"We must sail sometimes with the wind and sometimes against it - but we must sail, and not drift, nor lie at anchor." ~ Wendall Holmes Jr


The opportunity for Francis Pratt to become one of the winemaking pioneers of the Elim Wine Ward may have much to do with the rather interesting genealogy of the Pratt family. The mix of blood lines and skill sets sounds like a perfect recipe for producing the ideal wine farmer:
A portion of English diplomacy and beauty; a healthy sprinkling of astute entrepreneurship; lots of solid Afrikaans farmer’s daughters with excellent dowry’s; an accomplished pianist with a love of music; a strong strain of French blood that adds a lively, lighthearted, life-loving strain into the mix and a couple generations of dedicated, tenacious farmers.

Add to this Francis’ personal devotion to the land and his passion for capturing the magnificence of this special place in a bottle of wine and you will not be surprised to hear people say things like: ” ... it was hard not to just gulp the glass and look for more!” Francis’ ancestors have not only provided a sound heritage to their family, they have also provided the region on the southernmost tip of Africa with the opportunity to be the Sauvignon Blanc capital of the world. The Pratt’s are in fact one of the few original families still cultivating the land on the Agulhas Plain.

Francis is named after his great grandfather Francis Barry Pratt. FB Pratt was born in London in 1826 but grew up in Belgium where his father, George Cuthbert Pratt, was posted as a member of the Diplomatic Corps. FB Pratt’s mother was Mary Ann Barry, a renowned English beauty and niece of the successful merchant and founder of the Barry and Nephews Company, Joseph Barry. FB Pratt came to South Africa in the mid 1800’s to work for Joseph Barry.

Barry & Nephews was the catalyst of an enormous amount of prosperity in Swellendam in the 1800’s. They made trade by sea between inland farmers and Cape Town possible with their steamship the ‘Kadie’ which was able to travel up the Breede River. Of all the businessmen who met the farming community's needs, Barry was the most famous.

FB Pratt had a head for figures and was sent to work in the Bredasdorp office. On his travels between Swellendam and Bredasdorp he met and fell in love with Mimie Badenhorst. In those days the bridges were inadequate and young people often met when the torrential winter rains caused traffic to be stopped and the travelers sought shelter at nearby farms. Mimie's father farmed at Melkbosch, a farm adjacent to the Kars River on a rise just above the main road between the two villages. When the Barry & Nephews empire collapsed, FB Pratt took over the Standard Hotel and Mimie the cuisine!

This was where their son Julien was born. Julien, Francis’ grandfather, had a great love of music and was an accomplished pianist. He married the beautiful Susannah H.E. Swart and he lived and farmed at Uitvlugt after he married. This little farm was her dowry. After only 3 years he lost both her and their daughter Aletta who are buried together at Prinskraal. After several lonely years as a widower Julien married Elizabeth Petronella Malherbe, daughter of a farmer in the Robertson district, who bore him 9 children.

Elizabeth, or Liz as Julien always called her, was a dear woman blessed velvet brown eyes and many of the Hugenout traits of her ancestors. She was always the spark, the leaven and hub of the family who held everything together. She was adored by her 5 daughters-in-law (which is no mean feat!) and well respected by all her knew her. Julien and Liz lived on the Uitvlugt farm and after the christening of their 5th child in 1902 he moved the household to the farm Eland’s Vlei. Julien and his brother had bought a part of the farm in 1900 and inherited a part from first wife Susannah.

Elands Vlei became the heart of the Pratt family and was farmed by Julien and the by his sons and grandsons.
Francis Pratt is one of these grandsons.


Francis was born and raised on Crodini near Swellendam. He studied Agriculture at Elsenburg in Stellenbosch specializing in Agronomy & Pastures and Animal Husbandry. He then headed for Australia where he did his apprenticeship (slave labour) on a sheep farm. Francis returned to the family farm and continued to farm wheat and sheep in the Pratt tradition.

After a weekend away at the family holiday home in Arniston, Francis went to visit his sister and brother-in-law on their new farm just outside Elim. He fell in love with the area. It satisfied two of his greatest desires - to farm the land and to be close to the sea. Francis bought Moddervlei, a farm close to his sister's, but only started farming there until after he married Franchen Meyer in 1994.


Franchen was born in Humansdorp in the Eastern Cape but grew up in the Uniondale and Langkloof areas where her father was a fruit growing consultant. Francis and Franchen met in Stellenbosch where Franchen was working at one of the wine farms after finishing her Home Economics degree. As a young girl Franchen had her heart set on marrying a wine farmer, but love prevailed and she happily married the strapping young sheep farmer from Swellendam.

Soon after starting to farm at Moddervlei, Francis was turning water, and the fruits from his vines, into wine and unwittingly made one of his wife's fantasies a reality - to be married to a wine farmer!


Francis and Franchen have three daughters, Francia (b. 9 Feb 1996), Zabeth (b. 26 May 1999) and Catherine (b. 10 Jan 2003). Franchen, related to the great Hugo Naude, is a talented artist and the house is filled with fabulous works of art that she's far too modest about. The family still farms sheep, but in keeping with modern farming techniques they also farm cattle and rotational crops like wheat, oats, and - of course - grapes that are made into delectable wine.