Friday, 4 December 2015

The passions of Leopard’s Leap

Leopard’s Leap Family Vineyards, located in Franschhoek and founded in 2000, is a mass-market brand probably dismissed by most wine connoisseurs. However, after talking to its owner Hein Koegelenberg, I believe it is a remarkable brand that connects average consumer to wine not via aspiration or status symbol, but genuine, affordable things that ordinarily people care and enjoy - food, conservation and literature.

Hein’s definition of ‘passion for food’ is broader than just eating. Most wineries in South Africa has award-winning restaurants offering exquisite menus. At Leopard’s Leap, the family-oriented restaurant offers relaxed rotisserie-style lunches something similar to a Sunday roast or a dim sum lunch where family and friends can spend hours catching up. What’s more, there are also regular cooking classes where participants learn to cook recipes that they can easily prepare at home. But what impressed me most is its courageous wine cocktail recipe, including some classics with a twist such as Chenin Blanc Martini, and out-of-the-box surprise like Merlot Milkshake served in a whisky glass. I’m sure traditional wine lovers would be horrified but hey, we have to move on with consumers! If this is what makes the younger generation to try wine, so let’s go with the flow. Sooner or later they will gradually drink Chenin Blanc without martini and Merlot without ice cream, and we’ll have more converted wine consumers.

The worldwide population of leopard has been decreasing due to threats to their habitats and hunting. Cape Mountain leopard refers to the smaller version of leopards inhabiting the mountains of the Cape Province in South Africa close to the Cape Winelands. It is guesstimated that there are less than 1,000 Cape leopards in the wild. Leopard’s Leap is a sponsor of Cape Leopard Trust, an NGO aims to conserve the endangered Cape Mountain Leopard, by ‘adopting’ leopards roaming the Cape mountain ranges, and providing an interactive wall showcases at the premises as an educational tool for visitors to learn about wildlife conservation. A lot of wineries in South Africa are keen supporters of sustainability and Leopard’s Leap takes it one step further by being actively involved.

Leopard’s Leap is also dedicated to nurture local authors and promote South African literature by creating platforms and sponsoring book launches and literary events. It is also a founding sponsor of the annual international Open Book Literary Festival held in Cape Town. In a country where education for the under-privileged is still an issue, this initiative touches a lot hearts.

I definitely think Leopard’s Leap got the right marketing mix to engage to mid-market average consumer. However, this alone won’t make it a truly successful brand unless it has the quality to back it up. Leopard’s wine certainly doesn’t disappoint. It has a few tiers that appeal to different market segment, from the entry-level social enjoyment Lookout and the well-structured varietal wines Classic, to the specially crafted Family Collection and the exclusive Culinaria Collection - all well-positioned to encourage new consumers to trade up.

Try these wines:

  • Classic Chenin Blanc 2015: Refreshing with an elegant, subtle nose. Goes well with scallop.
  • Classic Chardonnay Pinot Noir Rosé 2015: A new wine (first vintage); a well-balanced Rosé with red fruits and appealing mouthfeel.
  • Classic Shiraz 2011: Elegant black fruits with a hint of pepper, fine tannin.
  • Family Collection Shiraz Mourvedre Viognier 2009: A serious wine layered with fruits and spices with a smooth mouthfeel and lingering finish.

The big brother of Leopard’s Leap is La Motte, a Rupert family winery also run by Hein. According to Hein, La Motte is exclusive and aspiring while Leopard’s Leap is inclusive and friendly. Nevertheless, wines from both brothers are over delivered on quality.

Both La Motte and Leopard’s Leap are available from Royal Oak.

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