Thursday, 4 March 2010

South African Tasting with Vernon Henn, Thandi Wines

We were absolutely delighted to welcome Vernon Henn from Thandi Wines, South Africa to Jersey yesterday.  Vernon is currently touring the UK and Europe showcasing his wines during Fairtrade Fortnight, and what a pleasure is was to welcome him to Dunell's.

You can read all about Thandi and Vernon's passion on their website

As well as talking to all of our staff members in the afternoon about the history of Thandi, black empowerment and Fairtrade, we thought we would fully utilise his visit by holding a customer tasting in the evening.  As a 'soft launch' to our new Corks Crew Wine Club, customers were invited to join us for a tasting of his wines and listen to a short talk.  We also had a number of other South African wines available to taste.  We were delighted with the number who attended as well as everyone's enthusiasm for when the Corks Crew Wine Club is officially launched at the end of March. 

Vernon is a truly inspirational man and his talk was extremely thought provoking. Everyone went away certainly knowing a lot more about what Fairtrade means and what Thandi Wines means to the families that work the farms.  Vernon is extremely proud of what Thandi has achieved so far (they export around 97% of the wines made and there are 10 different wines in the range) but one of their main focus areas is the children.  There are over 200 children within the families that work for Thandi and many of them, when they arrive on the farms can not read or write due to poverty.  Thandi therefore supports the children (as they are their future) by educating them, paying for school uniforms, stationary etc.  He was explaining that one of the 'older children' is currently in her second year at university studying to become a nurse but it is hoped that she will go on to become a doctor and then open her own medical centre on the farm.  Thandi pays for all of this.  They are also hoping to have a black wine maker soon. 

Obviously Vernon has come across stigma and negativity from many that 'blacks can not make good wine' but judging on the quality from Thandi, they certainly can.  We currently only have access to four of his wines (Sauvignon (£6.65), Sauvignon/Semillon (£5.95), Cabernet/Merlot (£5.95) & Cabernet/Shiraz (£5.95)) but they all drank superbly well.  What I particularly liked was that the straight Sauvignon and the Sauvignon/Semillon was very fresh and approachable with gorgeous limey fruit, so unlike some of the South African Sauvignons currently available that are very green, grassy and sometimes sharp.  These are highly drinkable wines, perfect for seafood and chicken dishes and I will certainly be adding some to our rack at home.  Both reds offered concentrated red and black fruits, velvety tannins and a long lingering finish - drinkability is the word!  A rosé and a straight merlot will be made this year so we hope to access these in the future.  Vernon proudly explained that we are unable to get hold of any of his Chardonnay for example as the quantities are small and demand is very high due to winning a GOLD MEDAL at the International Wine Challenge.  Thandi is heading towards a great future!

We also tasted through 8 other South African wines, wines the Dunell's team particularly love and these also showed very well.  Favourites on the night were the Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2007, Hartenberg Weisser Riesling 2007, Rustenberg John X Merriman 2006, Bouchard Finlayson 'Galpin Peak' Pinot Noir 2008 (in-store only) and Kaapzicht Pinotage 2007 (in-store only).

A very successful evening and we sincerely thank all who attended but special thanks to Vernon who has taught us so much.  I will certainly be seeking out certified Fairtrade products next time I go to the supermarket and I will definitely be requesting some Thandi wines for our rack at home!

I will be adding the Thandi wines to the website shortly but they are available in-store.


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