Actor Thapelo Mokoena translates passion into wine venture
For those who remember, it doesn't seem that long ago when actor and producer Thapelo Mokoena led a trio of parched friends across a desert to get some refreshments for an alcohol advert.
Mokoena is now rehashing that role of piped piper of a drink with his new wine venture.
Wine lovers of Mzansi can now follow this thespian turned entrepreneur's lead on a YouTube channel dedicated to all things wine.
Nero TV is where people can be introduced to his business venture of three years, in partnership with the wine-making Bosman family of Wellington, Western Cape.
"Life happened, I met an amazing family, I met an amazing businessman in Petrus Bosman, the head of the Bosman Wines family business called Bosman Family Vineyards. They're from a wine-making family, eight generations of wine making.
"When we met, a human moment happened and a lot of interesting conversation and he mentioned to me that he has a special grape and he wants to take it to the market and he was looking for somebody he could work with, somebody he could collaborate with, someone who could invest themselves and their resources in a great product," Mokoena says.
The Bosman-Bakwena brand partnership was thus born. Their wine, called Nero, is now available countrywide.
According to Mokoena, their offering to the wine market is unique in a sense that they are the only ones producing wine from the Nero grape which is native to Sicily in Italy; they are the only farmers that are growing it in the country.
The grape grows in the volcanic soil of Sicily and was the perfect choice for Bosman as he was looking for a grape that would thrive despite the drought facing the Western Cape at the time.
Mokoena describes the grape as being "African" because of its resilience.
"The special part about this grape is that it's just like an African person, it's a resilient grape because it grows in tough conditions. It's known as a fighter grape because it defies basic natural enemies like drought and insects sometimes. The grape really fights to grow and become a final product."
So resilient is the grape that when Bosman returned from a trip to Sicily, after having bought 50 cuttings of it, only two remained but those two were enough to birth Nero.
"'This is the grape that we are consuming now. We've done three harvests since 2011. You can imagine since 2011 not much was done with this grape except figure out how it grows and then eventually three-and-a-half years ago I walked into the picture and there is this grape that has been nurtured for so long and now ready to be given a try and then in walks Thapelo Mokoena."
The 37- year-old says that his joint venture with the Bosman family is something that aligned with him.
The family has always believed in profit sharing for their workers and all those employed on the farm get a share of the profits.
" [This] is an incredible story as well of how two families, an Afrikaans family and a Basotho family can come together and form a company that can produce wine products of passion and out of just human connection and human love... on top of ownership, there's a bigger exercise where we can really come together not only as people of different races per se, but just as people and create something of value... when the right people come together the results of passion and unity can blow your mind."
The aforementioned Nero TV was an idea that Mokoena had while at dinner at the Bosmans after having finished shooting for his UK series Bulletproof.
He was able to build a studio in his house within a day and started shooting content just before the national lockdown happened. There is a Nero Wine Club as well.
"I wanted wine to be your translation, I might like my red wine in a tall glass, so I can stick my nose in it to get the notes. You might like it in your favourite coffee mug, that's okay. You might like yours at room temperature and mine at two degrees lower.
"There are obviously scientific reasons for some of the things, but wine is a translation of how you feel. You could drink it out of the bottle, it's your life," he says.
Mokoena is no stranger to the food and beverage business, he co-owns Ukhamba Beer Worx in Claremont ,Cape Town. The establishment is a shisanyama and tap-room; it has lager and craft beer on tap.