During the dark days of the Covid-19 lockdown, when decisions made by the powers that be didn’t make much sense to many, such as the banning of the sale of alcohol, many South Africans living abroad had to watch helplessly as the devastating consequences of these decisions unfolded from thousands of miles away.
For especially those who hail from the Cape Winelands region it was evident what huge damage and loss the ban on wine sales was causing to all who lived there.
But instead of just wasting time criticising some went about mitigating all the resultant effects in their own way, however far away they were.
One of these is a Paarlite living in London, Lynelle Swanepoel, who is still working hard behind the scenes to promote the South African wine industry, forced to its knees due to the stringent Covid-19 regulations.
The Paarl Girls’ High matriculant studied law at Stellenbosch University, before setting off to England, where she and her young son Jacques are now settled.
She works at the renowned Christies auction house as corporate legal council.
Although living abroad, she has through the years kept close ties with her country of origin. Swanepoel established Carry On 4 Babies, where she receives donations of baby goods from overseas, which she then arranges to have flown to South Africa for distribution to less fortunate communities.
And when liquor sales in South Africa were banned due to lockdown she responded in her usual proactive way.
After all, she has her roots firmly planted in the wine industry, for her father Chris was an icon in the industry in the 1980s.
Swanepoel kept a hawk eye on the implications of lockdown since it started in South Africa, and she was devastated by the negative impact it was having on the economy of her country.
Already early in lockdown she and other expats were raising money for food vouchers for needy people in South Africa. They have raised more than R100 000 for this so far.
“The inquiries have now doubled for people in South Africa, who beg me for food,” Swanepoel said.
And with the imminent collapse of the SA wine industry, Swanepoel then also actively started promoting South African wine on various social media platforms among her UK friends and colleagues.
“I thought it would be nice just to encourage friends here to buy SA wines, just to help out a bit.”
The project also includes a wine club, which she started in her UK home town of Weybridge, near London.
Tastings are done via Zoom meetings, and each member takes a turn to do a wine tasting using South African wines only each Friday.
This has led to the Drink South African Wine this Friday campaign, and has become very popular among expats in the UK and their foreign friends.
Now Swanepoel is also inviting South African wine makers to talk about their wines during these Zoom meetings, with the first special quest, Paarl’s Charles Hopkins who is winemaker at De Grendel.
“The British now love SA wines,” she says. “People here do not want the SA wine industry to sink, nor the tourism and restaurant industry. SA is also part of the furniture here in the UK.”
And although the sale of alcohol has now again been permitted in South Africa, Swanepoel continues with the Zoom tastings and social media efforts to promote the sale of SA wine abroad.
“SA will always be home to me. I miss the Boland and my mountains. There is nothing nicer for me when I get off that plane after 12 hours of sitting, to sit somewhere at a beautiful SA wine farm and drink a glass of wine with friends with those beautiful, beautiful blue mountains in the background. There is nothing more beautiful.
“Back home I make sure I visit as many wineries as I can. How sad it will be not to see the next time I’m there some of the wineries no longer exist?”
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