Cape Town - Wine, wheels and wild dogs. This sums up Jeremy and Emma Borg’s efforts to raise funds for the conservation of these remarkable and endangered carnivores.
As the staggering number of poached rhinos dominates headlines and an increase in elephant slaughter in Africa is confirmed, it’s easy to forget about the painted wolf – as the African wild dog is also known.
But thanks to the Borgs and other concerned conservationists, we may yet avoid their extinction in this country. The news that fewer than 400 are left in the wild in this country is little known, even to wildlife enthusiasts. The dogs are being shot, poached, snared, run over and killed by diseases picked up from village dogs.
The Borgs have been involved in wild dog conservation since they met in Botswana at a bush camp. They started Painted Wolf Wines in 2007 from their home high on the slopes of Paarl Rock mountain.
Sans vineyards and cellar, they inspanned partners in three wine regions who provide them with quality grapes. These “pack members” are Gilly and Penny Hughes of Kasteelsig in the Swartland, Ros and Pete Koch of Southern Cross near Paarl, and Juergen and Brita Heinrich at Devon Hills. Jeremy makes the wine in rented cellar space at Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards.
Having enjoyed what I sampled three years ago, I was more than ready to try new vintages. The Den is the entry-level range, and the 2012 chenin blanc (R50) is a charmer, striking a good balance between fruit and friskiness.
The Hunting blends comprise the 2012 Lekanyane (R80), a delicious four-star meld of chenin and viognier and Madach, a shiraz/pinotage/merlot/shiraz combination (R80).
The 2010 Guillermo Swartland pinotage (R140) in the The Pack range has attracted high international ratings with its rich intensity of flavour.
The flagship Black Pack range has produced two stars: the 2010 shiraz, sporting its 2012 Old Mutral Trophy award, and the 2011 Roussanne (R100), a lightly wooded example of this Rhone cultivar, which claimed top place in the Classic Wine niche white category.
Pictus Two 2010 (R180) is also impressive – from its label featuring wild dogs in the Moremi to the full-bodied Malmesbury shiraz finished with pinotage and Grenache.
From conception, the Borgs have donated R2 to wild dog conservation from the proceeds of every bottle sold directly to consumers, and R1 for every bottle sold to the trade.
They are generous to a fault when it comes to giving wine to fundraisers, both in South Africa and in the UK. They support the Tusk Trust, which was set up to save elephants in Kenya and has now been broadened to support more than 100 wildlife projects in Africa. These projects protect not only endangered species but work to alleviate poverty through sustainable development among those who live alongside wildlife.
Last year, Pedals 4 Paws was born, when Jeremy organised adventure cycle tours through wild dog hot spots in southern Africa.
Small groups of riders help raise funds for conservation organisations, including the Endangered Wildlife Trust, Botswana Predator Conservation Trust, Painted Dog Conservation and the Lowveld Wild Dog Project.
Three successful tours took place last year – the first from Madikwe in North West to North Tuli Game Reserve in Botswana, the second from Maun to Hwange and the last from Mfolozi in KwaZulu-Natal to Hlane in Swaziland.
The Borgs, having raised more than R300 000 for wild dogs over the past four years, will continue to champion their cause with little thought of personal gain.
Enter now for service award
Sommeliers and wine stewards are invited to enter this year’s Bollinger Exceptional Wine Service Award soon. Entries close at the end of May.
The winner enjoys a trip to France, including a visit to the House of Champagne, Bollinger.
Entrants should be employed in the service of food and wine, with a minimum of three years’ experience. They will need to demonstrate substantial knowledge of the local wine scene and professional service.
Knowledge of international wine appellations and styles is also required. Contestants must be able to relate what is produced here to overseas visitor expectations, when the latter are familiar with international wines rather than ours.