Charles Back

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Charles Louis Back is the third generation owner of South African wine and cheese producer Fairview, in Paarl in the Western Cape province. Fairview Estate is a third-generation family-owned farm, located on the slopes of the Paarl Mountain in the winelands of the Western Cape. With a winemaking heritage that dates back to 1693, Fairview has developed a reputation as one of South Africa’s leading wine producers that has been bottling wine under its own label since 1974. Under the guidance of owner Charles Back, who joined his father at the farm in 1978, Fairview is driven by its philosophy of being authentic, honouring the farm’s heritage and always innovating. Charles has always wanted to do things differently – introducing Mediterranean grapes such as Viognier, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Petit Sirah to the Cape. He also began to make artisanal cheese – a business that has gone on to become every bit as prestigious and successful as the farm’s wine. Indeed, the Fairview Cheesery produces a range of over 50 cow’s milk and goat’s milk artisanal cheeses, including white mould, blue mould, feta, cream cheese and most recently, cheddar styles.

Career and winemaking philosophy[edit]

Charles Back studied winemaking at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. He officially joined his family's company in 1978 and took over full control in 1995 after his father, Cyril, died.[1] Following the fall of Apartheid in South Africa and the lifting of economic sanctions, Back initiated marketing and sales on the international market. Back is also the owner of The Goats do Roam Wine Company, which has been the highest selling South African wine brand in the United States since its introduction in 2000.[citation needed] He also owns The Spice Route Winery which is a wine cellar in the Swartland region of the Western Cape.

Back has brought a number of new grape varietals to South Africa and is one of the country's original Rhône Rangers. He was the first producer to plant Viognier vineyards in the country, and has the largest plantings of Mourvèdre. Back also bottled South Africa's first single varietal Petite Sirah. He is of the opinion that the majority of South African vineyards should be planted to more Mediterranean and Rhône style varietals, as opposed to the Bordeaux ones that have typically been favoured.[2]

Back is responsible for building The Goat Tower at Fairview, which is now recognised around the world as a symbol for not only Fairview, but the Paarl and South African winelands. He incorporated the goat tower into his labels and the tale of the origin of The Goats do Roam Wine Company.

Back is also recognised for his commitment to social development within the previously disadvantaged communities affiliated to the South African wine industry. In 1997 he initiated the establishment of The Fairvalley Workers Association which seeks to provide land ownership to Fairview workers and their families. Back purchased a piece of land adjacent to his Fairview property, using his personal funds, as well as a grant from the South African government. This 16 hectare piece of land was given to the association. He also assisted with the development of the Fairvalley wine brand which is owned by the workers association. This was one of the first such arrangements in South Africa and the funds raised through the sale of Fairvalley wines were used to build eight houses for founding members of the association. Plans are currently in progress to develop the land further through the establishment of the Fairvalley eco-village.

Other achievements[edit]

In April 2006, South African WINE Magazine voted Back the second most influential person in the South African wine industry,[3] after Nelson Mandela.

In 2007 Back was nominated as one of UK publication Harpers most influential personalities in the wine industry [4]

The KWV appointed Back onto their advisory winemaking committee in 2007, tasked with assisting the company with their quality and production strategy.[5]

In 2017, Charles Back became one of the most awarded winemakers in South Africa, honoured with prestigious titles such as the 1659 Wine Industry Medal of Honour 2017 and the South African Farmer of the Year 2017.


  1. ^ Fairview official website
  2. ^ Molesworth, J (October, 2007). "Have Goats will Roam". Wine Spectator.
  3. ^ "Who influences what you are drinking?" Archived October 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. (April 2006). Retrieved on 20 April 2008.
  4. ^ "The Industry's 10 most inspiring people" (18 May 2007).Harpers The Wine and Spirit Weekly, p.24
  5. ^ Hymli Krige Archived October 12, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. (June 2005). "KWV mentoring team". Wineland. Retrieved on 20 April 2008.

External links[edit]