Nature and Community meet at Bosman Family Vineyards
21 August 2012 by Bosman Family Vineyards
Bosman Family Vineyards has roots in South African wine heritage that
recede eight generations. As the custodian of a rich history, the owners
of the renowned farm in Wellington works daily at growing the
enterprise in ways that respect the land and all the people who have
The path of respect for what came before has stood Bosman Family Vineyards in good stead since its earliest days. Its diversified interests have seen the company rise as one of the most successful vine nurseries in the Southern Hemisphere and producer of exceptional wines from amongst others one of the oldest vineyards in South Africa.
Along the way, it has seen the birth of numerous significant initiatives. A model empowerment initiative that offers equity as reward was established to acknowledge the long-standing relationship with workers on the farm. In 2009, Bosman Family Vineyards obtained Fairtrade accreditation, which recognised its social and environmentally responsible efforts and placed it among the most successful quality driven family-owned Fairtrade producers in South Africa.
“The objective is to become the leading ethical, family-owned wine producer in the country,” says Bosman Family Vineyards MD Petrus Bosman, adding quickly however that the vision has no beginning or end. “With most of the people who work here, living here too, we see ourselves as community builders rather than mere farmers. Our vision doesn’t have a beginning or end, but rather a golden thread that draws us together in building a better life for all through ownership, self-respect and responsibility.”
HISTORY IN THE MAKING
The Bosman Family Vineyards story begins in 1699, when the land that is now its home – called Lelienfontein - was first granted to French Huguenot, Philipe de Royan from Normandy in France, by the then Cape Governor Willem Adriaan van der Stel. The family’s first ancestor to settle in South Africa was Hermanus Bosman. Records from 1707 show he was a sieketrooster (caregiver) who worked in the community of Drakenstein and whose descendants were later involved at De Oude Plantasie, today the site of the Grande Roche Hotel and its famous Bosman's Restaurant.
Petrus Wilhelmus Jacobus (Pieter) Bosman was the first relative to farm Lelienfontein. His life in Wellington began as all great stories do – with love. He’d come from the north to buy back the family farm, at the time in Stellenbosch. On the trip he encountered one "Lang Kootjie" (long bunk) Malan, so-called because of his height, who happened to be the owner of Lelienfontein. Bosman mentioned his plans, but was convinced by Malan that a property neighbouring his was a better deal – after all, he declared, the soil is far superior in Wellington. Bosman conceded and settled on the farm. It wasn’t long after that he was introduced to Malan’s daughter, Sophy, and soon enough the two were married. In the absence of sons interested in farming, Bosman later bought Lelienfontein from Malan and the rest is history.
Some years on, it was another chance encounter in the late 1800s that sparked the establishment of Lelienfontein Vine Growers – today the oldest and one of the country’s most successful enterprises of its kind.
The story goes that Bosman’s knack for producing strong, disease-resistant and productive vine plants spread rapidly after he gave a passing farmer a few specimens. Today, the enterprise is a major supplier to producers of some of South Africa’s most renowned wines.
FROM VINE TO WINE
Utilising the latest technologies and innovation at sites in Wellington, Hemel-en-Aarde Valley and the Karoo, Lelienfontein Vine Growers cultivates vines of the highest standard with minimal risk of infections and viruses. It is actively involved in research and development through representation, for example on the Plant Improvement Board of South Africa, the agricultural organisation supremely responsible for ensuring the highest quality of local vineyards.
It is through Lelienfontein Vine Growers that Bosman Family Vineyards has established the most enviable of situations for a winemaker - a veritable library of almost 50 different grape varieties that are at its disposal. The privilege is one enjoyed by only very few wineries anywhere in the world today and makes Bosman Family Vineyards custodians of their wines from their very roots. It is also the essence for the enterprise’s slogan: ‘From Vine to Wine’.
A FAMILY OF WINES THAT INSPIRE AND INTRIGUE
Only the best grapes are hand-picked from 300ha of vineyards for crafting the wines across its ranges.
