Francois Haasbroek and Jaap Pijl are two unlikely characters to have been South Africa’s first canned wine producers. Francois, of Blackwater Wines, is an umpteenth generation South African whose winemaking style is rooted in the traditional camp. Jaap is a Dutch accountant by trade, working primarily with large wineries over the years. They might seem risk adverse, but the founding of their canned wine venture, Renegade Wines, proved them to be quite the opposite.
Riverine is the latest brand from Renegade Wines. Most canned wines on the market today are made to fit their container. Cheap wines in a cheap vessel made from cheap fruit. But Francois, the Riverine winemaker, sees it the other way around. They just “put wine in packaging that makes sense.” His wines are made with the same approach that he takes at Blackwater: sustainable farming, wild yeast fermentation, and being hands-on in the cellar but never with heavy hands. Bridging the gap between old school and new wave, he makes varietally correct wines from extremely carefully sourced fruit – they just happen to be in a can. The Chenin Blanc comes from a Certified Old Vine Heritage Vineyard, and the rosé is whole-bunch pressed from a bushvine site on sand. In few instances will you find this kind of TLC – and old vines for that matter – in a can.
Movers and shakers know that change isn’t easy. Getting South Africa’s first canned wines to market was a mammoth task, particularly in an industry that is disinclined to change. Red tape bureaucracy prevailed as they tried to prove that cans could be a viable vessel for good, young-drinking wines. After rigorous shelf-life testing that lasted the better part of 2019, Renegade Wines became the first company to sell canned wines in South Africa. They chose to share this shelf-life research with the nation’s wine industry so that no one else had to go through the burdensome waiting period. For this, they were awarded an Innovative Business Award by the Western Cape Government in 2020.
Having won the wine packaging battle, Francois and Jaap wanted to be a force for good beyond just the wine industry. The logo pays homage to the Riverine rabbit, a critically endangered species native to South Africa of which only 1,500 remain today. A portion of the proceeds of the sales of Riverine cans are dedicated to their protection. Saving rabbits is in Francois’s nature, after all. The English translation of Haasbroek? Rabbit Pants. 😉