In Interview with a winemaker

Danie Steytler Junior  was born in Stellenbosch 14th July 1980 and has put a lot of vintages into his short winemaking life.

Q : I gather you were a reluctant scholar ?

“My folks say so. I had this idea as a kid I was going to be a farmer and I have a job waiting for me ! Little did I appreciate what a farming winemaker needs to know !”

Q : So what happened ?

“I was coaxed by my Mom to go to Rhenish and then on to Paul Roos with the warning  from my Dad that I would only have a job on the farm when I returned with a degree in viticulture and  oenology.”

Q : ….and then ?

“It turned out I enjoyed varsity and the rugger so much that proposed to my Dad I should take a year longer in  getting my degree ! He responded by raising the bar by stipulating that I would have to go and work for other bosses elsewhere in the world before you can come home and work on the farm !”

Q : Where did you begin ?

“I did my first practical at Waterford and was impressed by their high quality standards  so did my next vintage there. That high quality approach has stayed with me ever since.”

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

“I have moved around to get a whole range of experience and learned from so many people and the different jobs that I do not have any single person or place that had a single effect. Except for my Dad and, of course, my Mom !

Q : You say you moved widely, tell me ?

“Well after Waterford I went to Bordeaux  to Chateau Grand Mayne  in St Emilion and was there from September through to December as a Cellar Rat so went through the build up to the vintage and then experienced a vintage of basically one variety, Merlot. Then I returned to South Africa where I was lucky enough to work January, February and March with Gary Jordan which couldn’t have been better and just over the hill from our place. Then jetted off to New Zealand to catch their vintage with Allan Scott at Blenheim where again a single varietal, Sauvignon Blanc in a cool climate. Then I went to do a Northern hemisphere vintage at Stags Leap in Napa.

Q: I  thought you had some northern European experience ?

“yes I changed course to get some different experience and worked two years with one of the biggest  suppliers to the Swedish system. I became a Flying winemaker and experienced winemaking in Northern Italy and in Greece and putting blends together and learning more about consumer preferences.”

Q : What about South Africa ?

“I looked after Escapades the South African venture with Greek influence Evangelos Gerovassiliou and Vassilis Tsaktsarilis.”

Q :  When were you allowed back to Kaapzicht ?

“It was a special occasion that coincided with South Africa’s 350th anniversary of winemaking. I began on the farm on 2nd February, 2009 ! I  became only the 4th winemaker in the family business since my grandfather began Kaapzicht in 1946 when he returned from the War.” (WW II)

Q : I  gather that was not the end of European  experience?

“ No, I was asked to help out for six weeks as an assistant at Chateau Negly in the Lanquedoc during their 2009 vintage.”

Q : Do you have a favourite variety ?

“That’s a difficult one. Kaapzicht is essentially a red wine farm and we are very proud of our reds. We do great Pinotage but perhaps Cabernet Sauvignon is still king. However, I am incredibly proud of our red blends. On the other hand I am delighted  with our whites that we are producing now. Our 1947 Chenin from a vineyard planted in that year is amazing. Then our wood aged white blend Kaleidoscope is a whole new direction for Kaapzicht”

Q: Besides wine ?

“Obviously my family and of course food and wine . I love to braai for other people and a night at our lapa with good food, fine company and great wine is tough  to beat !”

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