Pure synchronicity and fortuitous friendships, as well as a deep and sincere love for wine, led to the birth of Black Elephant Vintners. Kevin, Raymond, and Jacques combined their uniquely diverse skillsets in an earnest endeavor to reclaim fun in the creative process of winemaking. They established their title as the rebels of the vine by constantly trying to demystify the winemaking process to all enthusiasts.
By cutting out the stereotypical yadda yadda and pretentiousness of the wine industry and dedicating their raw passion to the craft, the three rebels successfully created a unique range of wines with unrivaled character. Wines that appeals to a wide variety of desires, diverse tastes, and extraordinary occasions. Real wine, for real people.
So what makes this triptych function so brilliantly? Body, mind, and soul… it is the unique contributions each of the three rebels bring to Black Elephant Vintners. Kevin is the body, providing the actual home where the wine is crafted. Raymond is the mind, bringing innovation through creatively cultivating radical ideas for growth and Jacques is the soul, finding immense value in how much clients appreciate the wine and how they become part of the tribe by selecting BEV wines for their special occasions.
Kevin, multitalented like the other two rebels, qualified as a Civil Engineering Technician from Natal Technikon. After working in Durbs for a bit, he realised this wasn’t for him and moved to Johannesburg to join a Venture Capital firm, EPI Investments. He spent 23 years in the financial services industry, including time as a Trader on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, 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.
“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 his entry into the wine industry.
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. Kevin has always seen himself as somewhat of an outsider, a rebel 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.
Having played soccer on a provincial and national level in his youth, Kevin has always been a very active guy. On weekends and in his free time, he can be found running or mountain biking in and around Franschhoek. Having a habit of always being busy and challenging himself, Kevin has several Cape Argus and Comrades titles under his belt.
Raymond, originally with a background in finance, got into the wine industry out of curiosity. After a seven-year tenure at Standard Chartered Merchant Bank, Raymond moved to South Africa. He loves the ocean and decided to settle in Cape Town. Here Raymond collaborated in the establishment, growth and eventual exit of Prodigy Asset Management. After he moved to Jozi in 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.
“Being a rebel is knowing, discovering and living your truth and doing so respectfully unapologetic and not seeking to conform but seeking to do things that are radically incremental, so that we can grow value, not only for ourselves but also for our rebel tribe in every manner possible. Generally being a rebel means appreciating and understanding things from a holistic standpoint as opposed to a one dimensional one. Typically if you are in business one runs to the bottom line and approach it from a profit standpoint and we look at it from vine to vinyl, which is from the time you grow the grape to when we are actually sitting around a table and experiencing the music and wine pairing, that’s how we see the entire process.”
When he is not in boardrooms all over the globe, you will find him completing trail runs with his wife Lerato..
Wine Maker and Viticulturist
This lanky and laid-back winemaker is originally from Paarl. He spent his first five years on the infamous Robben Island. He completed his schooling in Paarl and went to Elsenburg to study Viticulture. After working at various cellars, at home and abroad, he returned to Elsenburg to further study Winemaking. He graduated top of his class. At Warwick estate, his passion for creating complex red wines was ignited. He learned of his love for bubbles at Môreson.
In January 2013, Jacques joined the other two rebels at Black Elephant Vintners. Old School at heart, Jacques believes in sticking to the basics such as open-top fermentors and a basket press “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.
Nothing is as rewarding for this accomplished winemaker as when someone selects Black Elephant wines for their wedding. A great believer in keeping a good balance between work, family and self, Jacques spends his free time outside. Over the last five years, he has completed three Cape Epics and three Iron Man events.