Andreas Greiving grew up in Germany. He was considered to have ‘green hands,’ what Australians call ‘green thumbs.’ He is now a Heathcote winemaker, bistro owner and B & B provider. “Where I grew up in Germany,” he says, “it was an agricultural area with no vineyards within two hundred kilometres. As a kid, I enjoyed making wine from blackcurrants, strawberries, gooseberries, any berries I could find.
“I spent twenty five years in Germany, graduating in chemical engineering. I had a great career as a chemical engineer but it was never really my passion, it was a job. I’ve always wanted to create things, and now I have the opportunity to do what I am passionate about.”
Andreas left Germany in 1988 to take up a job in South Africa. “I joined a multinational chemical firm, working initially in the production side of the textile industry. I was with the same company for twenty years and moved through many jobs in different countries. I had country head responsibilities for some countries and also technical responsibility for the Asia / Pacific region.
“In 1996 I had a few months leave owing and I decided to take a motor bike trip through Africa. I called up an old friend and asked if he wanted to take the trip with me. He asked for a day to consider it. When I called back the following day, he said, “I’ve resigned my job, when do we start?” The motor bike trip, with two men and one large bike, took three months. “We started in South Africa, in Durban, and we rode all through Africa until we reached Germany, a total distance of 15,000 kilometres. We should have taken longer.
“Along the way we had many great adventures. We learned about what is and is not important. Most importantly we learned that whatever the problem, there’s always a solution. One time we had a fairly serious accident. The bike was in bad condition, and I needed immediate medical attention for injuries to my knee. But we were in Ethiopia, on a dirt road, with no access to any service providers. Along came a local bus so I hobbled on to the bus, leaving my friend to sort out what to do about the bike.
“The bus eventually dropped me off at a hospital, and after a few hours wait, a doctor arrived. I was lucky to get some medication while the doctor treated my injuries. We were concerned about what the cost might be, but the total charge turned out to be the equivalent of ten dollars.
“We trekked up Mt Kilimanjaro with a guide and porters, visited the Serengeti, camped on the Ngorongoro crater, and learned to ignore the funny noises made by the animals that came to check us out during the night. We had a close encounter with a lioness alongside a dirt road in North Kenya. “We had stopped for a nature call and as we got back on our bike we saw that a lioness was watching us from about twenty metres away. She looked at us and there was no doubt that she was in charge of what happened next. We could do nothing but wait for her to decide what to do with us, so we stayed very still and finally she walked away from us. That was quite a thrilling experience.
“We slept in many interesting places. We avoided hotels because we were on a budget. Our bike was essential and we did worry about theft. At one place where we asked for a room, the African owner was concerned about us leaving our bike outside. Four big Africans appeared, lifted our two hundred and forty kilogram bike up, and carried it to our bedroom.
“We came across one ‘pub’ which was very basic. There was no electricity and the beer was warm. Masai warriors dropped into the pub, having walked between ten and twenty kilometres for their warm beer. They invited us to their village, but because we had so little time we missed this and other experiences.
Soon after his African adventures Andreas was transferred to Indonesia where he met Henni. She had studied dentistry in Indonesia and was engaged to an Indonesian medical student. Sadly, he was killed in a plane crash. Henni was overwhelmed by grief and her parents sent her to Japan to help her recover. In Japan her dentistry studies were not recognised and she studied interior design in Tokyo. She became proficient in Japanese before returning home to Indonesia where she worked for an insurance company, managing relationships with their Japanese clients.
When Henni met Andreas he had already developed a love of wine, but, coming from a Muslim country, Henni was more used to drinking “just water.” There were other cultural differences they have had to adjust to, but Henni’s explanation is a simple one. “When you love,” she says, “then you make the adjustment.”
Andreas worked in over fifty countries as an engineer, manager and executive. He knew he wanted to be a winemaker, and realised that he needed to make the change while he still had the time and energy to set up a business where he and Henni could work together. They had been to Australia several times, including on a couple of wine tours. When the global financial crisis led to his company restructuring, they decided to take a package on offer and head to Australia to pursue their winemaking dream.
“We were a little amazed at the bureaucracy involved in getting to Australia,” says Andreas. “Our biggest challenge has been getting through all the red tape. We needed police clearances from the countries we had lived in for the past five years. We needed bank statements from different banks, all with the same balance dates. You can just imagine how difficult that was.
“Each time we provided what was asked for we would get a little excited, but the message then became, ‘That’s excellent… now for the next step.’ We needed health checks, had to sit language tests, complete several health and safety courses, provide detailed family background statements about our immediate and extended family members, and that was before we could start real work on our new business.
“Then we encountered local government and road authority regulations involved in setting up our business. Because we run a bistro that can accommodate fifty people, we planned a commercial kitchen, but were told we needed to provide car parking facilities for thirty six vehicles with a turning circle for coaches. We are still negotiating road signage.
“We are often asked about the meaning of ‘Asmara’. It means ‘love and passion’ in Indonesian and ‘beautiful ’in Arabic. It is also the capital of Eritrea which is one of the African countries I travelled through. After looking at several other wine areas we chose the Heathcote region because it has the reputation for producing beautiful shiraz. We are approaching this new venture with love and passion.”
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