The Land of Hope Trust is a fine South African story.
The name of the Trust – and the ‘Land of Hope’ labels on the wines – evoke the idea perfectly. In the ups and downs of life, hope stirs dreams and optimism.
The LOH trustees know their duty: to equip the next generation with the skills and confidence to promote entrepreneurial vim, a sense of adventure and optimistic self-reliance.
The LOH Trust is not a big corporate, attention-seeking, one-off stitch-up to claim empowerment-worthiness or preferential procurement processes and proceeds.
It is an ‘organic’ enterprise by a small, cohesive band of workers driving their own Land of Hope wine venture with organised conviction, galvanized by their experience and knowhow at the Radford Dale, the infrastructural ‘mothership’ of this symbiotic, mutually reinforcing arrangement that enables tangible gain-sharing.
The beneficiaries wear two hats in their fields of expertise, in vineyard management, wine-making, packaging, distribution, marketing, for the Land of Hope Trust and Radford Dale.
The romance of wine needs constant buttressing by a thousand unglamorous details of science, business drudgery, bureaucratic obstructionism - small missteps can be calamitous: the LOH Trust turns the drudgery – sometimes best leavened by wine itself – into challenging fun and financial reward.
The Trust has grown for a decade now, from just two wines to seven: Reserve quality Chenin Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Noir and, in the next tier, Chenin, Chardonnay, Cabernet and Syrah. I am not in the least biased, of course. They are all beautiful. And expertly made; French wine-making gurus, and avant-garde South African vignerons are ever-present.
In the ‘real world’ of unsentimental international markets – rising quality and abundance bordering on glut - it’s a singular achievement for LOH wines to gain, and hold, a listing in the UK’s up-market Marks and Spencer. M&S is LOH’s biggest export buyer. The Netherlands, Poland and Canada are also in the mix.
These are unsentimental clients. They may be scrupulous in sourcing from ‘environmentally safe’ and ‘socially clean’ producers, but they don’t indulge nebulous notions of political correctness. The wines stand on their own.
Frogitt and Vonkel sell Land of Hope nationally as do various restaurants. Of interest personally – a feather in the LOH cap - is the Food Barn in Noordhoek; Franck Dangereux presides over a fabulously imaginative menu and selects wines rigorously. Franck established the now booked-out-of-reach gastronomic Cape destination, La Colombe.
From a few hundred cases at inception, production today is 6333 cases (12 x 750ml) and the profits from those sales have grown the educational spend from an annual modest R15,883 to a projected R612,994 in 2018.
For the kids, this makes vital, broadening, private tuition possible. As it says on their back labels, they ‘could only have dreamed about [these] when we were young.’ There we go: dreaming.
Seventeen juniors are on the beneficiary list and ‘LOH alumni’ have been launched on diverse careers – beauticians to fashion designers … and now, in 2018, perhaps even a soccer star. The trustees quickly, unanimously, okayed a request from Zuko Mdunyelwa, already selected for Western Province’s under 18 team, to fund (completely) his invite to the Dallas Cup in the United States, attended by numerous college scouts. Fingers crossed.
It’s one of my privileges to read school reports of Trust beneficiaries. One expects no less but it is warming nonetheless to see such convincing evidence these children come from homes of good old fashioned ethics of hard work and diligence. Contemporary South Africa has shown all too emphatically that life is no free lunch – except for the politically connected.
In the cacophonous noise on land and restitution, righting old iniquities, the perils of a culture of entitlement, etc., etc., one constant persists: of all ‘tools’ to create a fairer, more equal opportunity society, the most potent – but slowest and ultimately least patronising – is education, education….
The LOH mantra.