Lockdown hobby gives rise to Voisin, an artisanal bakery come wine store

Jaco Smit's new shop in Joburg’s 44 Stanley specialises in sourdough and uncommon sips

15 April 2021 - 06:00 By Steve Steinfeld
Jaco Smit has brought together his two passions - bread and wine - in his store at 44 Stanley in Johannesburg.
Jaco Smit has brought together his two passions - bread and wine - in his store at 44 Stanley in Johannesburg.
Image: Steve Steinfeld

As many of us did, Jaco Smit tried his hand at baking sourdough bread during lockdown.

He embraced the challenge wholeheartedly, cultivating a starter and experimenting with different hydration ratios and techniques to perfect the humble loaf. Entirely self-taught, he relied on tips from friends and many an internet tutorial.

As first, he baked two loaves of sourdough at a time. This became four, then six, then as many as he could fit in his oven.

The aromas wafting through his apartment block piqued his neighbours’ interest and after a hallway conversation or two, the budding baker was delivering freshly baked loaves to those around him.

It was the beginning of a journey that would see Smit leave his job in wine retail and open his own store, Voisin (French for “neighbour”) at 44 Stanley in Johannesburg.

Though Voisin was originally intended to be just a bakery, the retail space Smit found serendipitously had a liquor licence. This allowed him to bring together his two passions — bread and wine.

Tempting loaves of sourdough bread at Voisin in Johannesburg.
Tempting loaves of sourdough bread at Voisin in Johannesburg.
Image: Steve Steinfeld

You're most likely to find Smit kneading, shaping or baking loaves of sourdough, or feeding his starter, when you pop into the store.

The sourdough recipe he settled on after months of trial and error is time-consuming. It calls for a mix of  white, wholewheat and rye flour, all locally sourced, and he uses a 75% hydration (for all the sourdough fanatics out there). The result is a classic sourdough with a gorgeously crunchy crust, chewy centre and, of course, that subtle tangy taste.

He is already working on new iterations and other baked goods to add to his menu.

When it comes to wine, there’s a natural correlation to bread . It’s about simple ingredients and age-old methods coming together to create something that’s so much more than the sum of their parts.

Thanks to Smit’s passion for uncommon wines, Voison’s focus is on organic and minimal intervention winemaking.

For now, the selection is purely local, and features some of the most exciting wines coming out of our wine lands. This includes sips from young up-and-coming winemakers as well as hard-to-find gems from the stalwarts of SA’s natural wine movement.

Pop in every Saturday for a tasting of some of these exceptional wines. Otherwise, choose a bottle to take home together with a freshly-baked loaf and a few accoutrements from the small deli selection on offer and you’ll be all set for a long, lazy lunch.

• Visit Voisin at 44 Stanley, Braamfontein Werf, Johannesburg. See voisinbreadwine.com

• This article is adapted from one published on Wanted Online. Visit wantedonline.co.za for the latest in luxury lifestyle news.