The wines are made in the 250-year-old cellar that was restored in 2006. The project retained the authenticity of the old buildings, incorporating elements such as the original, thick walls and broad wooden roof structures, and installed modern winemaking equipment. The result has been a winery that produces outstanding wines in environmentally and socially responsible ways that have been a hallmark of Bosman Family Vineyards since its very beginning.
“The farm has a wholesome approach to people and nature which speaks to the soul,” says winemaker Corlea Fourie, who joined Bosman Family Vineyards during the cellar restoration. She applies this tack to her profession too. “We want to make authentic wines that are not too clinical and that demonstrate passion. They should show where they come from otherwise, why are we putting in all the effort?” The palette at her disposal is vast and constantly evolving. One of the ranges for example, is a key driver of innovation.
“Loads of winemakers are confronted with making blends for the sake of blends, but with our Adama range of wines there are no confining structures in production; it makes it so much easier,” says Fourie. “It offers fantastic leverage for a winemaker to have such a place. There are no rigid rules. Every year, if there isn’t something out of the ordinary going on in the cellar then there’s something wrong!” she adds.
Although most of the farm’s wines are widely available, some are reserved for members of the Bosman Family Wine Club, an initiative of Petrus' wife, Carla Bosman. Some wines are exclusively made for the Club too. The members, who are spread throughout the country, have access to the farm’s latest wine releases and news, as well as personalised advice and free wine delivery.
“Wine shelves in supermarkets can be daunting when you want to pick something special and just right,” says Club manager Carla Bosman. “We remove the uncertainty for our members, many of whom have become very much like an extension of my own family. “Members of the Club are guaranteed to always have a good wine on their table and something to talk about,” she says.
One of the true testaments to its commitment is the farm’s preservation of a rare vineyard. Planted in 1952, the block of Chenin Blanc bush vine is one of the oldest in the Cape Winelands. To this day it produces grapes for the sublime Bosman Optenhorst Chenin Blanc, voted the best white wine from the Wellington region and one of the Top 100 wines of South Africa (2012 and 2011).
THE RISE OF AN ETHICAL, COMMUNITY-BASED ENTERPRISE
This commitment to heritage and sustainability extends further. The contributions of individuals and families who have embraced their custodial responsibilities in working and protecting the land for future generations are recognised through a variety of initiatives. Most notable is that during 2008 in one of the biggest land reform transactions of its kind in the Western Cape, 260 of the farm’s workers became shareholders in the enterprise.
In addition, the farm has seen the establishment of a day care centre for the children of parents working on the farm; a karate club that has seen members progress in skill to provincial level; a music school; a youth group for the education and training of life skills; a neighbourhood watch that has been responsible for a significant drop in crime in the district; a women’s club that promotes skills development; a home for retired staff members; a library; and, a sports club.
Most of the farm workers reside on the farm and have access to a range of facilities including transport, medical care, monthly sessions of education and training, as well as bursaries for learners with potential who desire to acquire tertiary education.
The farm’s investment in social welfare also extends to the environment. Initiatives such as the planting of the indigenous Spekboom (Portulacaria afra) - among the highest carbon sequestrating plants on the planet - along with environmentally-friendly farming practices have contributed to its recognition within the respected Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI).
Along with this significant status, Bosman Family Vineyards is accredited with the global Fairtrade organisation, which means that it is subjected to annual audits. External assessors rate the farm according to progressive criteria, ensuring its operations are conducted in an economically sustainable and environmentally and socially responsible manner.
In many ways, the activities at Bosman Family Vineyards today precisely reflect the care-giving and community spirit of that earliest of Bosman ancestors. It is a spirit that drives its vision daily and into the future.
To learn more about Bosman Family Vineyards, visit , call (021) 873 3170 or send email to www.bosmanwines.com . Wine tastings are welcomed by appointment only.
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