Patrick Rea found his way into the world of wine through a fortunate acquirement by one of his clients. In this Meet the Friend interview, Amanda Barnes learns why he went from marketing medical services to marketing English Pinotage and why he’s hoping to be able to invite members over for a round of golf at Mannings Heath one day soon.
Tell us how you got into the world of wine and your first experiences or memories of wine.
I was originally a PR business and technical consultant working for many years with Penny Streeter OBE and her medical staffing businesses. Penny is one of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs and acquired Benguela Cove Lagoon Wine Estate in South Africa in 2013, and asked me take on the PR. It is located at the start of the Hermanus Wine Route in the Walker Bay region.
This was the first professional experience in the world of wine for both of us and I have been engaged in marketing Benguela Cove’s wine in both South Africa and the UK since then, and helping develop the estate as a wine tourism destination, with its lagoon wine tasting tours, excellent restaurant and other attractions.
Penny’s vineyard team, managed by winemaker Johann Fourie, has created remarkable award-winning wines, which makes my job much easier!
How have you seen marketing approaches change during this past year of the pandemic? And what do you think will be the lasting changes in the world of marketing post-pandemic?
The major change during the pandemic for South African wines has been the huge impact of the ban on alcohol sales there during their lockdown. Even wine exports were banned for a time.
Benguela Cove actually continued to do well and is still thriving, due in part to excellent UK exports, and now sales in South Africa have bounced back. We did a number of popular online wine tastings during lockdown with Johann Fourie, paired with Braai cooking demonstrations by our excellent chef in South Africa, Annie Badenhorst, which won new sales and many members for our wine clubs in the UK and South Africa.
One of your main clients is Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate, in Horsham, West Sussex, tell us a bit about the estate and vineyard and why golf and wine make a good combination.
Penny Streeter bought Mannings Heath Golf and Wine Estate and planted the vineyard in 2017. We had our very first harvest in 2020. We will at last see the fruits of the 15 hectares of vineyards, with total production projected at some 75,000 bottles of sparkling wine annually, with the first release of wine to enjoy in 2023. The sparkling wine cultivar vines at Mannings are 60% Chardonnay, 30% Pinot Noir and 10% Pinot Meunier.
There is also a small experimental planting of Pinotage at Leonardslee Lakes and Gardens, also owned by Penny Streeter and just three miles from Mannings Heath. It is the first commercial planting of Pinotage in the UK and is to evaluate the grape under the growing conditions found in Sussex.
Penny invested in the golf club to create a retail venue and wine destination experience, the sort that you see in South Africa, where families go for weekends throughout the year, for lunch, dinner – perhaps a wine tasting, music and a programme of other entertainment – to meet with family and friends.
Golf and wine go very well together – we have golf buggy tours of the vineyards and wine tastings, which people love, and there are extensive terraces outside the clubhouse, where we have BBQs throughout the spring, summer and autumn. There is a restaurant and also a large banqueting room, so it makes a great wine destination, for a day out, a party, wedding or other celebration.
That’s interesting, I’m very curious to try the first English Pinotage when it becomes available! Are you a fan of South African wine?
South African wine is in my opinion the best New World wine. They are winning the battle in terms of producing great quality and good value, and it is working well commercially for Benguela Cove – our wines are really special. The vineyard is at the lowest level, sea-level, and with the longest sea border of any vineyard in the world. The south-easterly sea breeze is chilled by the Benguela Current flowing up from Antarctica, to cool the grapes at night after warm summer days, irrigated by above-average rainfall, for slow ripening and perfect viniculture.
There are 65 hectares of vines, which produced 520 tons of grapes and 150,000 bottles. Cultivars comprise Sauvignon Blanc 45%, Shiraz 25%, and others.
What are you most looking forward to doing as the world begins to open up again?
One of the great pleasures will be to invite members of the Circle to Mannings Heath to see all the work we have done and to sample our vintages. If any members would like to visit they are welcome to contact me.