Freelance Guild member Alison Lea, who made her annual pilgrimage back to Britain from her home in South Africa to coincide with the Harvest Lunch, is helping promote a new online wine venture.
WineConnected – a personal winemaking experience – is only signing up members in South Africa at present but plans to expand further afield within a year, possibly to the UK.
Members get to select a vineyard, ‘adopt’ vines from four single varieties or a blend, or sparkling wine made to true champagne method standards, and then follow the progress of their vintage via an app that sends them weekly reports, photos and videos from their viticulturist and the winemaker, including some of the best in South Africa.
They can also attend events in the vineyards and cellar, can help with the harvest, and get to design their wine ‘packaging’, including their own label. At the end of oak barrel maturation, they receive 300 bottles of their own wine.
“The concept has been developed by a local farmer and entrepreneur who re-located from Zimbabwe a few years ago when his farm was appropriated,” says Ali. “I helped write information and take pictures for the website, leaflets, invitations, and so on. Now that WineConnected is off the ground, my main role is to produce the weekly video clips, which I love as I spend time in the vineyards and cellars.
“I’m learning a lot about wine production,” she adds. “I’m also meeting some wonderful characters and visiting some beautiful places in the little known Walker Bay area of the Western Cape, which I highly recommended for a visit!”
Guild members can book Ali’s twin-bed guest cottage, set in beautiful gardens at their home in Elgin Valley, for £35 each per night on a bed and breakfast basis.
“We’ll split any profit from Guild member bookings between the Charitable Trust and the Elgin Learning Foundation, which helps train local farmworkers. To see the cottage, visit Ali’s website.
Fellow Guild member and marketing communications specialist Jane Craigie visited last year and suggested a number of names for the venture, including the one that was finally chosen!
“Other members and friends have also played a role in getting this venture off the ground, and I benefited enormously from a training day with Green Shoots last time I was back in the UK,” says Ali. “In just one day, Susie Emmett and her colleague Patrick turned me from video virgin to someone with the competence to shoot and edit the short video clips that I now post on the WineConnected site each week.”