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Famous SA wine family sells farm to US investment firm

The Stellenbosch estate of award winning winemaker and ‘First Lady’ of South African wine, Norma Ratcliffe, has been sold to overseas buyers.

by: Katy Rose | 03 May 2018
warwick wine farm sold

Image source: Warwick Wines

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The Stellenbosch estate of award winning winemaker and ‘First Lady’ of South African wine, Norma Ratcliffe and family, has been sold to San Francisco investment fund, Eileses Capital. This was announced by Winemag on 2 May. 

The Warwick Bouquet
The Ratcliffes have been growing some of South Africa’s finest bordeaux varietals on the estate since 1964, and is currently headed up by 2nd generation Michael Ratcliffe. Warwick is well loved in South Africa, and well respected abroad, for their bold Stellenbosch reds led by robust expressions of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. 

In recent years, the wine catalogue has expanded to include a range of lighter, every day white wines and other summer favourites, such as the First Lady Rosé. Warwick’s flagship, and award winning wine, The Trilogy is a classic example of Stellenbosch’s great Bordeaux style red wines.

More about Eileses Capital
The San Francisco investment firm is headed by Kishore Bopardikar and Charles Marston. Their current investment portfolio consists of mostly medical, tech and cloud computing startups with a sprinkling of food industry businesses, which suggests that Eileses Capital may also be interested in some of the finer perks of doing business in the Western Cape.

Mr Marston, MD at Eileses, recently commented, “we have been visiting South Africa since 2002 and see the potential and opportunity here. We want to build upon this initial acquisition, ensuring our access to the best fruit and production capacity.” He continued,  “the region’s wine making history is centuries old. We invest here to harvest this raw potential: to make wines that will demand a much-deserved place at the world’s tables.”

The industry reacts 

Wine industry sources seemed surprised, yet cautiously optimistic, about the sudden announcement. Award-winning sommelier and winemaker at Mosi Wines, Joseph Dhafana, has a close working relationship with the Warwick brand, having represented Team Zimbabwe at The World Wine Tasting Championship in Burgundy in 2017 under the Warwick sponsorship.

Joseph told Food24, “a considerable number of Stellenbosch wine estates are on the market at the moment, and while this news comes as a shock, I am certainly not surprised to hear of the sale of Warwick.”

Joseph explains that factors such as the Western Cape drought, low yields and increasing costs have placed a heavy burden on our wine farmers, who are now actively seeking cash injections from investors abroad. 

#Repost @thevintnerproject • • • Meet Joseph T Dhafana – Refugee turned winemaker and proud owner of @mosi_wines in South Africa. Joseph, a 35 year old native of Zimbabwe, entered South Africa illegally with his wife in December 2009. With some help from family and a bit of luck, he made his way the Western Cape where took a job as a bartender. Prior to the job, Joseph had no exposure to wine but it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with it. After some time in Western Cape he moved to Cape Town to pursue his passion for wine. He studied at Cape Wine Academy, completed WSET L3, took a role as Sommelier at a local restaurant and eventually created his own wine label. Mosi Wines is a culmination of hard work and grit. The name is short for Mosi oa-tunya, the village in Zimbabwe where Joseph grew up. His current release includes 2015 Flavian Syrah which is a tribute to his father who passed away in 2004. To learn more about Joseph, please follow him @wine_poet and chat with him below! More details on his story and winemaking philosophy will be available on our site soon! ... ??Know your winemaker, know your wine?? ... ?? || @wine_poet

A post shared by Mosi Wines (@mosi_wines) on

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Regarding the winemaking, Joseph says the following, “hopefully this deal won’t impact our local identity as winemakers. We have been working hard to move away from American influences in our viticulture - away from high alcohol, big flabby wines with overbearing spiciness. Hopefully, Warwick will continue to allow their wines to express the fruit and terroir of Stellenbosch.”

As for the Ratcliffe’s contribution, Dhafana had only the highest praise for Mike, Managing Director of the Brand. “He is a world class wine marketer. He has helped us put South African wine on the map in a big way. Mike is an icon, and I hope to see his continued involvement with the (SA wine) industry.”

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Read more on: wine  |  stellenbosch  |  food news

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