By Christopher Waters, QMI Agency
Charles Back's farm in South Africa is a hotbed of wine, cheese and tourism that presents the best of the country's emerging culinary scene to tourists visiting nearby Cape Town.
Nearly 250,000 guests descend on Fairview, the estate his grandfather purchased in 1937, to enjoy the goat cheese, wine and hospitality of the setting.
Outside of his native land, Back travels the world to promote his wines, notably the Goats do Roam label, which is the best-selling South African wine in the United States and Sweden.
"That's not a big deal," Back says light-heartedly. "There's not a lot of South African wine sold in the United States."
It is, however, a big enough deal to have landed the unassuming entrepreneur with a suitably grand nickname.
"They refer to me as the Goatfather," he says.
Back's business savvy was developed during the years of apartheid, when global trade embargoes against South Africa saw its industries stall. He toured other wine regions, looking to see how they were doing things.
"I travelled to New Zealand, Australia and California to see what was going on," he says. "I considered starting somewhere else, but I wanted to be part of the solution, not part of the problem for my country."
Back returned with a plan. He knew he wanted to control his production by farming all of the grapes he used. He also set about acquiring vineyards in various regions of South Africa to cultivate different grapes in the places where they will grow the best.
Not surprisingly, his biggest production wines are blends. The Goats do Roam red, which represents one-third of Back's company's 3-million-litre annual production, knits together six different varieties including Shiraz, Mourvedre and Grenache.
Its white counterpart is a blend of three white grapes that were made famous by France's Rhône Valley: Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc.
The Rhône influence also helped Back settle on the wine's quirky name. Goats do Roam is a play on the Rhône's Côtes du Rhône wines, red and white blends that are popular bistro staples in France and elsewhere.
Legend has it, Back came up with the name when one of his sons left a gate open and the goats wandered around the vineyard eating the grapes. The animals were surprisingly selective, so the winemaking team was inspired to make a wine based on the varieties the goats ate and in which proportion.
The label works because it puts a friendly face on a wine that otherwise could be a tough sell. The controversy it stirred up with French wine authorities didn't hurt matters either.
News agencies around the world carried the story about French vintners complaining the name was infringing on their appellation.
As the Goatfather says, "It was the best promotional tool I ever had."
Wine of the Week:
The Goats do Roam Wine Company; 2011 Goats do Roam Red,
Western Cape, South Africa
BC $14.99 (633206) | AB $12.99 (633206) | ON $12.95 (718940)
The new vintage of Goats do Roam Red carries on its crowd-pleasing tradition. It's a smooth and inviting red with a healthy mix of spice, ripe fruit and meaty aromas and flavours. It's a good-value, flavourful red that makes friends easily.