Nestled in the Franschhoek wine valley there is a farm that recently celebrated their 100 years. The Backsberg Winery produces world class wine and is the perfect backdrop for celebrations and events. We spoke to Simon Back, who is representing the fourth generation of innovation and is taking Backsberg to a new level of success.
Simon, you're the fourth generation of your family to run this business. No pressure. How are you finding taking the baton from such a rich legacy of leadership?
It's both exciting and terrifying! It's an incredible platform to work from, and I am trying my best not to #%!$ it up.
You recently celebrated Backsberg's centenary at a very moving event with a small crowd of friends and colleagues at your farm. With the glorious benefit of hindsight, what do you believe are Backsberg's finest moments over the past 100 years?
Wow, we are lucky to say that there have been a number of fine moments. I get a lot of pleasure from the small things to be honest. Having a great conversation over a glass of Backsberg with a loyal customer is my idea of a fine moment.
The industry has certainly changed over the past four generations. The world is flat now, a lot smaller. There is a lot more competition, but also a bigger market. Environment is a huge factor in people's buying behaviour. How are things changing to adapt to these factors at Backsberg?
I am trying to drive a lot of new technology adoption throughout the business in order to make us more efficient and productive. Sometimes I think my staff are going to fire me! Also, I think there is a lot of scope for wineries to actually work together, and find scale through partnering with one another.
Fairview has goats. Vergenoegd has ducks. Backsberg has... ?
Trees. We are tree-huggers, and we have 1000s of trees on the property.
What are you excited about in the wine industry, both locally in SA and abroad? Are there any developments that are blowing your hair back?
South Africa still has some huge opportunities in export markets. The US and China markets are essentially a blank slate for South African wines. If we can do well there, that would be incredibly exciting.
Simon, what's your favourite Backsberg wine? - and when you're not drinking your own stuff, what tickles your palate?
Spanish reds, if you can get your hands on the stuff. So good.
Heavy Chef is focused on inspiring people to start new things, and empowering them to succeed. The industry has been traditionally dominated by a very pale, male and primarily Afrikaans community. What do you think is being done to empower a new more balanced breed of winemakers? Are there some exciting developments that you're aware of?
If you are looking to start new things in the wine industry, I think the biggest gap is in sales, marketing and distribution. There is huge value in the middle layers between the winery and the end consumer.