“Multifaceted” may be an understatement when it comes to describing artist, actor, producer, filmmaker and curator Thapelo Mokoena, who now adds winemaker to his impressive resume with the recent launch of Nero, in collaboration with Bosman Wines.
The red wine – which he describes as “the Black Panther of wine” – was born of a close friendship between Mokoena and CEO of the Bosman Family Vineyard, Petrus Bosman. Following endless conversations about wine, family and business, it soon became clear that the Mokoena and Bosman families, albeit from completely different worlds, shared similar values, creating fertile ground for a business partnership.
“After meeting a couple of wine families travelling the wine route for close to a year and a half, just trying to find new ideas and perspectives, I met the Bosmans. [Petrus] was looking into trying something new and I was trying to go into a fresh business venture, anything that had to do with being connected to the soil and nature in more ways than one – be it farming or winemaking – and of course it had to do a lot with having children too,” says Mokoena.
When Bosman told Mokoena that he had returned from Sicily with, and successfully grown a special grape variant known as the Nero d’Avola, Mokoena was sold on a collaboration, which culminated in the launch of the red wine.
Reflecting on how easily one can draw parallels between the black grape that’s managed to flourish in volcanic soil in its native Mediterranean region, to his own brand of black pride and resilience no matter the challenges, Mokoena champions the wine’s branding and messaging.
On his involvement in creating Nero as the brand head and creative owner, he shares: “There are places where your face is bought to execute a particular message, where you become a brand ambassador or ‘the face’. This is completely different from that. This is a true business collaboration where we’re both involved,” he explains.
“So my involvement is from the branding and the releasing of the product. Me coming on board was then infusing the true African idea to this brand. If it is a fighter seed, a resilient grape that has fought so many conditions to come and grow in African soil, best believe that this grape is now an African grape and it needs a strong African identity and not a face to rent or buy. That’s not how I work in any case.”
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That said, Mokoena shares that he wants to make the wine experience accessible to the average South African. “In your own country you should be able to make a quick detour to the winelands because it is accessible and it is partly yours,” he explains. “So this is the beginning of that story – and the beginning of that gathering.”
“I’m an artist who happens to be in the world of business. I enjoy creating a great story for everyone to enjoy, whether it’s through a motion picture or in a bottle. And this is a new journey for me. One day I will have my farm and farm livestock and this is the beginning of that journey,” he added.
Naturally, it was important for Mokoena to partner with a business that was responsible in its practices, given the history of wine farms and their employees in South Africa.
“What I loved as well was that the Bosmans have really given everything to enrich and share the wealth of the soil. Thirty percent of their business is owned by the people who work on the farm, and they started doing this transformation like 12 years ago,” he says.
“They also happen to take good care of the people that work on the land. They’ve built schools, they’ve built homes for them – it’s such a good story and I was like, well, this is how the Mokoena brand associates itself, through uplifting and through a good story that takes care of every South African around that story,” he explains.
On how to best enjoy Nero, which he describes as dark, bold and spicy, Mokoena says there are no rules and it can even be enjoyed chilled with a great meal, ideally outdoors with good company.
Mokoena says there will be a number of activations and experiences for the launch of the wine in the near future, which wine connoisseurs and novices can look forward to.
Nero is available online from the Bosman Wines’ online store and is expected to be stocked in Woolworths stores from January 2019.
Header image source: Instagram/mokoenalive