Richard is a big man bursting with personality and energy. When asked what’s the secret of his great chardonnays his quick and energetic response comes with a smile “It’s all in the clones !”. He continues apace “Every clone gives it’s own character. Then put the clone in a different terroir and it will give a variation”. Excited he quickly adds “If you ferment the grapes from the different growing blocks separately you will end up with wines with differing characters. You then have an artists’ palate to blend from. “When the tumult of the vintage is over you can make your selection and combination with deliberation and end up with exactly what you want your composition to be”.
Q: How did you arrive at your method?
“As you know I grew up in Sheffield and did a cooking course at a school in Slough. When I worked as a chef you get a chance everyday to make a creation. Not like with wine, once a year. I soon learned that potatoes grown in one place differed to the same kind grown elsewhere”
Q: How the change from cooking to winemaking ?
“You can’t have an interest in food and not be attracted by wine. The bug bit and I went off to California where I met a South African girl, Mariette. She encouraged me to come to South Africa which I did and was impressed by a number of cellars like Mulderbosch and Vergelegen. However, I still had Chile in my sights and headed off there.”
Q: I gather the attraction of Mariette was too much to ignore?
Again with a smile, “Yea , I came back and presented myself to Mulderbosch and they gave me a job!”
Then marriage followed as did the studies for Master of Wine. In 2011 he was successful and became the first South African winemaker to achieve this distinction and becoming one of only about 300 in the world. He was now about to put his desire to make his own wine into practice.”
Q: Why Elgin?
“I focussed on Elgin because of the altitude yet still a close proximity to the sea giving me the cool I required.” He continues with obvious enthusiasm, “I determined growers with small pockets that would give me what I wanted and bought from them.”
Q: But then what about the mixed areas of origin?
“Yes, the law prevents me from identifying exactly the locations of my grapes so I refer to them as ‘Richard’s Favourite Places !'”
Richard is very through and finds the exact site using all the information available on weather including the range of temperature from the high of daytime to the cool of night. Even his label is blue to denote coolness. His award winning chardonnay is a combination not only of clones and places but also of French oak maturation for 10 months or so and blended with about ten per cent of stainless steel fermented wine to give a fresh lift to the oak developed wine.
Q: Now it is not only Chardonnay?
The same enthusiastic reply “That’s correct. I have applied the same to Syrah and my Elgin 2012 has fantastic dark berry aromatics and flavours.”
Q: And the future?
Again with a smile, “To focus on making even better wines !”