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Going the distance for a good cause

Some people derive pleasure from drinking superior-quality wines, others get untold enjoyment from watching a nail-biting soccer match. German winemaker Christoph Hammel, gets a kick out of combining both these passions, plus adding a feel-good factor, by producing Long Distance wines – all proceeds generated will be donated to the South African mentally handicapped national soccer team.

Hammel partnered with South African winemaker Morné van Rooyen of the Company of Wine PeopleTM to produce a unique wine that will generate funds for a charitable cause.

After studying oenology in Vienna, Austria, Hammel did his practical training at Delheim wine estate in South Africa in 1985 and then worked at Koopmanskloof in the renowned Stellenbosch wine region. Burning the candle at both ends for a couple of years, Hammel travelled between South Africa and Germany during harvest times.

“Winemakers are like a family – one never loses contact. About two years ago, I started feeling a bit nostalgic that I was no longer actively involved in South African wines,” he said. After succumbing to the infinite allure of restoring ties with sunny South Africa, Long Distance wines was created. “Making wine is not just about pipe pulling and cleaning vats, this is a great initiative,” said Hammel about the project that will benefit the needy.

Despite being on far flung corners of the globe, Hammel and van Rooyen worked together to discuss grapes, tanks and tastes. Their mission: a commitment to quality and a wine that would tantalise tastebuds.

Hammel produced 1 500 litres of Riesling in Germany, while van Rooyen produced 1 500 litres of wine in South Africa, before they blended the wine together. Hammel's wine was classically fermented in 100-year-old German oak vats, and van Rooyen's half was made from grapes sourced from the Stellenbosch region. Hammel gave van Rooyen a special yeast strain for Riesling, which adds a special touch to the wine.

The name Long Distance is fairly self-explanatory, considering that the wine is a blend of South Africa and European Riesling. “Next year, we will merely tweak it to perfection. We are very happy with the current quality, but are still hungry for more,” said Hammel. The entire winemaking process occurred while the two winemakers were on opposite sides of the world: they matched volumes, sent tasting samples overseas, and fine-tuned their brew over the phone or via email. The hard work paid off and the winemakers are very happy with their successful strike.

The 4 000 bottles of Long Distance wine will be sold for R50 each, and all the proceeds will be donated to the South African national mentally handicapped soccer team for necessities such as kits or physiotherapy. No money will be deducted from the profits to cover production costs. Van Rooyen and Hammel aim to raise R600 000 during the build up to the Soccer World Cup.

While good will weighs heavily on the conscience, Hammel explicitly states that the wine is of such a quality that consumers will purchase it simply for the terrific taste, and not just because they're experiencing a morality crisis and want to support a charitable cause. “It is a good quality wine for a good cause,” reiterates Hammel.



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