Jambo Africa Online’s Publisher, SAUL MOLOBI – who is also a published author and poet in his own right and a wine connoisseur – is taken by a world class black woman-owned wine brand, Lavo, on an inspirational path walked by legendary writers, scribes and poets who waxed lyrical about the literary sanctity and divinity of wine…
Anima Sana in Corpore Sano (ISCS) – so goes the Latin adage that means “a sound mind in a sound body”. Although this expression is from time immemorial, it has just gained traction in modern times as the world embraces new healthy lifestyles that include following best dietary regimes (including avoidance of junk food); exposure to a relaxed ambience for one’s psychological sanity; and regular exercises to avoid lifestyle diseases that continue to afflict humankind. This has seen the emergence of Carlo Pertini’s Slow Food International that has taken the world by storm. This has seen greater significance been placed on the creation of relaxed ambience whether at home or at a restaurant which is characterised by engaging conversations over sumptuous meals washed down with the finest wines while the room is filled with soulful jazz or classical music. This is what psychologists recommend as a package to survive the challenges of running against time in our quest for survival: families; friends; and business associates get to connect and to be human.
The health attributes of partaking wine are scientifically proven. According to Ashley Sobel, a Bariatric Dietitian at the Lenox Hill Hospital in New York, writing on the website of Healthline, posits that drinking an occasional glass of red wine is good for one’s health as it provides antioxidants; may promote longevity of life; and may also protect one’s heart against ailments and harmful inflammation that include blood clots that may lead to heart attacks and strokes.
This is the kind of environment that inspired Robert Luís Stevenson, that Scottish troubadour, to muse: “Wine is poetry bottled.” This prophetic words were further amplified by other scribes as we have a synopsis of them at the bottom of this article. Yes, these treasured words were engraved on my mind as I took my time to take sips of Lavo, the finest from our vineyards, as it turned my tongue into a palette that waxed lyrical with linguistic de/constructions paying tribute to those legendary writers and orators who serve as the reservoirs of our inspiration as emerging cultural workers.
As we were enjoying our lunch at The Codfather, one of the finest eateries in the heart of Sandton (Africa’s wealthiest square mile) – courtesy of that which feels like once-in-a-lifetime invite from Lerato Pretorius, the wine brand owner, my mind and soul understood the depth of what Thomas Sankara, the first post-independence President of Burkina Faso meant when he paid tribute to our forebears as “the madmen of yesterday” who made it possible for us to be where we are today; Nawal El Sadaawi calling them the “creators (whose) creativity starts with disobendience”; Steve Jobs seeing those ground breakers as “the crazy ones… who drive the human race forward”; and, thus generating interest in the Harvard Business Review which undertook an academic research into these “non-conformists” (as Jobs dubbed them) and its findings concluded such were endowed with “a rebel talent” upon whom innovation was dependent.
Truth be told, Lerato is one of the trailblazers as her entry into the wine industry as a black person, and a woman for that matter, is disruptive since this is an industry which was historically the preserve of the immediate beneficiaries of colonialism. Furthermore, her entry is disruptive since she retails a wine brand in the world in which South Africa is regarded as a source market for non-fortified wines.
Why am I saying this? The first point should be obvious to anyone conversant with the history of this country. I will park this for now until my next paragraph. The second speaks not only to Lerato being an emerging wine brand owner, but to the unfairness of the global trading system as it continues to disadvantage the entire South African wine industry. Statistics tell us in 2019, as I mentioned in one of my previous Publisher’s Comment in this news portal, South Africa exported 325 million litres of wine. But unfortunately only 145 million litres were exported as fully bottled and branded as “produce of Cape Town, South Africa” in compliance with the “rules of origin” prescripts of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The balance of 175 million litres were exported as unfortified and in bulk – that is, without added herbs, spices, preservatives, not bottled and unbranded. This means the importers from abroad will then put these, bottle and brand them. Once this fortification is done, they are exported back into South Africa and we’re then prepared to pay premium prices thinking they are from France, Italy or any other country from abroad.
Back to point one I parked above, the market for wine is growing at an alarming rate among black consumers – and those within the middle to top LSM segments are prepared to pay premium prices for their choice of good quality wine. By the way, many of my European friends when they visit, they want to sample on our cuisine plus wines by black brand owners. The most significant points that need to be considered for brands such as Lavo are that the outlets such as restaurants, mainstream retailers (both online and “bricks-and-mortar” stores as neuromarketer, Martin Lindstrom refers to the latter), and wine clubs should give them ample visible shelf spaces; and the brand owners should invest sufficient resources in their brand development and management programmes. The latter point is critical if one was to look at the brand positioning of a product like the Italian beer, Peroni, in South Africa which is positioned and embraced by consumers as a brand for relatively affluent consumers while in its home country is perceived as a brand for the lower LSM segments.
Having had the privilege of travelling most of the world’s cities; living for almost four and half years in Milan on a diplomatic posting; attending international events – including wine events such as VinItaly, Murano International Wine Festival and other wine festivals; and wine testing events presided over by legendary sommeliers such as Italy’s Guido Invernizzi (who is regarded as one of the best within the European Union); I can without any whiff of doubt say Lavo is in a class of its own.
Lavo’s etymological origin derives from the Sotho word, Lerato, which means love. Yes, at the core of the psychological sanity created by a relaxed ambience that I alluded to earlier is love.
