We chat with a cellar each month about their business, what makes them lie awake at night and what gives them hope. “Get the basics right, walk the extra mile, stay informed and stand together,” says André Landman, manager and winemaker at Die Mas Cellar in Kakamas, where they do everything imaginable with grapes and vines!
1. Tell us more about Die Mas?
The Mas of Kakamas is located about 2 km outside Kakamas on the banks of the Orange River. We celebrated our 50th anniversary in 2020. Vlok Hanekom Snr started working as a teacher in Kakamas and in 1970 bought his first piece of land. From there, the farm grew systematically. The wine cellar was started in 2006 where the first brandy was distilled in 2010.
We plan on harvesting about 250 tons at Die Mas during the 2022 harvest season, of which about 70% goes to brandy production. We also supply about 1 100 tons of grapes to Orange River Wines in Kakamas.
With our wines we really want to serve every person with something. Our prices are fair and we have something for everyone. You can choose from a fresh rosé, white wine, red wine, sweet wine, brandy or gin. Quality and price go hand in hand, but you do not always want to pay an arm and a leg for it. Each brand is unique in its own right, but I do think that the time, effort and love we put into our products speak for itself. The appeal we create with our products goes hand in hand with our motto “Perfect Kalahari Togetherness”.
We currently sell 100% of our production locally, mainly at about 50 stores in the Western Cape, but also here in our area and through a number of online sales. We are in the process of finding outlets for our spirits products in Gauteng.
We are fortunate to be fairly diversified. In addition to the wine grapes and cellar, we also farm with table and raisin grapes that generate income. We have a restaurant at the cellar, as well as a campsite, apartments and chalets that provide accommodation. Our lapa next to the river is also a great place for the youngsters to hang out in December during the packing season.
I also think what makes us special is the fact that we are probably one of the few farms in South Africa that does everything with grapes you can imagine – from table grapes and raisins to wine grapes, winemaking, brandy distilling. Literally everything you can do with a grape, we do. Grandma Welna also makes jam and chutney from the grapes. And if the vines get too old, we make braai wood – the perfect cycle!
The Mas has 25 permanent employees, five of us whom work in the cellar. We also have about 180 temporary workers. The table grapes and raisins remain labour-intensive crops.
2. The past almost two years have certainly been the most challenging yet for the SA wine industry. What do you believe has been your saving grace during this time, and what lessons did you learn?
The last 18 months have certainly been the most challenging time in our industry thus far. Especially for the smaller guys and those who do not export. Perseverance and patience are probably the most important qualities you need to have. It was not easy. The lockdown and riots made everything difficult. We could not sell our products and later it became just as difficult to obtain dry stock. But, farmers are always innovative. The fact that we are diversified has also helped a lot.
I think we have learned to be more innovative and to not give up. We made good use of the time to refine things throughout our business. We’ve also learned that teamwork, standing together, support and faith can pull you through the deepest valley. If you and your people realise and really start believing this, you can move mountains
3. What makes your region special in terms of tourism, as well as the terroir and wine styles from this region?
Kakamas and the Northern Cape are completely different from the Western Cape – it’s a different kind of beautiful. And the people are an integral part of it. We’re people-people. There’s nothing like rural hospitality.
We are obviously a warm area and have good soils, which helps us to obtain good production levels. And our quality is second to none. We improve year on year. We get fantastic fruit on our wines.
Kakamas is also well located as a stopover for people who travel, especially to the Kalahari. There is plenty to do and see here, including the Augrabies Falls and Riemvasmaak’s hot springs.
4. Any exciting plans under way?
We are constantly adapting and innovating. We have just released three new brandies and I am in the process of formulating new gins. Then we are also working on increasing our overall footprint through a distribution network and possibly also exports.
Our focus remains on the fact that if you walk in here, or want to order something from us, you will definitely get something that you like and can afford. We believe in the saying “know your people to serve your people”. Whether you are a brandy girl, gin man or wine “tannie”, we have something for you.
5. What is your message to other wine-related businesses about the road ahead?
Keep holding on. These past few months have not been great. But there is light at the end of the tunnel. We are a nation that doesn’t give up. Do the basics right, walk the extra mile, stay informed and stand together. I believe that if everyone helps and supports each other we will come out on top.