Cape Town - "If I cry, don't worry, it will be tears of joy," Beyers Truter, cellar master of iconic Kanonkop wine estate and co-owner of Beyerskloof wine estate, said on Friday.
Truter was speaking at a ceremony where he announced that 60 farm workers from three surrounding farms - Beyerskloof, Kanonkop and Uitwyk - had bought 74 percent of the shares in the 56ha Bouwland estate near Stellenbosch for R9.6 million.
It is the first black empowerment deal in the wine industry and comes less than 10 days after a two-day conference on black economic empowerment (BEE) in the industry.
The government's land redistribution for agricultural development programme made a cash grant of R3.7 million available to the Bouwland Deelnemingstrust, which represents the 60 workers.
Truter invested R2.4 million through Beyerskloof and the balance of R3.5 million was loaned to Bouwland Estate by Absa, which in turn was loaned the money by the land reform credit facility of Khula Enterprise Finance, the empowerment agency set up by the department of trade and industry.
Bouwland is a well-established brand in Holland, Belgium, England and Denmark, and will be marketed alongside Beyerskloof.
Truter started the formal proceedings by asking the 60 workers to enter the marquee in which the announcement was made.
He said he and a friend, Simon Haliday, bought Bouwland six years ago in a neglected condition and had to replant many of the vines.
The 60 individuals, who represent 39 families, formed the trust and while they would continue to work at the farms during the week, they would now tend their vines at Bouwland on Saturdays.
The estate had already produced a Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend and a Chenin Blanc 2003 vintage had been produced from grapes bought elsewhere.
A flagship wine, a so-called Cape blend containing home-grown Pinotage, would be launched soon.
Jan Hendriks, the chairman of the project and founder of the Stellenbosch Farm Workers' Association, which led to the SA Farm Workers' Association, said Truter had been positive and had demonstrated his desire to assist his workers.
Venete Klein, the general manager of Absa AgriBusiness, said the bank understood that developing farmers of today were the commercial farmers of tomorrow.
Don Mashele, an account executive at Khula, said Khula had agreed to do the deal because it was an empowerment project involving farm workers and a commercial farmer in the transformation of the agricultural sector.