Midlands wine growers join forces

2008-01-23 00:00

ANYONE who has taken a drive on the Midlands Meander on the road towards Lidgetton over the past few weeks will have seen how impressive the vineyard at Piggly Wiggly is looking. Owner Rudi Kassier says he should be able to make a bit of wine this year if the weather, the birds and the monkeys don’t conspire to put a spanner in the works.

This will make him the fourth farmer in the midlands to produce wine from locally grown grapes.

The others are Martin Hill at Bracken farm at Greytown, who is no longer trying to make wine and has leased his vineyard to Judy and Tiny van Niekerk of The Stables at Nottingham Road to bolster their wine-making project as they wait for their own young vines to mature, and Ian and Jane Smorthwaite at Lion’s River, who made their first wine last year.

It’s been a long, hard — and expensive — road for these and the other midlands wine-growing pioneers.

Vines need to be three to five years old before they produce grapes of good enough quality to make wine, and the growers have all been feeling their way through the vagaries of climate, soil type and suitable cultivars — after all, what works in the vineyards of the Cape doesn’t necessarily work in KwaZulu-Natal.

“We’ve now reached the stage where an association is not only viable, but essential,” said Smorthwaite at the inaugural meeting of the KZN Midlands Wine Growers’ Association held in Lion’s River recently.

“At this stage, the association is a non-profit support group, the primary purpose of which is to advance the wine and grape-growing industry of the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. Our members are a diverse group of wine growers, businesses and individuals who share a common vision — promoting the midlands wine industry.”

“We can’t have a viable wine route without wine farms,” said Peter Weis, who with his partner Sarah Allan has planted Shiraz on a property on the Currys Post road.

“We must have quality and to achieve this we have got to help each other. Once there are more of us making wine, we’ll be able to send tourists to other members’ farms.”

The members plan to meet once a month during the growing season. Anyone interested in joining the association can contact Smorthwaite at 033 234 4335.

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