In Interview with a winemaker

Q. When and where were you born ? 

Reply with generous smile “I was bred and born in the picturesque town of Paarl during the 1975 vintage on 30th January.” Then adds “The same day that Ernö Rubik applied for his patent of his “Magic Cube” which later became known as Rubik’s Cube.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

“Not a straight answer !  I studied at Elsenberg College with the Cape Technikon doing the National diploma in Agriculture focussing on Viticulture, Vegetable production and Pomology.” Then adds with a smile “I am more qualified as a viticulturist than a winemaker.  To be honest , winemaking wise I am more or less self taught with 18 years of industry experience. In 1999, I started as a general harvest hand under the watchful  eye of Chris Roux at the old Wamakersvallei Winery now Wellington Wines. Then an opportunity presented itself and moved me to their bottling and cellar facility in Epping  as the supervisor. At that stage  I knew the very basics  about winemaking and could kick myself for not paying more attention in Class ! I was immediately caught up in the whole fascination of the wine world and just wanted to know more. This led me to the Cape Wine Academy (that you started) where I began the prelim course to educate myself more about this “nectar of the Gods”. I eventually became 100th Cape Wine Master in 2017.” Then added “I must say it was the opportunities that my employers, Spier Wines, that gave me the capability of education  and the belief in me for promoting me through the years without which I could never have got to where I am today.”

Q. How long have you been with Spier ?

“18 years and counting…..I started in June 1999 as a cellar Supervisor in the bottling facility known as Cape Central  Packaging. We bottling for various customers . This became Ashwood Wines and  Winepack and was bought by Wine Corp now known as Spier. “

Q. Do you consider your approach to winemaking different to others ?

“My job requires me to source wines and blend different tiers  at different price points  so I don’t actually make wine !”

Q. So describe what you do ?

“I am one of the senior winemakers at Spier and form part of a winemaking team that functions in the Secondary Winemaking Department. I help with the procurement of wines from our outside, contracted cellars who make wines for our specific requirements and our  different labels. I relook the various components that we have sourced and begin to finalise the blends and plan to bring the bulk wines in for blending and bottling. This is a year long process and covers the whole range of wines  including specialty wines  such as Woolworths low kilojoule wines and others.”

Q. Do you have a preference for any particular variety ? 

“I couldn’t chose one variety over another ! However I do have a fancy for such diverse varieties like Pinot Noir and Shiraz that have totally different origins. I also love South African Pinotage.  I also love chenin blanc and believe it is to South Africa what Riesling is to Germany. Of course, it also makes some of our best brandies.” After some thought “I am also fascinated by Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo.

Q. Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or region ?

“Not really although  Germany, Burgundy, the Mosel in particular and the Rhone .”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Not much. We have a team of viticulturists who spend 24/7 looking after our precious vines.”

Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker ?

“Winning awards for your wines  is always a great achievement but what I really love about  my job is to produce wines  that people enjoy. To see the satisfaction on the faces of people enjoying our wine is the most simplistic way of understanding a great achievement.” Then adds “On top of that I guess becoming a Cape Wine Master is right up there. Being selected for Team South Africa to compete in blind tastings overseas two years in a row is also very special.”

Q. Have you developed any secrets in your winemaking ? 

“If I tell you I would have to kill you !!  However, seriously, I always try to over deliver in quality and the wine  must have body, aroma and flavour. I like my  wines to be mouth-watering.

Q. What do you consider your keys in the cellar ? 

”Patience, Accuracy and Attention to detail “

Q. How important  is modern winemaking equipment to you ? 

“At Spier moder winemaking equipment is essential. It helps us get the perfect berry into the cellar so that we can make it into perfect wine !”

Q. What advice do you have to wine drinkers ?

“To enjoy your glass of wine and not to analyse it.  Enjoyment is what wine is all about.”

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