In Interview with a winemaker

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born far from the Cape and it’s vineyards. In a place called Roodepoort, not too far from Johannesburg. My mother gave birth to me on January 9th, 1977.”

Q. Where did you study ?

“I did not go to a university but learned my Trade as an apprentice ! I had wanted to be a winemaker since I was about 12 years old.  I matriculated in 1995 and my mother suggested I do a harvest first, to make sure that I wanted to be a winemaker. My first harvest was with the great Danie Steytler on Kaapzicht.” After some reflection he continued “ I ended up staying there for four harvests , and within those short four years  I also worked for Mobott (a mobile bottling company for eight months. Not only enormously valuable experience but it was a good way of meeting people in the wine industry. You would be surprised how many wineries there are that the average person never get to know about.” He continued “We had done some bottling for Glen Carlou and in the middle of 1999, David Finlayson offered me a job as an assistant winemaker, which I gladly accepted. Before starting at Glen Carlou I had enough time to do an American harvest. David organised a  position for me at The Hess Collection Winery in Napa Valley, California, where I worked for four months. In 2000 I went to France for a harvest in Beaujolais where I was for about four weeks. I also completed a harvest  in Australia in 2003 at Xanadu Wines in Margaret River. I also worked at friends  wineries in Austria and Germany. I spent 17 years, in all, at Glen Carlou and left in 2015 to start my own venture.”

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

“Since leaving Glen Carlou my approach has changed and I work my brands  from different regions as I sell my wines  as me being the endorsement  of the wines as I am person and not an estate that one can visit. So I take varieties that work best in the selected regions.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“I am very involved with all the owners  of the vineyards I buy grapes from and work together with their vineyard managers to secure the best fruit possible.”

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

“I believe in the noble varieties as they will always sell but I regard  myself as a Chardonnay specialist with my 17 years at Glen Carlou. I also work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut and Chenin Blanc. That is for now but there are sure to be more in the future !”

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

“Having worked with David Finlayson for over ten years be fore he left Glen Carlou I would say he and Danie Steytler of Kaapzicht were great people to have learnt from. I have only dealt with Paarl grapes  for 17 years  but now on my own I am excited  to now work with grapes from Piekernierskloof , Vermaaklikheid, Stellenbosch and Elgin.”

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

“My long standing career with Glen Carlow and the accumulation of awards in those years . However, I don’t make wines with the idea to achieve awards.”

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

With a broad grin “It would not be a secret if I told you”. “ However I can share that wine is only as good as the fruit you  work with and then no need to overwork wines in the cellar.”

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

“Not that important. You must have healthy fruit and then hygiene is very important as well as protection from oxidation.”

Q. What of the future ?

“My first release on my own is the “Cluster Series” includes a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon and there will be more to follow.”

Q. Why have you called your wines The Cluster Series

“This has been my way of bringing together quality grapes, my winemaking experience, my family and friends in the industry. Not only is a cluster a bunch of grapes but it is a constant reminder that none of us can succeed in isolation. One grape cannot make a bottle of wine !”

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