It must take a divine miracle, when a rehabilitated alcoholic has the fortitude and resolution to enter the wine industry and make an enormous success. Paul Du Toit of Wine Village told me his riveting story for the book of Hermanus Stories III. His strong Christian faith shines through his whole witness and tells of the reason for the achievement of a business like Wine Village in a most competitive industry taking a leading role in South African wine circles and among overseas wine specialists.
Paul du Toit was born in Salisbury (today Harare, Zimbabwe) in 1954, but he grew up in Zululand, now known as KwaZulu-Natal. His father worked on a large pineapple farm where Paul remembers his visits to the pineapple canning factory and often stood there watching the processes. His grandfather had a men’s outfitter in Bloemfontein, Free State, and when Paul was five, the family moved to Bloemfontein where his father took over the family business.
When Paul arrived in Hermanus he was jobless and Johannes (his son) attended Hermanus High School. Cathy (his wife) still worked in Worcester and she and Ursula (his daughter) came home for weekends. Paul and Johannes started Environ Garden Services with the latter helping after school. At that time some Christian businessmen were meeting for weekly prayer-sessions. It eventually became the Hermanus Transformation Association. One day, one of the men, Niel Warmenhoven, approached Paul with a plan to open a wine business. At that stage Paul was dry from alcohol for three years.
Wine Village Opened
The initial business plan was changed and evolved into a family business. In those early years Glynis van Rooyen helped Paul with some of the legwork. So Paul and Cathy started the Wine Village with the Warmenhovens agreeing to their plans. It took great courage and an iron will for a reformed alcoholic to open and run a wine business! But he did and the first two years were hard work, but slowly they convinced overseas buyers that they had the best and largest wine shop in the world trading in South African wines. At that stage they became involved in Cansa (the cancer association) and for two years all profits from the Hermanus Wine and Food Fair went to Cansa funding. Music shows, conferences, food and wine festivals have been part of their regular programme since April 2007.
Wineries in the Area
When Paul opened the Wine Village there were only six wine farms in the Walker Bay ward: Paul Cluver, Beaumont, Wildekrantz, Whale Haven, Hamilton Russel and Bouchard Finlayson. Nowadays there are 28 producers in the same area. The Hemel-en-Aarde Valley has the ideal climate and soil conditions for Pinot Noir and other grape varietal. There are 17 producers in the valley and the Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route has been in operation since 2007.
Most of the wine produced is oh super premium quality and is mostly sold overseas. Wine Village not only sells wine locally but also exports wine to 23 countries all over the world and sells wholesale to restaurants and wine shops around the country and overseas.
In world ratings, South Africa is ninth on the volume list but sixth on the sales list. Italy tops the list with France surprisingly coming only second. Some wine writers consider the Wine Village as the biggest wine library and the most prestigious showcase of South African wines. Six hundred wine producers are represented and stock of 400 of these is kept on a regular basis.
Article extracted from SJ du Toit – Whale Capital Chronicles III, Page 146.
Should you wish to use any of her stories please contact SJ du Toit directly.