Our People

Black Elephant Vintners was born out of synchronicity, fortuitous friendships and a love for wine. Kevin, Raymond and Jacques joined skill and grit in a real endeavour to bring fun into serious winemaking and to demystify the winemaking process to all enthusiasts.

By eliminating the pomp and pressure commonly associated with wine and applying their raw passion, they created a range of wines with unique character that appeals to different desires, tastes and occasions – wine for real people.

Jacques Wentzel

Wine Maker and Viticulturist

Jacques hails from Paarl where the wine bug sank its teeth into him at an early age. Ironically he was born into a world far removed from vines, having spent his first five years on Robben Island, South Africa’s iconic symbol of political struggle.

After completing his schooling in Paarl, Jacques enrolled at Elsenburg Agricultural College to study Viticulture. After completing his studies he worked at various wine cellars, both locally and abroad, before returning to Elsenburg to further study Winemaking where he graduated top of the class.

His work experience at Warwick estate ignited a passion for creating red wines of complexity, while Môreson’s award winning Cap Classique wines instilled a love of bubblies in this lanky and laid-back winemaker. Jacques joined Black Elephant Vintners in January 2013, bringing his experience and hands-on approach into the company. It is Jacques’ commitment to delivering consistent high quality, interesting and multi-dimensional wines that completes the picture of the Black Elephant Vintners team.

The use of tried and tested “old fashioned” methods in the cellar, such as open top fermentors and a basket press, suits Jacques’ philosophy of “sticking to the basics”. “It’s not rocket science,” he quips. “I just prefer making clean, healthy wines. Then I have a solid basis and can experiment when it comes to the blending process,” maintains Jacques.

Jacques’ humble approach is both inspirational and endearing. It is these characteristics one will find in his fine wines.

Raymond Ndlovu

Non-Executive Chairman

The natural point of departure for Raymond’s ever-growing interest in the wine industry and passion for the ‘fruits of the vine’ began a couple of decades ago – as an enthusiastic and curious consumer. Raymond’s 25-year career and personal development journey has been centred upon the financial services industry.

In 1995, after completing a seven-year tenure at Standard Chartered Merchant Bank, Raymond decided to explore further afield and ventured to South Africa. The appeal of a coastal lifestyle and the opportunity to expand his professional horizons in Cape Town particularly was a logical step.

In 1998, Raymond collaborated in the establishment, growth and eventual exit of Prodigy Asset Management. Subsequent to relocating to Johannesburg in early 2002, he met his business partner and co-creator, the “black” in Black Elephant, Kevin Swart. They co-founded and managed institutional stockbroker, Noah Financial Innovation until July 2011, when they relinquished their controlling interest to Religare Capital Markets.

“The family’s decision to move to Franschhoek in July 2012 was spontaneous and bold. Our decision to create Black Elephant Vintners was inspired. The call to join Invenfin and work with fellow entrepreneurs was pure synchronicity.”

Raymond brings a host of wit and business skill to the team and still finds time to fulfil his obligation as a keen taster, self-appointed critic and tireless brand ambassador.

Kevin Swart

Managing Director

Kevin qualified as a Civil Engineering Technician from Natal Technikon. After a brief stint at Durban Municipality, he realised this was not where his future lay and left Durban for Johannesburg to join a Venture Capital firm, EPI Investments.

Kevin spent 23 years in the financial services industry during which time he co-founded and managed Noah Financial Innovation, a local stockbroking firm. The company was sold in 2011 to Religare Capital Markets, allowing Kevin the opportunity to re-evaluate and find new inspiration.

The Swart family purchased La Petite Vigne, a boutique wine cellar on the outskirts of the Franschhoek village. Kevin’s passion for winemaking and the wine industry emerged soon after. Producing his first vintages at La Petite Vigne was the realisation of a dream that had seemingly lain dormant for the first years of his life. “Having become disillusioned with the financial markets, it seemed real to be dealing with nature and making something that you could touch and feel, not to mention taste,” is how Kevin best sums up this entry into the wine industry.

Kevin has always seen himself as somewhat of an outsider, with a passion for doing things differently. It is this refreshing trait combined with his unfathomable commitment to his family, business and partners that brought early success to this young wine company.