Concurs Lerato: “Love is the thread that keeps the world together. Lavo wines are about pleasure, enjoyment and connecting people around the world. The Lavo brand has been created with the foresight of connecting people of different backgrounds, with different ideas to share congenial association over a glass of wine. Lavo wines are inspired to create an environment where people can come together, to enjoy a world class wine suitable for each and every occasion.”
Lerato doesn’t take affirmation by consumers as automatically guaranteed. “We believe in quality. Our commitment to fuse excellence with satisfaction is unquestionable as we are driven by a deep sense of passion and love.
“Our wines have been created from love, to be enjoyed with love, extracted from the grapes to create love that will be contained in a glass. From the vineyards, to distillery, into glass, we take extra caution through each and every step of the wine making process. Packaging is critical to us too. We would love for everyone to join the Lavo family in creating the Lavo Wine experience.”
Lerato, who holds strong views on the inculcation of family values; neighbourliness; and mutually beneficial stakeholder engagements believes these are the strong principles underpinning the Lavo Wine experience. “While growing up, I have always harboured an insatiable desire to create something that speaks of who I am as a person – and I believe such finds satisfaction in the projects I’ve been undertaking, with the Lavo Wines right there at the zenith point.”
Lerato is in it for the long haul. “It is about creating a legacy – about creating generational wealth for our future generations.”
Her goal is not only to create a product that will bring joy to those who buy it but her intention is to create opportunities for others to establish themselves and in turn create opportunities for others.
“I will leave behind a legacy for every African child to look up to and bring their dreams to realisation. One of my passions is to empower women, which is what gets me out of bed every morning, and this brand is built on those very same values.”
Lerato explained with confidence that they provide high quality product, services and an extraordinary experience to their clients. “We supply private and public functions through our mobile bar services. We have recently ventured into becoming private wine buyers for high end clientele. We have also forged strong collaborations with the chefs.”
Customer satisfaction is cardinal for the Lavo brand as they believe this is the anchor for every company’s sustainability strategy. “Customers will be pleasantly surprised at how attentive we are in regards to their needs and experiences. The business operates on the assumption that it will do whatever is reasonably necessary to keep the customer happy.”
The company uses multiple channels to engage various stakeholders. “Our strategic priority is the enhancement of our brand equity – stakeholder awareness of the Lavo brand; brand positioning as providing value for money; unparalleled quality; and we do hope this will translate into stakeholder loyalty or affinity for the brand. This is the crux of our brand’s sustainability strategy. All our stakeholders may find us on social media platforms.”
For brand building activations, the company has participated in the “Tops at Spar Wine Show” for the past three years. It has also been part of the Ekurhuleni wine festival; Winesense; Divine Chillers in Ballito; food & wine tasting at the Codfather Restaurant; and, food & wine pairing at Gemeli Brynston (they also stock the Lavo wine). “We have done private food and wine pairing for private functions in Durban and Johannesburg,” says Lerato with a binge of satisfaction.
The company is part of the Nedbank Innovation Programme and the University of Johannesburg’s progressive program.
The company believes the first brand ambassadors are their own staff. “They are key to a thriving business. We hire staff that believe in our brand and all its attributes – especially those prepared to exceed customers’ expectations.”
The company has a national footprint and plans to expand into the rest of the African continent especially now since the continent is integrating into a free trade area as per the prescripts of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCTA). This agreement that came into effect from 1 January 2021 will integrate the economies of the 55 African Union member states into a combined GDP of $3.6 trillion with over 1.27 billion consumers. It removes over 70% of trade tariffs to help boost intra-African trade from the current 18% to 50% by next year.
“I am more than ready to engage with suppliers from other African countries. This pie is just too big and we can all benefit from it,” she said matter-of-factly.
Quotable quotes on wine
“Wine is the most healthful and most hygienic of beverages…” – Louis Pasteur
“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle…” – Paulo Coelho, Brida.
“One should always be drunk. That’s all that matters…But with what? With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose. But get drunk…” – Charles Baudelaire, Paris Spleen
“Give me books, French wine, fruit, fine weather and a little music played out of doors by somebody I do not know…” – John Keats
“As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans…” – Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast
“… his lips drink water
but his heart drinks wine…” – e.e. cummings
“I am not sure I trust you.”
“You can trust me with your life, My King.”
“But not with my wine, obviously. Give it back…” – Megan Whalen Turner, The King of Attolia (The Queen’s Thief)
“Wine is one of the most civilized things in the world and one of the most natural things of the world that has been brought to the greatest perfection, and it offers a greater range for enjoyment and appreciation than, possibly, any other purely sensory thing… “ – Ernest Hemingway
“Beer is made by men, wine by God…” – Martin Luther
“Age appears best in four things: old wood to burn, old wine to drink, old friends to trust and old authors to read…” – Francis Bacon
“[I]t is the wine that leads me on, the wild wine that sets the wisest man to sing at the top of his lungs, laugh like a fool – it drives the man to dancing… it even tempts him to blurt out stories better never told…” – Homer, The Odyssey
“Wine enters through the mouth,
Love, the eyes.
I raise the glass to my mouth,
I look at you,
I sigh…” – William Butler Yeats
“I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine…” – Pablo Neruda
“High and fine literature is wine, and mine is only water; but everybody likes water…” – Mark Twain
“One drop of wine is enough to redden a whole glass of water…” – Victor Hugo, The Huntchback of Notre-Dame
Here are two video clips on the Lavo brand…