Rich pickings in Franschhoek

Entre nous, it’s been hinted pretty strongly that it’s a long time since I’ve contributed to this website and that unless I do….

So, I thought, well, there’s always some rich business going on in Franschhoek (from Boekenhoutskloof on down) – maybe I could find out about whether Tokyo Sexwale, that leftie who turned big capitalist at the first real opportunity, has done anything of relevance to the wine industry with his estate, formerly known as Elephant Pass – which disappeared from the Platter Guide between the 2003 and 2004 editions with not a word of explanation to the possibly curious reader (just vague rumours of a threat of legal action against the guide if it offered one).

Nothing new there. What of  Von Ortloff? Ah, well, yes,watch this (or some other) space. There’s interesting stuff, with slightly mysterious connecions, going on there.

But what of Boschendal? In fact, is it even in Franschhoek? One can’t go by the Vignerons de Franschhoek organisation, as their standards are contemptibly low and they allow estates unquestionably from Paarl to join them – like Rupert & Rothschild, and Vrede en Lust. Boschendal, as far as I can tell, has vineyards in, properly-speaking, Paarl, Stellenbosch and Franschhoek.

Boschendal’s ownership has been pretty complicated since it was sold some years back by Anglo American. For one thing, it’s one of those big-business places where the brand is owned by a different entity from the land (Boekenhoutskloof is another one of them in Franschhoek); the Boschendal brand is owned by DGB, and that’s not easily put in question, apparently.

It might, though, be significant, that  a controlling interest in the splendid, extensive property itself has definitively changed hands over the last year, with the latest stage pretty recent. A Britain-based (formerly?) South African called Tony Tabatznik, who made a fortune in pharmaceuticals, now owns 51%. (JCI Investment Finance owns the rest, it seems.)

The interesting aspect of this (who cares about the money side of things apart from those making profits?) is that I believe that the plan to sell off sections of Boschendal for gentlemen’s estates has been put on hold. It hasn’t been all that successful, I gather – with only two having been sold – one to Gary Player. (The notorious teetotaller’s Black Knight wine brand has finally collapsed, I rather gather, incidentally.)

Big money, then. But could a little bit of nationalist sentimentality be coming back to complicate things, I wonder?

Meanwhile, adjacently, a run-down estate just behind Boschendal – I think it’s called Bethlehem – has been bought by Dick Enthoven, another mega-rich person and owner of Spier. Now, if you’ve been to Spier recently you’ll know that it’s arguably the sort of place that a certain type of tourist might be inveigled into visiting – but hardly somewhere that a posh person would actually want to live.


[First published under the now deleted “Widow’s Nephew’ section on this website]

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