Allister Kreft – wine barrels, family & friends
11 April 2015
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Brad Brown: Onto the next edition of Old Mutual Live, great things start here, great things start now and we’ve got another returning visitor onto the podcast today. We spoke to him a while ago about his business Under the Influence and they do some amazing things on the African continent, taking South African wine north and just really building the brand of South African wine. Allister Kreft, welcome back onto the podcast, nice to catch up once again.
Allister Kreft: Thanks so much Brad, great to be back.
BB: Allister, I wanted to chat wine in general with you today and just a little bit about your journey into it and how it all started. I know your dad’s a winemaker as well, Michael, tell us a little bit about your, I mean can you remember your first exposure and your first thoughts of wine?
My parents movement into wine pulled me along
AK: Ja, I think the major sort of influence, from a wine perspective, was when my parents decided to take the plunge. Later on in their careers and they bought a very small property in Elgin called Belfield, which is a really micro producer of wine.
I have vivid memories of, it was sort of when I was just leaving school, of being in the wine making process with my father, in fact I managed to create an utter disaster with a couple of barrels, but I did manage to flog it to my student mates and just building a small wine business, it’s something that takes a huge amount of work.
There’s obviously a lot of romance attached to having a wine farm, but I can tell you, the work and energy that goes into it is huge. That was the major influence for me and in fact, you know, I said to myself, judging by this, it’s probably not a good idea to get into the wine industry, but here I am.
BB: Fantastic and growing up, before your folks bought the farm, was wine always in the house? Was it something that was enjoyed at meals or was it just something that you used to drink at special occasions in the house?
AK: Ja, there’s a great photo of me, quite young, with a Christmas hat on, slightly askew, with a sherry glass full of red wine. We were allowed to partake with a sip of wine and it’s actually quite amusing to me because if you go to France, that’s exactly it. You’ll see the kids getting a small glass of red wine and some bread to dip it in from a very young age. I was always interested in it.
When I was at university I would make my famous spaghetti bolognaise for my housemates and then decant a bottle of Tussies for the whole day and serve it to them with much prompt and ceremony. It’s a product that comes from the land that’s intimately linked to the people that make it and I think that’s always resonated with me.
BB: I’m sure the tastes have evolved since those Tussie days.
BB: What are you enjoying now?
AK: The problem with wine drinking, I think is it’s this ladder where the rungs fall away below you as you climb. I enjoy a big range of wines, some of South Africa’s great, ja, there’s just too many to list. But when I just finished university and I was working and starting a business, I used to put all my spare cash into travel. I visited Bordeaux, I visited Italy, visited the south of France and managed to con my way into the first growths as a young wine negociant in Africa and it was just an amazing experience. It’s an incredible subject to study and follow.
Great to be able to work closely with my father
BB: Your dad and the farm, how are things going there? Are you involved at all on that front or you just enjoy him doing what he enjoys doing?
AK: I’m definitely involved. It’s sort of a passion project of mine. Obviously the wine that he makes, luckily for me is of a really, really good quality. We do distribute it into Africa and I’m also involved as, he calls it, an Instagram winemaker, so I’ll come in and help him and then take a few shots and put it on social media, just to claim that I can make wine, which I can’t really. I do help him out a lot on the marketing side.
My father is still in the days of fax and email with cap lock, so I hope him out with some of the Twitter and Facebook stuff. What’s great about it is, it’s a brand that’s very easy to talk about because it’s just a family that farms three small vineyards in Elgin and produces wine, made literally from berry to bottle in a very handcrafted manner. It’s very easy to talk about and it’s a fun brand to work with.
BB: You mentioned your first couple of barrels that you managed to make, that they were horrific, has your winemaking skills improved?
AK: Ja, Brad, just to quickly tell you that story. When you clean a barrel you typically burn a sulphur candle in the barrel, just to clean it out of any unwanted bacteria or the like and so after that you’re supposed to wash it out vigorously, but I unfortunately forgot to do that. So I poured the fermented wine into the barrel and I just saw this puff of yellow smoke come out and my father just shook his head and said, “that’s your barrel.”
I actually bottled that and my friends got that for their 21st gifts. I think I might have taken a few years off their lives, but ja, I think the winemaking skills have definitely improved, but to be honest, winemaking is a little bit overrated. It’s what happens in the vineyard that counts and you can be a caretaker of brilliant grapes and not try and imprint too much on them, that’s how you make great wine, in my opinion.
BB: Allister, I’ve loved chatting and just digging a bit deeper into your journey into wine. Best of luck on all your future endeavours, we look forward to catching up again soon here on Old Mutual Live and thank you so much for your time.
AK: Great stuff Brad, thank you.