In Interview with a winemaker

Gerhard Swart does not look old enough to  be involved with an alcoholic beverage let alone be  in charge of such a top operation.  A lad from the “platteland”  (a country boy)

Gerhard Swart

Gerhard grew up in the Boland and Bredasdorp. He obtained a diploma in winemaking at Elsenburg Agricultural College in 1999.

Q : Who was the greatest influence in your approach to winemaking? 

With an almost impish grin he replies “My father. From a very young age  I learned about attention to detail. He was a bank manager and was very precise. So to me it became second nature.”  Then with a thought he continues “When I started my career I was assistant to Pieter Castens at Slanghoek.  He taught me absolute attention to detail. So detail was important.” After some more thought “ Then I started with Bruce Jack and he taught me to find the hidden gem in each and every bunch of grapes and to go looking for those unique terroirs that make winemaking an adventure and not just another job.” Gerhard hastens to add “Chris Keet taught me how to bring out the best in each vine and to understand the vine’s language from vineyard and then all through the cellar.”

Q : How involved are you in the vineyards? 

“I get grapes from the most Southern tip of Africa to one of the highest vineyards in the Breedekloof and six other regions in between so it’s not easy but I try to be involved in every step of the vine’s growing cycle.” “We work  very dedicated farmers and some for over six years. Bruce has known some for more than ten years. So we have a good understanding of vineyards and the farmers.” He casually adds “Which is essential.”

Q : Do you favour any region above another?

“My parents grew up in Bredasdorp and have retired there. My formative life was spent there so I have  a special place in my heart for Elim and surrounds.  However, each region gives it’s own special character. My “Music Room “ Cabernet sauvignon is a good example. Same variety  but is a blend of wines made separately from grapes grown in Aston, Elgin and Breedekloof.”

Q : What do you consider as your greatest achievement?

With a chuckle of delight “Winning the General Smuts trophy at the Young Wine Show in 2010 with my  Semillon. I was probably one of the youngest winners and for a Semillon to win was magic !” He is quick to continue “Then to win the best producer at Veritas with under ten entries for the past two consecutive years.”

Q : Do you have any secrets or developed your own methods?

He is thoughtful in his response. “There are no secrets at Flagstone.  I am always willing to share what I do. We stick to the basics and are led by the grapes and we try to protect the grapes that our Heavenly Father has given us in any specific vintage. It is all about doing the right thing at the right time and always know what is happening from crushing, through fermentation and the aging process. Bruce always says “First do what is correct for the grapes and afterwards we will worry about selling it !”

Q : What about modern equipment in your success?

With a serious note “We don’t have a state-of-the art cellar.” Then with that impish grin “ I could not do without the computer managed cooling system as this makes control just so very effective.”

Gerhard is very happily married with a beautiful wife and two “princesses” one eight and the other three.  He is an outdoors man and if the South Easter blows he is on his surf board. Otherwise  “I cherish the time I spend with my family”

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