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Winemaker Q&A: Charles Back, Fairview

In the first of a new series, the drinks business speaks to Charles Back, owner of South African winery Fairview.

Age? 55

How did you get into winemaking? I didn’t really have a choice. I’m a third generation winemaker after my father and grandfather and it’s the only thing I ever wanted to do. My earliest memories are of being in the cellar with my dad and wanting to do the same thing.

What recent developments can you tell us about at your company? I’ve always wanted us to grow all of our own grapes. I recently purchased our neighbouring estate. It’s about 300 hectares, 150 of them with vines. As Fairview has evolved we’re now comfortable with the brand and the recent rebranding was a chance to reflect the reality of where the brand is now.

What are your hopes for the future, both for your company and the wine industry as a whole? Our cheese making facility is now completely carbon neutral and I aim to do the same with our winery over the next year. I’d like to be in a position where what we do has no negative impact on the environment. More generally the development of human resources is vital for South Africa. We try to empower all those who participate in the brand in both the cheese and winemaking. As a whole though we need to grapple with the re-distribution of land. It’s complex and perhaps the industry needs to take the lead with the government and NGOs.

What wines are in your own cellar? Anything. Having lots of friends in the wine business we swap a lot of wines with each other to try out. I do try to keep in touch with what’s going on abroad. One of my winemakers is always travelling and part of their brief is to bring back interesting wines.

Where did you last go on holiday? Holiday? What’s that? I’d like to go on a cycle ride through France. But my whole life is a holiday. I enjoy what I do so much it’s hard to drag me away from work…as my wife will attest.

What’s on your iPod? I don’t have one but if I did I’d want something to give me cricket and rugby updates.

How will South Africa do in the Rugby World Cup? I think they’re going to test my commitment as a Springbok supporter. They already have with their performance against Wales.

What is your philosophy in life? Integrity is very important. I like it when a deal done with a handshake is more binding than one with a contract.

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