When we embarked on our adventure to interview Buitenverwachting winemaker, Brad Paton, we had no idea we would leave so inspired. Buitenverwachting truly lived up to the meaning of its name, “beyond expectations”.
Brad is a born and bred Capetonian. He matriculated from Wynberg Boys High School. Just two days after his last matric exam, Brad started a practical at a cellar in Franschoek. It was there that he developed his career for two and a half years before proceeding to Germany to do a practical.
The “Light Bulb” moment:
Unlike most of us, who are initially unsure about our career path, Brad knew from standard 8 (Grade 10) that he wanted to be a winemaker. He made the decision when a family friend and winemaker, took him on his first cellar tour. While standing in the barrel cellar, looking at the bottles, “It was as if a ray of light came onto his head”, Brad explained. Straight away he knew that this was his life calling.
Developing a career in Viticulture:
In Germany, Brad did a 6 month practical where he quickly picked up the language and was forced to jump in the deep end. In total, Brad stayed in Germany for 8 years. During his stay, Brad applied to further his studies. Unfortunately, his South African Matric wasn’t accepted for the course. Brad had to do A-levels for a year to be accepted into the Varsity. To support himself Brad worked throughout his studies.
During his stay in Germany, Brad stayed on a brand new wine farm. Three families lived on the farm. Brad was the only youngster in the courtyard and naturally, Brad was welcomed like a son into these families. It was here that Brad stayed from beginning to end and still has weekly contact with the families he lived with in Germany.
Coming home to South Africa
Brad has been at Buitenverwachting since 2005, where he lives on the property with his family. He explained to us that living on the property is very necessary, as the job never stops.
At Buitenverwachting no one has job titles. Whether it’s fixing a door, a water leak in the pipe, you do it all yourself. Broken pipes, baboons, or anything that comes your way, there is always something on the go at Buitenverwachting.
While on a tour of the cellars we got to know about the daily dynamic that goes on in the workplace. Brad and his team start every morning off with a motivational reading to get the team in good spirits. “You have to love what you do”, says Brad.
The farm’s success can be attributed to the owner, Lars, who set an example for everyone on the farm, Giving Brad freedom in the cellar to do what he needs to. Brad describes Lars as a very passionate person who amongst other things, is very involved in the marketing of the farm. Very far from any corporate system, Buitenverwachting has no departments where everything is stringent and too structured.
All management stays on the farm from the winemakers, the owner, the export manager with her family, as well as the rest of the staff. Buitenverwachting hosts a very established set up for its staff.
Brad describes the setup for the farm’s community as the best he has ever seen. There is strong infrastructure from Kindergarten to Highschool. Transport is provided and subsidized by the farm. There is a community hall as well as a play park for all the staff and their families.
Something very special about the farm is that amongst the staff there are up to 3 generations of family members still living on the farm. About 90 percent of the workforce live on the farm.
The farm’s main focus is white wine, the biggest being their Sauvignon Blanc. The Southern part of Constantia, where Buitenverwachting is situated, is mainly white wines, so naturally, this is what is produced the most.
Buitenverwachting have plenty of exposure to False Bay and its breeze, making it great for producing white wines. Some speciality wines are also popular for production and when it comes to the red varieties, they produce all the Bordeaux varieties. Production was about 400 000 bottles this harvest, which was needed to make space for new wines.
The Buiten Blanc is the highest purchased bottle from the farm. The farm makes up about 3% of wine farms that makes money off of making wine. A huge achievement for a farm we are proud to do our tours on.
Brad explained that living on the farm really does make his life a full-time job. Often you have to pull yourself back and force yourself to be more balanced. Socializing with great friends is Brad’s key to relaxing. He loves camping with his family and friends. Last year Brad and his family did the Etosha Safari Camp as his break from work. Brad’s motto is everything in moderation, he takes a sabbatical whenever work allows, and actually drops wine and tries something else.
We had such fun interviewing Brad and absolutely love taking our guests to Buitenverwachting on our wine tours. For more information about tours or to hear more details about Buitenverwachting email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.