10 Jul Our Fairview Firsts
At Fairview, we have a proud history of ‘firsts’. Charles Back, the owner of Fairview, is one of the great entrepreneurs and innovators of the wine world – an individual who likes nothing more than swimming against the stream. He joined his father Cyril at the Fairview Wine Company in 1978, and from the start did things differently, introducing Mediterranean grapes such as Tempranillo and Sangiovese to the Cape. In 1997, we were the first vineyard to plant Viognier, and later, in the last decade, Petite Sirah. These mother blocks have been lovingly nurtured over the years, resulting in wines of incredible structure and character.
Charles also began the cheese making factory at Fairview, giving the cheesery the title of first goat’s milk cheesery in South Africa as well as the first carbon neutral factory in SA. “It was actually my father’s idea to get me involved in cheese making before doing the wine every day. My training was a French book, badly translated, on how to make goats cheese. I’ll never forget that there was a chapter on all that could go wrong and my cheeses ticked every box. They were appalling.” He persevered, even though the South African market initially expressed no interest in eating goats cheese, and he finally knew he’d hit on something when a group of visiting Frenchmen raved about his crottin. Since then, Fairview cheeses have grown from a single-room cottage industry to a market leader. It comes as no surprise that this is why the goat has been very prominent in our branding – it’s our mascot.
So much so that if you’ve ever come to our farm, there’s no way you could have missed the now famous Goat Tower, the home of two resident goats. While in Portugal on a family holiday, Back came across a goat tower and was so enamoured with it that he sketched it on the back of a serviette to take back home and build. “My father thought I was mad but at the time I was looking for something to tie our brand together, something iconic.” It’s a playful, whimsical touch, added by Charles 30 years ago. In December 2016, the Goat Tower expanded a little, with the addition of a Goat Paddock and Africa’s first goat skywalk, attracting thousands of visitors over the summer.
Another infamous ‘goat tale’ is that of our wine brand, Goats Do Roam. In 1999, owner Charles took inspiration from our goats to produce a new range of wines, called Goats Do Roam. The result was South Africa’s first so-called ‘critter label’, a separate company from Fairview. The pun on Côtes du Rhône caused such interest and controversy, that the brand became a huge success on export markets, becoming one of the highest selling South African brands worldwide. The controversy came from the force of the protectionist French Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée when they moved to prohibit the registration of the Goats Do Roam wine label. The French attempted to block the registration of the Goats Do Roam label but Back only responded with more humour, organising a ‘protest march’ with his workers to the French Consulate in Cape Town to deliver a magnum of Goats Do Roam. Everyone walked away smiling.
Today, Charles continue to busy himself with his team, focusing on offsetting and reducing the farm’s footprint by adopting a farm to fork philosophy. “We might be a big wine company but we’re still very much a family business with family values,” he concludes.