Good, old sweet wine

Good, old sweet wine

MASERU – From being a “little drunkard” who grew up surrounded by traditional sorghum beer to a recognised winemaker.
That in short is the life story of Sefatsa Khabo.
Nicknamed Mashimi, the slang for alcoholic beverages, the 29-year-old’s life is all about alcohol. And because of alcohol, Khabo is drowning in acclaim.
His schoolmates nicknamed him Mashimi when he was still in high school because he used to bring them his grandmother’s home brewed sorghum beer.

“We were little school drunkards,” he says.
Khabo did more than just sneak the beer into school. He used to help his grandmother, whose livelihood depended on selling sorghum beer, to brew beer after school and during holidays.
This Leribe young man has made his grandmother’s craft his own, albeit now making wine.

He has named his winery after his moniker, Mashimi Wine (Pty) Ltd and it is taking the market by storm and is being enjoyed in faraway lands such as China, his main export destiny.
Khabo says the idea of establishing a wine business was helped by his childhood experiences helping his grandmother brew sorghum beer.
That was how his love for brewing was born.

“Even in high school during our leisure time, I used to brew beer for my friends,” he says.
Khabo says he thought about the idea in 2013 while he was waiting for his tertiary education results. He registered his company Mashimi in 2015.
His wine brands include Highlands Bliss Apple wine and Highlands Bliss Chennin Blush.

Khabo says another brand, Highlands Bliss Cabernet Sauvignon, will hit the market soon.
He says after graduating from Lerotholi Polytechnic with a Computer Systems Degree, he decided to venture into business to keep poverty at bay.
“Because of the biting unemployment, I thought of doing something to change my life,” Khabo says.
Khabo says while he was still thinking of what he could do, he found himself at Stellenbosch University, where he met people who make wine.
“Their business seemed to be flourishing although they had no land,” he says.

Bearing in mind that land is a major resource required in the business, Khabo was fascinated because his family had plenty of land.
What he also noticed is that the way the wine was brewed in Stellenbosch was not too different from the way traditional beer is being brewed in Lesotho.
While he was still meditating over the idea, a door opened.

“They enrolled me in one of their courses,” Khabo says, adding that the course enriched his skills and he returned home more “scientific”.
He says at the end of the course, he was not only equipped with broader skills but he also had a special recipe.
“This recipe needed to be explored,” Khabo says.

But the problem was how to get the necessary equipment and the testing laboratory.
He says he decided to go to the National University of Lesotho (NUL) with the hope of being assisted with a laboratory for testing.
“The university was so generous to welcome me in the laboratory where I started doing the testing of the wine to meet international standards,” he says.
“I am still using the university laboratory to test and analyse my products.’’

He says he started with the testing of flavours.
Khabo says he mixed several fruits but he didn’t like the taste.
He says he kept trying until he got the taste right.
The next challenge was getting equipment that was necessary to make wine of international standard.

First, he got a drum and slowly he built up on his equipment. But the challenges were not over. He still needed raw materials.
“While I was still scratching my head for answers, something came up,” he says.
He got to know about the cheapest supplier of Chennin Blank, a variety of wine grape in South Africa’s Western Cape area.

Although he got the supply, he questioned why he should rely on South African estates when land is abundant in Lesotho.
So he decided to plant grapes. Khabo says the market for wine is good and he is trying to meet growing demand.
At the moment, he produces for bulk orders only and not for individuals, “although I sometimes compromise”.
He says that the 400-litre drum which gets ready after two weeks produces more than 500 bottles.

“My shelves are always empty because we don’t keep the wine here to be sold,” he says, adding that he employs eight people on busy days.
He says most of his clients are guest houses and restaurants that sweep away the wine from the shelves.
Due to the huge demand, he says he is about to engage two more people in the ownership of the business.
He says the company has grown to a point where it is now recognised internationally.
“I now have clients in China,” he says.

Khabo says he is now trying to penetrate the South African market.
He says the business “is doing wonders” when it comes to profits considering that he started it with just less than M50.
What hampers the progress of his business, he says, is lack of capital hence the decision to take on board more investors.

He says he needs more machines to increase production capacity and reduce possible delays in the delivery of products due to low capacity.
Like the proverbial prophet who is not appreciated in his own home, Khabo says he is struggling to get the support of his community.
“Last year, I planted grapes but some community members let their animals feed on them. I had to buy the grapes from the Western Cape in South Africa,” he says.
He is not deterred, however.

Khabo says one of his major goals is to produce on a large scale so that he can supply the whole country and widen his international reach.
According to the drinktech blog the production, trade and consumption of wine is growing all around the world.
The blog further shows that the global wine exports jumped by 44 percent from 60 million hectolitres in 2000, to 104 million in 2016.
This puts wine-makers such as Khabo in a good market position.

Refiloe Mpobole

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