A thriving olive and wine farm, producing Bordeaux-style wines and award-winning extra virgin olive oil and olive products, Morgenster Estate is undeniably a special place. Situated in Somerset West and dating back to 1711, the magnificent estate is in the heart of the Western Cape winegrowing region, and should be visited by every South African at least once – especially those who love olives! If truth be told, owner Giulio Bertrand prefers to talk about his oil rather than himself. But he admits to a love of South Africa, instilled during regular business trips from Italy, which have enticed him to spending nine months of the year in the Cape. Through a Q&A session Bertrand tells us why he started farming even though he said he never would, and why being passionate about your product is so important.
Q: What inspired you to start farming?
A: When my father retired from the textile industry at 65, he went into dairy farming. I, however, had no farming plans when I bought Morgenster on retirement. But after having spent two years restoring the homestead to its former glory, my father’s genes must have taken over as I found myself reminded of Tuscany when looking at the gentle hills rising behind the gabled homestead. And these hills simply begged to be farmed!
Q: How did the concept of your business come about?
A: Having made the decision to farm, my philosophy to produce only the best led me to seek the advice of many experts. That advice suggested that Morgenster terroir was perfectly suited to farm both olives and red wine grape varieties, hence I was able to set in motion then what would ultimately become a dream that fulfilled my passion for both olive oil and Bordeaux blends.
Q: What sets your product apart from others?
A: It is unique because it combines the best “building blocks”: cultivars/clones (some of which are patented / registered only by Morgenster), South African sun and South African people!
Q: Tell me about your staff
A: I have 83 employees who have all been “infused” with the Giulio Bertrand brand of passion for the best olive oils and red wines.
Q: In what ways do you think your business is benefiting the community?
A: In essence, I created my own competition by making the Italian olive cultivars available to other budding olive farmers right from day one. This has given not only them, but the entire industry, a competitive edge. SA Olive has acknowledged my significant impact on the olive industry in South Africa, which was previously founded on a single olive cultivar – before I imported 3000 trees from Italy, of about 20 different varieties.
Q: What are the main challenges when running your own business?
A: Seeing each challenge as an opportunity and thriving on them!
Q: What are the main rewards?
A: Pouring my very own olive oil on freshly toasted bruschetta at every meal! Food and wine in Italy are integrated concepts, and because I now have my own wine and my own oil at each meal – nothing could be better.
Q: Why do you think your business is successful?
A: The passion! My motto says it best: “Where there is passion, there is no compromise.”
Q: What advice can you give to someone starting their own business?
A: I remember the advice given to me by long time friend Angelo Gaja, the owner and President of Gaja Winery, when I announced my venture into wine and olive farming. I would give anyone the same advice that Angelo gave me… he said: “Are you mad?”
Q: In what way is your business Proudly South African?
A: Having initially bought Morgenster as a retirement home where I could spend two months a year, the fact that I now spend almost the entire year in South Africa gives you an indication of how “South African” this business is!
For more info, tel 021 852 1738 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org