SMITHILLS might seem a long way from South Africa but for one Bolton ex-pat it’s still a taste of home.
Gerard Holden jointly runs a large winery, guest-house, spa and five-star restaurant just outside Cape Town – when he’s not travelling the world sharing his love of fine wine.
His family moved to Smithills from Bury when he was 10 and young Gerard attended Thornleigh College. As the son and grandson of coal-miners he had an interest in mining from a young age.
But it was an school exchange break to France’s Champagne region that prompted his real fascination with the vine-growing process. He and his two brothers and sister had often been given a taste of wine at home – “It wasn’t about the alcohol, it was about learning the difference between a good wine and a poor one,” he explained. “And that never left me.”
After taking chemical engineering at University College London, Gerard joined Barclays Bank, specialising in mining operations. His work involved extensive travel and South Africa in particular impressed him. Nine years ago, he decided to make his home there, later buying a farm at Franschhoek in a stunning valley including vines and a winery.
After significant investment and hard work, the Holden Manz Wine Estate today boasts four different red grapes – Merlot, Chiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, plus a white Chardonnay grape.
There’s a delicate, year-round process to wine-making. Gerard keeps this as natural and additive free as possible and the result is an international reputation putting the wines in the Top 100 in South Africa and winning a double gold award in China last year.
Gerard’s personal passion is still sharing his love of wine. He still travels the world and the Holden Manz brand is popular in many countries, including the UK. Local stockists include T Wright of Horwich.
He doesn’t believe that good wine choices are necessarily to do with buying expensive wine – “some of ours retail around £9.99.” But he does believe that we should all try better wines at least occasionally: “You might discover something new that you really love.”