You could probably make a team out of the number of former English cricketers who now have their own wine brands, but Darren Gough’s wine project is a little different. For a start his name does not appear on the label, and he does not claim to be involved in any part of the winemaking. But he 100% believes in what it stands for. As the the new Care for Wild wine range, launched last week by Freixenet Copestick, shares the name of the South African rhino sanctuary that Gough has been involved with since his playing days. Here Geoffrey Dean shares the story of how Care for Wild wine came about and how it hopes to boost sales of South African wine and help save and protect its endangered rhinos at the same time.
If you are looking for a South African wine brand with a point of difference then Frexienet Copestick’s new Care for Wild range – initially available through Slurp – hits the mark for so many reasons…
For much of his nine years in the England cricket team, Darren Gough was the heartbeat of the side, a man for whom the cliché – ‘he wore his heart on his sleeve’ – might have been written. As a passionate animal lover, particularly of rhinos, there could be no better brand ambassador for the appealing new South African range, Care for Wild, which was launched by Freixenet Copestick last week. Twenty per cent of profits from sales will go to the highly deserving rhino sanctuary of that name.
Gough was in the early stages of his international career in 1997 when he went to Kenya with England for an ICC tournament there. On a day off, he visited the Daphne Sheldrick animal orphanage in Nairobi, where he encountered orphaned elephants and rhinos. “I was there rolling in the mud with these babies, and there was this one young rhino who really took me by storm,” he said. “He was called Magnum. I took a real shine to him, so we adopted him and paid his way for a few years till he got released into the wild.”
Not surprisingly, one of Gough’s nicknames became ‘Rhino’.
Gough and his wife Anna’s love for rhinos led them to do volunteer work for Care for Wild, which was set up in 2001 two years before the cricketer’s international retirement by South African conservationist, Petronel Niewoudt.
(Click here to see what the Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary is all about)
By chance last December at a charity dinner Gough sat next to Robin Copestick, managing director of Freixinet Copestick. “Darren spoke of his involvement with Care for Wild, got me thinking,” said Copestick. “While I recognise that South African wine is amazing for quality and value, there isn’t really any brand that’s doing a brilliant job in the multiple retail sector. I saw an opportunity that could not only add value to the South African category, but also to raise money for such an amazing charity. We have big ambitions for the on-trade and the retail sector for the range.”
Copestick added that much will depend on whether he can get the multiples involved. Volume should not be an issue, for 5,000 cases of the two mid-market wines from Walker Bay (Syrah-Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon blends) are available, while the three entry-level wines (Rosé, Pinotage/Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc) are also in plentiful supply. Only the two single varietal premium wines (Shiraz from Elgin, and Chenin Blanc from Swartland) are limited to a few hundred cases.
It is certainly a notable achievement by Copestick and his team to have delivered the whole project only nine months after it was dreamt up. “In wine terms it is really quick, and I’m proud of everyone for doing that,” Copestick said. “Thanks go to Jodie Newman for designing the rhino labels which were beautifully done by the artist Paul Stowe. And huge thanks to Overhex – and winemaker Ben Snyman – who’ve put all of these wines together for us in very difficult circumstances. They did an incredible job to get them over.”
Stowe has drawn a young male white rhino, Arthur, on the labels for the mid-market wines, and a young black male, Odin, on the premium labels, ‘The Protected Collection.’ While only 20,000 whites are alive, mostly in South Africa, around 1,000 per annum have been poached in recent years in that country. Black rhinos are even more critically endangered, numbering only 5,000.
All the orphaned rhinos rescued to the Care for Wild sanctuary are dehorned under sedation to deter poachers but the sanctuary’s location is still a closely guarded secret.
Darren and his wife Anna went out to South Africa five times last year to visit the sanctuary, and will go again shortly now that the ban on travel into the country is being lifted on October 1. “We’re so excited about going out there for the first time this year,” Anna said. “I’m so passionate about the charity. My passion has always been animals. The care and love that goes 24/7 into these orphans that are so traumatised is amazing. People think they don’t feel anything but they really do. Arthur put up a real fight when his mother was poached and he suffered machete wounds. They call him Arthur the Great as he’s a very special character.”
She added: “Petronel and her team rehabilitate orphans over four different phases before introducing them back into their natural habitat. Odin is one such. Even then, they’re monitored to check they are safe and stay healthy. Looking after the surrounding villages is so important as poachers will try every means to get at the rhinos in the orphanage, so the charity gives the villagers jobs and bursaries for their agriculture and farming.”
Gough admits he gets very emotional when he visits Care for Wild. “It is so rewarding when you leave there, knowing that you’ve helped,” he said. “You see the work that Petronel puts in every day. Five new orphans have come in recently and she lives with that rhino 24/7…it’s blindfolded initially to make it feel secure. There have been no volunteers since Covid, so they’ve had to lock in the staff, who’ve had to move their families into the sanctuary, to make sure those animals survive and get the best treatment.”
Petronel’s devotion to helping save a species marks her out as a remarkable woman. “May I always be so humble as to recognise how little we started with and how far we have come,” she declared. “We now understand exactly what it takes to save an orphaned rhino calf. We appreciate the time, money, and effort to save a species from extinction. This is by no means a single person’s journey. It takes a team. We spend our energy wisely and share our experience and knowledge. Why? Why not? Is it not all of our responsibility to ensure a future for generations to come?”
- If you would like to donate to Care for Wild you can do so here.
- You can also adopt a rhino and help its recovery by clicking here.
- To find out how else you can get involved and all the work the sanctuary does then click here.
Tasting Notes (introductory prices until October 4 through Slurp.co.uk)
Care for Wild “Arthur” Pale Rosé, 12% abv, £9.95
Made from Pinotage from last two vintages, with a touch of Chenin Blanc to add extra acidity; dry, clean and fresh with some raspberry notes; 2 hours on skins – very light pink hue.
Care for Wild Sauvignon Blanc, 12.5% abv, £6.95
Plenty of tropical fruit and fresh acidity; a good non-vintage quaffer.
Care for Wild “Arthur” Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2020, 12.5% abv, £9.95
Tropical and citrus fruit from Walker Bay with mineral notes; lively acidity.
Care for Wild ‘Protected’ Bushvine Chenin Blanc, 2019, 13% abv, £15.95
Fruit from Swartland bushvines; apricot and peach notes; barrel-fermented giving some creaminess and richness; quite complex with very good length.
Care for Wild Red Blend, 13.5% abv, £6.95
Excellent value fruit-forward quaffer; fruit from two vintages – Pinotage with some Shiraz added; oak chips give some structure.
Care for Wild “Arthur” Syrah/Viognier 2019, 14% abv, £9.95
Grapes from Walker Bay with splash of Viognier (3%) to give some florally. Forest red fruits with soft tannins and hint of spice.
Care for Wild ‘Protected’ Shiraz, 2018, 14% abv, £15.95
Cool climate fruit from Elgin; peppery and spicey with velvety tannins; good combination of Rhone-style restraint and New World forwardness; very long finish. Will cellar well.