disadvantaged workers from the region. Apart from the 20% share that Riebeek Cellars has, the remaining 40% is in the hands of the 28 full­time grape producers in the Riebeek Valley. To date, 56.9 hectares of grapes were planted, including Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Viognier, Shiraz and Grenache – a total of 600 tons of grapes are currently being processed annually.

According to Karools Pietersen, a representative of the worker shareholders, Riebeek Valley Wine Partners is a model of accountable black empowerment. “All those involved realise the responsibilities which each one has, as well as the fact that ownership is one thing, and hard work yet another. We realise by now that true black empowerment is not about the doling out of charity, but rather about creating opportunities. This farm, with its wonderful soil and winemaking potential, together with the cellar expertise of Riebeek Cellars and the marketing and distribution expertise of Origin Wine, offers us the opportunity to be involved in the entire winemaking process, from the soil to the bottle.”

Says Bernard, “We will assist in the production and marketing of the wines through our current relationships. The Partnership Vineyards wines need a shakeup and a more focussed approach to marketing. We plan to grow the brand to 100 000 cases within the next five years. The farm is currently undergoing Fairtrade and Wieta preparation for accreditation and we hope to market all wine from vintage 2015 as Fairtrade. Our end goal is economic empowerment. We want to help transform this industry by giving low cost production assistance. This basically boils down to buying their wine in bulk, packing the bulk and carrying the cost. We will then sell wine through our existing relationships.”

Origin goodness

Looking back over the past few years, Origin Wine has put its money where its mouth is by initiating and funding the Fairhills Fairtrade project that uplifts the people within the community by growing their skills base. The revenue generated through wine sales enabled them not only to develop new occupational opportunities for the community of Rawsonville, but also improved the basic living conditions and provided cost efficient medical services to the Fairhills community.

Social benefits include day care centres that accommodate 210 infants and toddlers, the construction of classrooms and a kitchen at Fairhills Lorraine Primary School, the construction of the Fairhills computer centre, library and community hall, as well as the purchasing of a bus and the incorporation of a complete integrated health care surveillance programme which included the construction of a health centre and purchase of a mobile clinic.

Entrepreneurial initiatives were also established (Fairhills Craft and Coffee shop), one of the largest adult literacy programmes in the Western Cape were undertaken, as well as an alcohol rehabilitation programme and a housing renovation programme.

And in the light of the success achieved with Fairhills, Origin Wine is now also involved with Brandvlei Cooperative in the Breede River Valley.

“After the overwhelming success of our first Fairtrade project, we believe that we need to spread our support in order for an even wider community to benefit from our projects,” said Bernard Fontannaz.

The new project will provide Origin Wine with a steady and diversified supply of Fairtrade wines, which is just what Origin Wine needs for their range extensions, not only into premium wines like the Fairtrade Unsung Hero, but also lower alcohol style wines such as Keep Light & Be Fair.

Not considering the already established successes through initiatives such as Fairtrade and Wieta with which Origin Wine has been associated for the past 10 years, and also being a founding member of Wieta, Origin Wine has agreed to undertake that its major suppliers and producers will obtain Wieta accreditation within two years.

Back on the home front Origin Wine has rolled out a social sustainability plan for its own employees that had seen the incorporation of an adult literacy programme through its Literacy Programme during the past two years.

“At Origin Wine we believe in creating and providing job opportunities for the people of South Africa. Taking this into consideration our bottling equipment are all only semi­automatic which creates more opportunities for various permanent and temporary employees.”

Within the local community, Origin Wine also assisted the Khayamandi Township and the primary school with the incorporation of a Grade R curriculum which included the construction of seven Grade R classrooms, a fully equipped kitchen and contracting trained personnel.

Together with Tesco UK, Origin also lends its support to the Pinotage Youth Development Academy. The Pinotage Youth Development Academy, based in the Cape Winelands, develops the capacity of young, disadvantaged South Africans to prepare them for employment within the wine industry and related sectors, such as hospitality and tourism.

“Both Origin Wine and our customer, Tesco, are actively involved in furthering the reach of the PYDA.” The Academy offers an integrated programme covering strong vocational skills, as well as the personal growth essential for success. It delivers practical employable skills, together with a mind-set and attitude to allow young people to seize or create economic opportunities. This holistic approach will bring positive transformation to the students, as well as to their families, communities, businesses and the country as a whole.

“We strive for a holistic approach in everything we do. For us it’s looking at empowering the total human chain. We do that through various efforts and financial assistance from as early as a baby’s birth to when people actually contribute to the wine industry. In this way we endeavour to change the human chain of empowerment. And hopefully we inspire people along the way to do the same.”

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