In Interview with a winemaker

Q : Where were you born ?

“I was born in Cape Town.”

Q : What made you want to make wine ? 

“Although I was born in Cape Town I spent most holidays on farms in the Northern Cape. That determined that I would eventually want to work with Agriculture. When I started at University of Stellenbosch I realised that winemaking would be the most relevant in the Boland area.”

Q : Where did you study ? 

“I did two years oenology and viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch the transferred to the Elsenburg Agricultural College where I completed my Higher Certificate in Agriculture and a Diploma in Cellar Technology in 1997”

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

“No, not really. Like others I believe a winemaker must select the best grapes from which the best possibly quality wine can be made.”

Q : Having said that how involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Within our company we have the privilege to work with a team of the best viticulturists who make it their business to know the vineyards we harvest from and work with them throughout the  year.  I work closely with them to select the best grapes for sparkling wine. During the year we visit and monitor the progress in the vineyards and advise on changes and improvements.”

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

“Well, due to the nature of my product, MCC, I work  with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. ”

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

“Yes. Champagne still remains the pinnacle of quality and image when it comes to bottle fermented sparkling wines across the world.  While the people who have had greatest influence in shaping my career have been Charles Hopkins who taught that a passion for wine equals a passion for life  which equals happiness.  My seven years at Nederburg I learned from Razvan Macici  to appreciate the artistry and enjoyment of making beautiful wine.”

Q : What was the route that brought you to where you are ?

“Very interesting. I started off working harvests as assistant winemaker at Rickety Bridge Vineyards in Franschhoek with David Lockley then with Boela Gerber. I had a vintage at Dry Creek in Sonoma. Then I began  at Nederburg as assistant winemaker with Hennie Huskisson and then I was appointed red wine maker in 2001.”

Q : What “secrets” have you developed that make your ability different to others ?

With that charming smile “If I told you they wouldn’t be secret any more !! No, no secrets,  just dedication and a focus on passion !!!”

Q : What do you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker ?

“Seeing people enjoy my product still remains my biggest affirmation as to why I do what I do ! Happy customers are my biggest achievement “ She continues “I believe the winemaker is the vehicle through which the product of the vine  is transformed into a product of pure enjoyment,”

Q :  What about all the awards you and your wines have collected over the years ?

Somewhat reluctant “If you are making some of the best wines in South Africa , then the awards come with the territory.”

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

“The equipment required for the making of Cap Classique is very specialised. I could not do my job at the scale we do  without the technology behind remuage and disgorgement. These modern machines are a top priority as is there maintenance. We keep up with the very latest with modern technology in our industry and in the world of Champagne.”

Q : Is there life outside bubbles ?

“Oh yes, I am very happily married and we have two children and I am  as passionate about nature as I am about winemaking.  We live in one of the most  beautiful parts of the world and  my work allows me to appreciate and enjoy some of the greatest pleasures in life on a daily basis. Good food, good wine and great company.”…after a pause “Throw in a bit of travel, Oh, and things Italian !”

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