The story started when a winemaker started looking for a consistent supply of high quality grapes. He knew of a farm outside Stanford and went to see if the owner would oblige and ‘can I buy my grapes from you?’ ended up in a partnership.
The winemaker, Bartho Eksteen, had known Gerrie Heyneke, a veteran of the advertising industry, for ages – since he hand-bottled his first Bordeau blend in a corrugated iron structure in Hermanus’ industrial area – and turned to him for a label for the new wines. Gerrie answered, “I development brands, not labels.”
There had never been any doubt that the cellar would be in Hermanus because they would never get people in any numbers for wine tastings to the farm 46km away. The cellar’s name came to Gerrie in 10 seconds and he got on the line to Werksmans Attorneys to see if it could be registered.
And so Hermanuspietersfontein – the original name for the town of Hermanus (abbreviated later by the postmaster because it was too long) – became the cellar and brand name. “This defined the brand’s origins and providence,” says Gerrie. He shared this with Johan Pretorius, the owner of the farm and cellar to be, who was sitting on a plane waiting for take-off for Italy. “I can’t talk now, I have to turn my phone off,” was Johan’s reply… and Gerrie had to wait a pregnant 12 hours before he got his response.
At the first meeting for a detailed brief, Gerrie asked two questions:
- Are ego’s at play here?
- Is this essentially a real estate deal?
The discussion highlighted that this was essentially a family concern, something which has been borne out in the development of the brand. Gerrie asked himself, “How would things have been done in the old days?” and the wines have been given characters appropriate to members of a family. There’s Die Arnoldus, Die Martha, Die Bartho, Kleinboet, Swartskaap, Skoonma and Bloos, for example. And there’s Postmeester, a Sondagskloof red blend, in honour of the man who shortened the name to Hermanus.
Each has a story to tell and each has a characteristic of its own. Like a family, each has a personality. Kleinboet, for example, is mischievous, daring, out there and even volunteered to be mayor of the town. Bloos, a tall, shy lady with long legs… a charmer everybody falls in love with – male and female. Die Arnoldus “is die baas van die plaas” and when it comes to Die Martha, what is “’n huis sonder ‘n moeder?”
Is was Mariette Pretorius who asked the question why all the wines have men’s names and when Gerrie came up with Die Martha, she revealed that her second name was Martha! Is that serendipity?
The spokesperson for the brand is a sheep which has no name but is just known as Skapie. It’s chirpy, quirky and bilingual. But Hermanuspietersfontein – the 19th winery in Hemel-en-Aarde – sets itself apart as the only wine where labels and packaging (by Anthony Lane) are completely in Afrikaans.
This brand is a big family that believes in enjoyment. While they make serious wines, they don’t take themselves too seriously. “We’re never boring or inaccessible. We want to conjure up a smile and crawl into people’s hearts. It’s all about self-esteem,” says Gerrie.
The farm always comes first. It is a “spogplaas” and was the first Biodiversity Wine Institute gold champion in the Walker Bay area. (They have cottages – a great getaway.)
There is a very popular Saturday market at the winery – harking back to the notion of the town’s meeting place where everybody gets together, and emphasises the community orientation.
So now… isn’t it time you got to know the family?