On 3 August 2019 the extended family at Wine Village Hermanus celebrated 21 years of offering the best South African Wine Experience and one of the largest selections of wine to consumers from far and wide.
The secret of this longevity? Passion and Paul du Toit and his team!
Paul and Cathy du Toit opened the doors of the Wine Village on 3 August 1998, with wines from 19 producers displayed in an innovative “wine cupboard” style, instantly creating what would become a comprehensive wine library – red on the left, white on the right. An invitation to browse and experiment with new labels, new producers and new trends was extended and the journey of Wine Village Hermanus started.
From the outset, the du Toits developed strong relationships with producers, particularly the relatively new farmers in the Overberg, from Elgin to Elim, for some time even concentrating on this region as the theme of the annual Hermanus Wine and Food Festival.
“We had a symbiotic relationship with the producers, we supported and helped each other and over the years we have evolved with the growing and now significant South African wine industry. Today we represent 260 South African wine producers and have more than 2 600 wines and wine-related products on our shelves,” said Paul.
But it is Paul’s passion for wine and every aspect of the industry that has been the driving force behind the success of the Wine Village. A natural teacher, Paul has taught his favourite subject to every member of staff and, most importantly, emphasised that every wine has a story. The team prides itself on unearthing new discoveries, collecting the great diversity the wine industry has to offer, from obscure boutique wines to rare vintages, and offering them to visitors to enjoy – with the backstory of course!
“We talk about the vineyards, food, pairing, trends, wine people, the weather, the wedding, the restaurant wine list – about everything!” says Paul. So do not expect to simply walk in and buy wine. No, you walk in and you have an experience, from the warm welcome from every member of staff to the invitation to taste the day’s selection of fine South African wines.
Through the years many young people have worked at the Wine Village and it has been rewarding for the du Toits to see them achieve success as winemakers, wine consultants, viticulturists and more. The first requirement for any employee at Wine Village is passion, after that comes customer care, product knowledge and qualifications. Paul and Cathy believe in building lasting relationships with regulars and they have been so successful at it that they now welcome what they call the “generational customers”. Sons and daughters who visited the wine library with their parents are now friends of the Wine Village, sharing this welcoming experience with their own children.
Today Paul and Cathy’s business is a family affair. Foreman Dyani started shortly after the doors opened, 20 years ago and today has his own loyal following of customers. Ulla du Toit put her jewellry design business on the shelf to join the family team and son Johannes, an IT expert, married Karien, the business bookkeeper. They have two sons, Alexander and Benjamin who are naturally everyone’s favourites. Roëtter Smit and Yvette Botha share their tasting expertise daily and Sinethemba, Aliyanda and Tesh complete the friendly team.
The “Fine Wine Time Experience” does not stop in the Wine Village and experiences are not confined to wine. Several events and developments flowed naturally from the team’s efforts: the annual Hermanus Wine and Food Festival, the annual Wine Celebration in December and January (when more than a dozen different wines are available for tasting daily), the Gin Revolution, the Pot Still Brandy Exploration and the Hermanus Wine Club (whose 80 members enjoy monthly tastings hosted by winemakers from throughout the country). Loyal customers and deliveries of wine around the world and several “wine coup” tastings such as those hosted by world-renowned UK wine writer and Master of Wine, Tim Atkin, and the all-new Platter’s Wine Guide Posh Red tasting have followed.
As an active sportsman, Paul could not resist the temptation to get involved with the Cape Epic 14 years ago when he joined their organising team as the Race Office Manager. His enthusiasm and hard work brought the Epic to Hermanus four times. This naturally led to creating running and cycling trails in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, where Paul negotiated accessibility with his farmer friends and established Hermanus Adventures. The trails are a great asset to mountain biking in the area and are still maintained and run by Hermanus Adventures.
Charity organisations have also benefited from Paul and his team’s energy and hard work, the most significant being the Hemel-en-Aarde Pebbles Project, Camphill School and the Cancer Relay for Life in Hermanus.
As Ulla jokingly refers to the “executive management” at Wine Village, “Paul talks the money, Ulla takes the money, Karien counts the money and Cathy spends the money”. At the centre of it all is the passionate core and the ethos: ‘Give a little, take a little, and give a little more’.
Be assured, selling a bottle of wine is not the main purpose at the Wine Village. Turning visitors into lifelong wine friends, teaching them about wine, giving them the opportunity to try something new and different, and making sure everyone leaves the shop with a smile and a wish to return, that is the main aim.