Edinburgh restaurants back new wine scheme aimed at helping African children

It’s the perfect way to keep a clear conscience – if not a clear head – when ordering just one more glass of wine during a night out at some of the Capital’s finest restaurants.

That’s because, following the sound of popping corks at eateries such as The Kitchin, Castle Terrace, Martin Wishart’s The Honours and Ondine, cash is being poured into community projects in South Africa.

The Cannonberg Project, set up by wine supplier l’Art du Vin, means that a percentage of the price of every bottle of its Chenin Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, below, is ploughed into the Imbuko Farm community in Wellington, where the wines are made.

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Managing director Philippe Larue, who moved to Scotland from France “for the weather” 15 years ago, after falling in love with Edinburgh during a visit to the Festival, explains: “I’ve worked in the wine business for a long time. About ten years ago I went to South Africa to look into producers. During the visit, I saw how much needs to be done for the communities there, especially those who depend on farming. There is so much poverty and I wanted to do something to help.

“Imbuko Farm is where we source our South African wine from and it is in one of the poorest regions in the district. It is very important to us that we do something to help.”

Philippe founded the company along with Richard Bouglet and Edward Bowen in September 2007, built on the trio’s shared passion for quality wine.

Though he insists the contribution made by the company “is nothing huge”, those at the farm and their families may beg to differ. Thanks to money reinvested by l’Art du Vin, a 
facility has been set up so the workers’ children can be cared for and get help with school work.

“There are lots of kids in the community and the school finishes quite early in the day,” he says. “The kids, like all children, can be a bit naughty, so it’s good that we can offer them extra teaching in the afternoon.

“The parents know that the kids are well looked after and will be learning and doing their homework, so that makes everybody happy.

“Over 30 children use the facility and that’s been up and running for two or three years.”

More recently, the staff at Imbuko Farm have been provided with a new lunch and cloakroom area, including new fridges and microwaves.

And it’s not just wine connoisseurs who are chipping in. Philippe says: “A few years ago we heard that St George’s School in Haymarket was looking to get rid of their old computers, so we collected them and had them shipped over. They were checked, fixed up and then distributed among the community so people could learn how to use them.

“The next step is to rearrange the garden to make it more like a picnic area so people can relax while they eat lunch. We raise money every year and we keep in regular touch to find out what has been done and what still needs to be improved on.”

The project was originally part of the official Fairtrade movement, but Philippe says l’Art du Vin, which is based in a farm steading in 
Dunfermline, wanted to make the initiative more personal.

“Although the Fairtrade family do great things, we don’t need to operate on that level, with that level of marketing and bureaucracy,” he says. “We wanted to do something on a more immediate level, so now we invest money directly. For us it’s more about personal values and we find it very rewarding. To see the young kids being able to learn, and further benefit their communities, it makes us very happy.

“We try to visit once a year and we always make a point of seeing the workers and their families. They are always so grateful, generous and kind, and the kids come and sing songs for us.”

For those who want to play their part, securing a sought-after table at one of the participating restaurants is not 
essential. Philippe explains: “We kept hearing that customers at the restaurants we supply were always asking about the wine and where they could get it.

“Sometimes they would call us up, too, so we thought ‘why not make it easier for them?’ Now we get to have a direct link with some of our customers, which means we get to hear the feedback first hand.”

n l’Art du Vin will be holding its annual wine tasting on Sunday, November 25 at the Royal College of Surgeons, featuring wines from Australia, New Zealand, France and Chile. To order wine from The Cannonberg Project visit