No ordinary vineyard

KALMOESFONTEIN, South Africa - He mixed his first wine at 13 and today Adi Badenhorst is one of a group of passionate young winemakers who found their promised land in South Africa's Swartland soils.

Reggae music fills the cellar, posters of naked women and boxing legend Muhammad Ali on plastered on the walls.

About 100km north of Cape Town, Badenhorst's Kalmoesfontein is no ordinary vineyard, its winemaker's language as peppered as his beard and long hair.

"Most of our product is not very successful commercially, but we have fun," he says between bursts of laughter.

With his wines as in his life, Badenhorst - already an institution at 42 - never misses the chance to crack a joke.

What else can explain his five-year-old daughter Ana's middle name "Kalander", the local word for a weevil that preys on vines?

But he's serious when it comes to wine, though some of his products are experimental.

Next year he plans to produce Cinsault, Grenache and Carignan all on the same plot, all starved of water. Just as Badenhorst likes it.

"They never get water, and they are very happy - they produce."

Veins running with wine

His veins running with wine, Badenhorst should know.

His grandfather was the farm manager of Cape Town's historic Groot Constantia vineyard for 46 years.

Badenhorst himself was amongst the vines from a young age, tagging along with his father to Buitenverwachting, another big farm in the area.

He first experimented with wine making when he was just 13. He then went on to study at Stellenbosch - the capital of South African wine - and spent seasons in the French vineyards of Saint-Emilion and Crozes-Hermitage.

When Kalmoesfontein came onto the market - an unused vineyard at the time, producing nothing - he pooled his money together with a cousin's and set down roots in the mountainous paradise of the Swartland, home to a new generation of winemakers.

Now, Badenhorst lives by his own rules, irreverent and unfazed by commercial and critical norms.

"We drink a lot of gin and tonic, and we thought the tonic you buy is ... too sweet."

So he decided to branch out and make his own. And gin, too. And hey, why not plant some lemon trees as well?

Then came the resurrection of a vermouth called Caperitif, a "fantastic" cocktail mix of white wine and quinquina - also called red cinchona or quina and known for its high quinine content - popular in Cape Town in the 1920s, says Badenhorst .

Then, a craft beer called Pyl Uil - meaning "common owl" when translated from Afrikaans, but pronounced "pale ale", which it is.

And he has plans of a legacy to leave to his children.

Walking on his estate, he points to an empty hillside, devoid of vines and trees.

"One day, I'll be sitting there in the shade," says Badenhorst. No doubt with a homemade gin and tonic in hand.