“I was born in Cape Town at the Kingsbury Maternity hospital in Claremont in June 1968.”
Q Where did you study and what qualifications do you have ?
“I first trained as an accountant so have a Bcom (Accountant) from UCT. I then went on to be a maths and accounting teacher. I did my HDE part time through UNISA during my first two years of teaching. I quit teaching officially in 1996 as I had made up my mind to become a wine maker. I then spent the next five years travelling between Australia, South Africa and Europe to gain wine experience. To pay my way I taught maths in the UK. In 2001 I returned to Maties (University of Stellenbosch) to study BSC Agric which I achieved Cum Laude and was awarded the Professor Perold trophy as the top student. “
Q. Do you consider your approach to winemaking to be different to others ?
“I like to think I combine both the science and the art of winemaking in one. The chemistry is there to guide but ultimately it is the gut feel and experience that allows for the creativity of expression.”
Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?
“I believe you cannot make wine in the cellar if you have not been involved in the vineyard”. She continues “We are fortunate to have Gerard Olivier managing the estate and vineyards, but we work closely together when it comes to decisions of new plantings, canopy management and ultimately harvesting.”
Q. Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ?
Without hesitation she replies “Chardonnay for our MCC, Syrah and the difficult child, Viognier.”
Q. Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or by a wine region?
“I was extremely fortunate to be appointed as a winemaker at Graham Beck Wines in Robertson being straight out of varsity. It was here that I developed my passion for MCC under the expert guidance and mentorship of Pieter “Bubbles” Ferreira. I take from him the adage ‘there is no recipe – we don’t make coca cola !’ “
Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker ?
“The release of our first MCC under the La Bri Label, our Sauvage La Bri. A work of patience and passion with over five years on the lees before degorgement. A wine I am extremely proud of.”
Q. What “secrets” have you “developed” that make your wines different to others .
“I don’t really think it is a secret as I hope you can taste it in the wine . The passion with which the wine is made and our attention detail at every stage of it’s journey.”
Q. How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ?
“We like to think we make old world wines with the benefit of new world technology. At La Bri we have a state-of-the art 120 ton boutique cellar built in 2008 which allows the benefit of making wines with all the ‘bells and whistles’ “
Q. How important are the cellar dogs in your wine quality ?
With a gorgeous smile “Oh, couldn’t do anything without those old two. Jake the Jack Russell and Peggy-Sue the aging Staffie.”
Q. Whatever made you change direction from accounting to winemaking ?
“I did a Cape Wine Academy prelim course in 1996 and Louise-Ann Grinstead was my lecturer. She ignited in me a desire to know more about wine and after much travelling and studying I finally became a winemaker at the ripe old age of 36 ! You are never too old to find your true calling and passion in life. “
Q. Now the future ?
“ I am very fortunate to work for an owner, Robin Hamilton, who allows me the freedom to experiment. We have released the first MCC at La Bri and have reintroduced Semillon to the range. Semillon which is a variety synonymous with Franschhoek.” Then ends with enthusiasm “The future is exciting with the challenges it holds.”