In Interview with a winemaker

Q. Where do you originate ? 

“I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, but the family left when I was only six years old. The family lived in Borrowdale and I spent one very happy year at Vainona Primary”

Q. How on earth did you get from there to being one of our top winemakers ? 

With a nostalgic expression “Plants were always the initial spark, I’d spend hours as a child hanging out with our gardener, now its my happy place at the  end of the day and on weekends. However, it was in a gap year spent travelling  and working in France that led to my destiny. I worked as a porter in the Muscadet vineyards not far from Nantes. When I returned home, which was Johannesburg I enrolled in my first year at WITS, then headed south to continue the degree at Stellenbosch. Graduating with a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology.”

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

With a bit of thought “Aside from genuinely novel  technology, I don’t believe there is anyone making wine in a truly unique way, that has not drawn on either a previous generation, or people living in a different part of the world.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

Again some deep thought “As much as possible, but  it is still not enough !”

Q. Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ?

With a knowing smile “I find I am more influenced by different sites rather than varieties.”

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

“I’ve  been fortunate  to work with some very precise, serious winemakers over the years, but the two that have impressed me the most are Gyles Webb of Thelema, and Andy Erickson whom I worked with in Napa Valley.”

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

Without any hesitation “Playing a role in the production of Vin de Constance for 8 years was not only a great privilege, but taught me much. The fact that the 2009 which I was very involved with is the highest rated South African wine ever by Wine Spectator. Very special for me.”

Q. You had international experience before Klein Constantia ? 

With serious reflection “I was appointed at Klein Constantia in 2003 and before that did various things including being based in France  as a contract winemaker for  Laithwaite’s , the world’s  largest wine mail order company with cellars in Bordeaux, Languedoc-Roussilon , The Rhone. During this four year period I worked alternate vintages in South Africa at Boschendal and Flagstone. All great and valuable experience.”

Q. What “secrets” have you “developed” that make your wines different to others  ?

A bit of an abrupt  reply  “I don’t believe in secrets !”

Q. How important is modern  winemaking equipment in your winemaking ?

An almost throw away answer “10 ton pneumatic presses and forklifts certainly lighten the load. Otherwise it’s the yeasties that do most of the work !”

Q. What of the future ?

With his boyish smile “My love for plants lead me ultimately to a career in winemaking, and I am enormously grateful for the journey thus far. Who knows what the future holds, but whatever that may be, I am sure it will be made all the more bearable through the strict administration of a daily glass of wine and the opportunity to reflect on the day’s efforts !”

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