FMountain Vineyard produces new wine range
It seems like mountain kingdom is yet to enjoy a good ride again in agriculture. With the escalating number of agro-processing firms in Lesotho, Sani Mountain Vineyard was not disinclined to join the movement with their new baby, another “bundle of joy” in the form of the new Machache Pinotage and Chenin Blanc wine range.
The new wine series join the signature Sani Wine from the Thamae family estate at Ha-Ntsi in the Machache area of Nazareth. Sani Wine was pre-founded in 1987 by Mr. Phatela Thamae and his family. By then, the farm was producing crops until 1998 after the introduction of a social forestry project.
The project was offered by the Government of Lesotho through the Ministry of Agriculture and Food Security. It was on this project that people were offered training for horticulture, nursery and fruit tree production. This initiative therefore triggered the passion of Mr. Thamae to scoop the opportunity and switch to a grape orchard.
Later in the year 2000, the owner was blessed with a surprise visit by some passing-by tourists. What was blooming at this orchard was bright enough to capture the attention of Holland-based couple, Mr. Erick Verhaak and Mrs. Mariette Ras, who were on holidays in Lesotho that time.
During their visit to the farm, the Dutch couple said they could help Sani Vineyard with experimenting on wine making with grapes from the farm. They even offered to provide the farm with table grape type trees.
Eight years later, 400 trees that were brought by the good Samaritans yielded about 200 kilograms of the chenin-blanc grape. The produce was then taken to experiment on possibility of producing world marketable wine. From this very first test, 50 bottles were successfully produced from grapes grown in Lesotho. Seeing bottled wine produced with locally produced grapes from his farm was one of the priceless moments for Mr. Thamae and his family. He is assisted by his grown-up sons to run the project.
“After realizing that massive potential, we had to increase our production and planted 2600 more grape trees. Here, half was white grape type, chenin-blanc and, half was red grape type, pinotage. From that investment, we managed to produce 800-1300 bottles of wine.
“It also here where the other brand of wine, Machache wine was introduced. This brand was replicated from Sani Wine, but with different alcohol levels. It is produced with grape that has too much sugar levels. This wine is mainly supplied to individuals who prefer high alcohol content,” said Mr Thamae, laughing.
“Our two brands of wine is sold on the shelves of Pick ‘N Pay, Mmelesi Off-sales and Sefalana Off-sales. Morena’ka, this is where we realized that we can make a wealthy living with this” said Kananelo Thamae, one of the sons.
The natural calamities, however seem to become a big constraint to progress of the vineyard. It is a norm that in the southern hemisphere that grapes ripen in March, during which season the country receives maximum rains. However, incessant rains lower sugar levels to extreme levels, and so do production level go down. Production levels are also lowered down by hailstorms which sheds down matured grapes.
The vineyard like other economic entities in Lesotho, is a victim of lack of development such as inadequate infrastructure and the unavailability of reliable electricity supplies at the farm hinders proper running of the winery.
Facilities like equipment and air-conditioners are operated or run with electricity power, so its unavailability at the farm makes the whole wine making process very expensive. Also because the wine production requires lot of water, the scarcity of water is also a major constraint as according to the producers, one bottle of wine requires eight litres of water.
As means of mitigating these challenges, the Lesotho based vineyard is at the verge of constructing safety nets which will protect vines from hailstorms and other adverse weather conditions. For an adequate supply of water, there is a plan to construct a borehole at the farm. The farm owners have also embarked on a crowd funding campaign. The money received from this platform will be used to construct a large scale wine making plan. Additional basic equipment will also be bought.
Mr. Thamae is adamant that there is a great potential for the growth of vineyards in Lesotho. He is confident that this industry could grow and be a positive punch to rising numbers of unemployment and a bad performing economy. He also begged strongly on the government to improve tourism sector. He has a strong belief the industry can work hand-in-hand with agriculture to boost the economy of the Mountain Kingdom.