Sev­enth heaven in US sales for Seven Sis­ters

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - GOODDRINKING - MYRNA ROBINS

BY THE end of this month more than 5 000 12-bot­tle cases of Seven Sis­ters wine will be on their way to the US to stock the shelves of 500 Wal­mart stores. That’s an achieve­ment many Cape cel­lars would love to em­u­late.

For African Roots Wine pres­i­dent and CEO Vi­vian Kleyn­hans, it rep­re­sents a sig­nif­i­cant achieve­ment and sweet suc­cess af­ter years of set­backs and chal­lenges.

The range con­sists of seven wines, each named af­ter Vi­vian’s six sis­ters while her name adorns the sauvi­gnon blanc. The oth­ers are Yolanda moscato, Odelia buket­traube, Twena rosé, June mer­lot, Carol caber­net sauvi­gnon and Dawn pino­tage/shi­raz.

The Bru­tus sis­ters (plus baby brother John) started life at Pater­nos­ter but were evicted from their home when their fa­ther lost his job with the fish­eries. The fam­ily had to break up to sur­vive, the chil­dren en­dur­ing years of hard­ship, which, rather than caus­ing de­spair, saw mid­dle sis­ter Vi­vian de­velop an en­tre­pre­neur­ial spirit.

Her de­ci­sion to en­ter the highly com­pet­i­tive wine world in the new South Africa was a brave one, but even fi­nan­cial sup­port from the SA Wine In­dus­try Trust was not enough. Real­is­ing the need for prac­ti­cal knowl­edge, Vi­vian en­rolled for a year’s course in wine man­age­ment and mar­ket­ing at the Univer- sity of Stel­len­bosch. In 2006 she joined forces with Swart­land Win­ery, a huge co-op with a sound rep­u­ta­tion for con­sis­tent qual­ity.

Cel­lar­mas­ter An­dries Blake de­vel­oped the Seven Sis­ters range with char­ac­ter­is­tic dili­gence, from sourc­ing grapes through wine­mak­ing and bot­tling etc.

Vi­vian, mean­while, ac­quired nine hectares of farm­land off the An­nan­dale road out­side Stel­lenPro­gramme.

To­day the Seven Sis­ters farm boasts a cel­lar, as yet unused, and there are plans for fu­ture coun­try din­ing and wine pair­ing.

Vis­i­tors can call and make a date to taste the range – and a tast­ing fee of R25 will be re­funded on pur­chase of wines.

Three hectares of chardon­nay and two of shi­raz are be­ing planted.

A chance meet­ing with an Amer­i­can wine buyer at the Soweto Wine fes­ti­val led to a break­through into the US in­dus­try. It was Vi­vian’s rosé that took buyer Se­lena Cuffe’s fancy, lead­ing to a con­tract with Amer­i­can Air­lines which listed Seven Sis­ters for more than two years in busi­ness and first class. Cuffe be­came Kleyn­hans’s agent and the ar­rival of Wal­mart on our shores led to their buy­ers or­der­ing for their North Amer­i­can stores.

Lo­cally only Makro is stock­ing a Seven Sis­ters wine, the June mer­lot for just un­der R50.

But African Roots is mov­ing ahead even while work­ing to pen­e­trate the lo­cal mar­ket.

Brother John Bru­tus is study­ing viti­cul­ture and oenol­ogy.

In Novem­ber Vi­vian Kleyn­hans will head to the US for an in­ten­sive fort­night of road­shows. Her Amer­i­can dream is be­ing re­alised even as the lo­cal one has yet to evolve. ● See www.sev­en­sis­ Call 071 049 4109 for a tast­ing.

SIB­LING CEL­E­BRA­TION: The seven Bru­tus sis­ters savour time at Pater­nos­ter.

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