In Interview with a winemaker

Christiaan Groenewald  founded New Cape Wines in 2000 and produces wines under various names including “Eagle’s Cliff”. In Afrikaans “Arendskloof”. A pair of rare black eagles which have made their nest in the cliffs overlooking the vineyards served as inspiration for the name and label design.

Q : How did you get into winemaking ?

“I am a student of University of Stellenbosch where I studied viticulture and economics with some winemaking.  At first I entered the business world and then in 1997 I became involved in the export of wine.  In the same year my Dad died and I had to take over the farming and winemaking”

Q : What then ?

“Quickly discovered that i needed a more  modern cellar so in 2005 I built one !”

Q : You were hardly qualified to do that ?

With a steely look and firm face he replied “When you have to do something you do it. I had learned a lot from winemakers and the SFW wine-buyer Jeff Wedgwood. In fact Jeff was a saviour at the start with his enormous knowledge especially of the area. When I was involved with exports I learned a lot with my eyes and in discussions.  Once I was producing in my own cellar Jan Boland Coetzee was a great help. He didn’t teach but rather instructed ! He is so deliberate and sincere that you can’t help but to take it in. You just know he is correct.” He adds with a grin “ With him there is no argument !”

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

With that disarming smile “Yes, I think I am different. I am not a trained winemaker but had to get into it so I am not held by any particular convention but I am professional in what I do.”

Q : How involved are you in the vineyards ?

With a serious face “I am very involved in my vineyards. This is where you start to make wine. In every aspect. Clones, soil types, row direction, canopy management, water supply. Everything counts.”

Q : What about region ?

With obvious affection “I love my region, Worcester, because we don’t have bad years just  some years better than others and some years fabulous. In the main, very consistent.  I still think we have yet to make our best red wines while I can almost guarantee good value for white wines with the occasional great whites. With Chenin blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot grigio.  I love my area but get my sauvignon blanc from Elgin !”

Q: What has been your greatest achievement ?

With a big grin “Being the 2013 Diners Club Winemaker of the year. It is the most saught  after award a winemaker can get and only one per year ! That has been tremendous for business.  Then, of course the 2011 blend of Tannat and Syrah is a tremendous wine now and will still develop  very well.”

Q : How important is having modern equipment in your success ?

Serious again “You need a clean cellar and modern equipment  makes that easier. There is modern equipment I will get when I can afford such as computer controlled cooling.”

Q : Do you have any “secrets” ?

Still serious “I use good grapes and try to make natural wines. I do not interfere but  correct yeast and keen temperature control is essential.”

Christiaan is in excellent physical condition as he has to be as he competes each Year in the great cycle event “The Cape Epic”

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