After settling in South Africa in 1990, Argentinian-born Billy Hughes was inspired to start his own wine venture in the Cape. After being self-educated in viticulture and winemaking, in the year 2000 he and his late wife Penny bought an old wheat farm in Malmesbury, near Cape Town.
Unknown to them at the time, this area – commonly known as The Swartland – would soon become one of the top wine-producing regions in the Western Cape
Billy’s farming interest grew while visiting wine farms in Mendoza as a boy with his father, who was an agricultural engineer. As a full-time mechanical engineer, Billy started Nativo as a passion project to fulfil his lifelong dream of making his own wines.
Alongside his engineering career, Billy oversees all aspects of the winery, including viticulture and winemaking, and works hands-on in the vineyard and cellar. He has lately found a particular passion in using his innate engineering knowledge to innovate in the cellar and vineyard. From building contraptions to optimize our off-the-grid winemaking, to weeding the vineyard with his homemade ‘scoffeling’ machine, his tinkering is the heart and soul of Nativo.
Born with a mind for sales and the kindest soul, Billy’s late wife Penny stood by him as he began his wine journey. Working in travel most of her life, she decided to leave the travel industry and use her years of managerial experience and passion for sales to put The Hughes Family Wines in the public eye.
After being diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Penny continued to pour her heart into Nativo, and became well-loved in the wine community of Cape Town. Even after her passing in 2014, Penny’s memory perseveres in the minds and hearts of the Cape wine community, where she is fondly remembered. Her spirit lives on through her family and through Nativo, which would not be what it is without her.
Raised with a passion and respect for nature, Billy and Penny’s daughter, Kiki, spent most of her childhood weekends being bundled into the car at the crack of dawn in her duvet-cocoon, still half asleep, and being awoken an hour later to the rolling wheat fields of Malmesbury.
She would play around the vineyard, picking grapes during harvest, and stomping the berries for fun, all the while learning the ins and outs of the cellar. She is now completing her Master’s in Wildlife Forensic Genetics, while simultaneously managing the sales and marketing of Nativo by Billy’s side to create a sustainable future for the Hughes Family Wines.
The name Nativo encompasses allusions to Billy’s native origins, his progress to becoming a naturalised South African and desire to produce a wine reflective of its origins infused with site-specific characteristics. As such, Billy makes sure that a minimally invasive approach to winemaking is taken.
Nativo is recognised by the minimalist label which features an embossed, subtly elliptical circle. This is not only the shape of the stain made by the base of a wine-glass, but also alludes to a sense of “coming full circle”, as in the case of the Hughes family and its wines, and the natural cycle of life.
Now, more than two decades after its inception, Nativo Wines continues to explore innovative and sustainable ways of making wine. The last few years has seen the addition of some single varietal wines to our range, the continuation of what has become our signature orange wine, Nativo Amarillo, and the design of some one-of-a-kind cellar equipment.
In 2020 we received our NOP organic certification, and are now fully certified in both the USA and Europe. We remain loyal to the Swartland Independent Producers, continuing to innovate and create with respect for our wine’s place of origin.
Our tasting room is yet another creation that stems from our minimal-intervention ethos. Made from the same clay soil that feeds the vineyard, rammed-earth is considered the most sustainable and environmentally-friendly building material available now.
The roof was designed by Billy to mimic an aeroplane wing, and optimize airflow. It stays temperate in both summer and winter, making it well suited to the landscape and the perfect place to enjoy an afternoon in the Swartland; rain or shine.