Franschhoek resident releases limited-edition wine in aid of donkey sanctuary

Wine for donkeys? Donkey wine?

Well, yes and no: let’s rewind to last November when 24 rescue donkeys arrived at their new home, a peaceful nine-hectare farm outside McGregor village, with paddocks and new fences, shadecloth and stables, grass and hay bales, and an office, education centre and coffee shop for their two-legged supporters.

Eseltjiesrus Donkey Sanctuary, having acquired its own property, now has a mortgage to take care of, along with myriad expenses of fodder and medicine, irrigation systems and staff salaries, although a team of volunteers does lighten the burden.

The sanctuary not only provides a safe haven for aged, abused and destitute donkeys, but has active educational projects that reach children throughout South Africa and an outreach programme for donkey owners.

Fund-raising is continuous and essential, and sanctuary founders Johan and Annemarie van Zyl have discovered that assistance and donations take many, sometimes unexpected forms.

As one of four centres on the Robertson Wine Valley route, wine is an important element in McGregor tourism, and two animal-lovers took this fact a step further.

Meet Elmaré Welgemoed, a Franschhoek resident, lover of good wine, art and donkeys. She also has access to a single vineyard of old bushvine chenin blanc on her family farm, St Croix, and counts Delaire’s talented winemaker, Morné Vrey, among her friends. Having examined the vines, it did not take much to persuade him to make a fine, limited-edition chenin blanc in aid of the Eseltjiesrus donkeys, and the maiden vintage of Dazzling Donkey chenin, finished with a little semillon, went into oak for 18 months before being bottled last July.