By now it has become clear that we are in the final stages of the work on our book on South African table grapes. We are writing this book for the table grape organisation SATI and it has kept us extremely busy over the past two years.

When you write a book and think that completing that manuscript is the end of the road, think again. Our task was to interview, do research and write the text. However, when we completed that task, it became clear that if we do not source the photographs as well, plan their positions in the book, do all the captions for every one of those 260 off pages which our 90 000 words were fitted into, the final design would not happen.

In the end we got it all done and as we approach the end of February, we will have to read the third proof. Then there will be one more proof and then the book will be printed and launched by end May.

One of our last tasks was to source high quality white, red and black seedless grapes for studio photographs of the front cover, and other special photographs in the book. This took us to the vineyards of two well-known Paarl producers – JD Kirsten and Aat Hoekstra. JD offered to help and told us in December that by the second week of January, the grapes would be ready.

That is how, one morning in early January we arrived of one of Aat Hoekstra’s farms in the Windmeul area of Agter-Paarl. In the book we wrote a lot about Oom Aat – you will have to read the chapter dealing with the Berg River Valley and find the story of the ‘Dutch Settler who arrived in South Africa with 10 Pounds in his pocket.’ Without giving anything away, we can tell you that Oom Aat became an institution in the South African table grape industry.

There we were at Hoekstra’s farm and were greeted by the smiling face and the imposing frame of Braam van Zyl – one of Oom Aat’s managers. It was 6.30 in the morning, the morning was crisp and fresh and the red seedless grapes did not disappoint. Braam cut them himself in the early hours so we could get them to the studio in their best condition.

We loaded the grapes, went to other farms to collect the white and black seedless grapes and the photographs turned out very special.

However, we did not leave without Braam also showing us the melons that made Oom Aat’s name famous in the international markets. It helped him to establish his famous Hoekstra brand which always earn premiums above other grapes in the market. Braam would not let us go without a carton of those special melons and we enjoyed them for many days after.

Those beautiful red Starlight grapes certainly also did the Hoekstra brand proud. It was a special morning and we will return again – to see Braam’s smiley face, and possibly to go and have a cup of tea with Oom Aat at Nancy, the farm where he lives below the imposing Paarl Rock!