Charles Brain - Lubanzi Wines
Name: Charles Brain
Expertise: South African wines
Job: Winemaker / Importer
Past Discussions: Discovering South African Wine
How did you get your start in wine?
Growing up my extended family owned a wine distribution company in Kansas, where I grew up. Distributors are the guys who buy wine from US producers & importers and then sell it to stores & restaurants, so growing up I was really well exposed to the business of wine and how it got bought & sold. My real interest & passion in producing wine came from spending a semester (and then an extra month or two) in South Africa. Lubanzi is really the result of some unique opportunities and the tying together of those two worlds.
What’s something you’d like people to know about being a winemaker that they probably don’t?
Don’t let a lack of knowledge about winemaking getting in the way of enjoying the wine. It’s fun to understand wine, but it’s much more important to understand where wine is from & who is really behind it then it is to understand the origin of some aroma you’re supposed to be picking up on.
Also, to be a more conscious consumer about the brands you consume. There’s a real absence of craft when it comes to most wines you might be familiar with. People understand the difference between craft beer & big beer and craft food & big food, but many wines have done a good job for a long time now of masquerading themselves as craft, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. The scale of some brands truly can boggle the mind. Being a conscious consumer can go a long way in changing the industry & opening doors for small guys like us.
Tell us about Lubanzi Wines.
Lubanzi is the product of some amazing travels throughout South Africa & a partnership between myself, my friend Walker Brown, two amazing South African winemakers and an unbelievable South African not-for-profit. Walker and I met in South Africa several years ago and during our time there grew to really feel & understand that South African wine is poorly understood & represented here in the US. So, we decided to journey back to Cape Town, find the right partners and create some everyday wines that we felt would really appeal to our home. We spent ages getting the wines right, partnered with a one of a kind design studio back in South Africa, named them after a dog, who led us on a 6 day & 100 mile hiking trip over there and pledged half our profits back to The Pebbles Project, our not for profit partner. We currently still produce just two wines and feel lucky to say that we sell them all around the country and are now starting to take them to new countries as well.
What are three South African wine facts people can use as a conversation starter?
1. South Africa is the world’s 7th largest wine producer
2. Wine has been being made in South Africa for over 350 years.
3. Compared to every other country, South Africa has the lowest average price point for a 90+ rated wine.
Drink of choice?
A frosty cup of South African Chenin Blanc
House on the beach or log cabin in the woods?
On the beach, with some waves
3 songs you can't stop listening to ...
1. Pick a place and read - Ezra Bell
2. Farther Along - Josh Garrels
3. Southern Suburbs - Beatenberg (not one of my last three tbh, but check em out)