TWO direct descendants of opposing Boer War generals have joined forces to make a series of wines under the label Boer & Brit.
Alex Milner (left) and Stefan Gerber
Stefan Gerber, the great-great-grandson of Afrikaner leader Paul Kruger, and Alex Milner, a great-great-grandson of British general Sir John French met while studying winemaking at Stellenbosch University in the early 2000s.
They soon realised that their family history placed them on either side of South Africa’s white history – Boers and British, Dutch Reformed Church and Catholic.
Sir John (later Field Marshall) French launched a cavalry charge to end a 124-day siege of Kimberley in 1899/90, while Kruger was the Transvaal president and the public face of Boer resistance.
Milner, 29, whose family has lived in the country for two generations, says the enmity is purely historic.
He said: ‘It’s all a bit tongue in cheek and we’ve played on the history between us and in the country. The Boer & Brit on the label refers to me and Stefan – nothing more.’
His great-great-grandfather led British troops in the bitter conflict in which imperial Britain took over the Boer republics and gained control over diamond and gold fields.
Despite the historic animosity, the two say it’s all in the past. Gerber said: ‘This is South Africa and we have shared history but there is only friendship between us now.’
After graduating in 2004, the two got together last year and based themselves at Milner’s parents’ Natte Valleij home, near Stellenbosch.
Grapes are bought in and blended on site to produce three Boer & Brit varieties: Gezina, named after Stefan’s grandmother – a Sauvignon Blanc; The General, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, and The Field Marshall, a blend of Shiraz, Mourvedre, Tinta Amarela and Carignan.
The two reds feature British and Boer soldiers in uniform, and on the back label phrases such as ‘The war is over, let’s party’ and ‘With the body of a Boer and the nose of an Englishman – you can’t go wrong’.
This year they anticipate selling 30,000 bottles of the three varieties of which 60% will be exported including 5,000 to the UK.
Written by Ian Evans in Cape Town