When you get a chance to taste this wine, you don’t do it once. You don’t do it twice. You don’t even do it three times. You go on and on – and on. You got to be careful though – drink it for bliss, not drunkenness. In your hands is Lesotho’s special wine named HighLands Bliss which is making its name even in China. It was tested and refined for quite some time at the National University of Lesotho (NUL).
The demand for this wine, which has 12% alcohol, and is made from apples and grape, is over the roof. Supply is limited. Mr Khabo Sefatsa, the wine developer, is waiting for the right time. His company is called Mashimi Wines.
The name, HighLands Bliss, come from the fact that it is brewed deep in the Mountains of Lesotho – in the HighLands. Those who are versed in the Queen’s language define the word bliss in this way, “supreme happiness; utter joy or contentment.”
Yes, when you drink the HighLands Bliss, one thing becomes unmistakable, or even predictable; the happiness on your face.
Every year around September, he packages HighLands Bliss and sends it – no -not to South Africa. Not to Botswana. Not even to Ethiopia. He sends the wine to the furthest corner of the world – China – in one particular location where it has made its name. “I have a tiny but loyal market there,” he said. “I target a special Chinese ceremony where my wine is part of the celebration.”
Sending wine to China creates a dilemma. As he continued improving his wine, Basotho slowly began to fall in love with it too. In fact, they became madly in love with it. “But our capacity is very limited,” he said. “We can’t satisfy all these people. We really invite anyone who can invest in our capacity. The product is right, the market is right.”
“A journey of 1000 miles,” wise men have said, “begins with a single step.”
It is the step Sefatsa took a couple of years ago. “I have always been an entrepreneur at heart,’’ he related. There are two groups of entrepreneurs – those who make products and those who sell them. Apparently, Sefatsa belongs to the first group. Lesotho, they say, is in dire need of that very group.
“When I was doing my last year at Fokothi, I landed on an entrepreneurship class by a lecturer best known for his passion for getting things done, Mr Joseph Thaba.” He was set on fire. He wanted to get into business right away. His chance would come.
He took a trip to Stellenbosch in South Africa. Among the things they would do during the trip was wine-tasting. “We were specifically welcomed in one winery.” Once he was there, he did more than wine tasting.
He took the opportunity to learn about wine-making and those who welcomed him did not disappoint. They took him through all the wine-making steps and showed him first-hand, how wine was made.
That was the journey of 1000 miles beginning with a single step.
Those who have experience will tell you this. Businesses of production or manufacturing are never a walk in the park – no wonder many a soul shy away from them. Knowing theory of it, and doing it practically are two, very different things. So being at Stellenbosch was just a spark. He still needed a lot of fire to get into the nuts and bolts of wine-making.
What would he do?
He went to the NUL. He went there, not because NUL was famous for making good wine, let alone wine at all. He went there because he knew that the varsity in the Roma Valley was a hub of knowledge creation. Therein he met Professor Mosotho George who, thankfully, hosted him in his laboratory for two months.
“In those two months, I worked with Professor’s student; one Tšooana Ntlatlapa who assisted me directly in testing and improving the properties of my wine.” He scientifically confirmed quite a number of things and by the time he left, he was happy.
From there, he continued to work on his wines until he reached a level of satisfaction. He knew he got it right from the demand he saw for his creation. If he were to get some investment, he said he is more than ready to hit the ground running.
Let’s invest in the bliss of HighLands Bliss.
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