Andrea is from California and met her husband to be on while working a vintage at Waterford. They then worked vintages in Europe and met on an excursion to Champagne while visiting a mutual friend. They moved to South Africa and worked initially at Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards then with several Swartland growers and recognised the regions tremendous potential. They opened Mullineux Family Wines in 2007 with the intent to focus on varieties they considered did best in the Swartland, Syrah and Chenin Blanc. Earlier in his wine days in the Cape Chris had been involved in biodynamic techniques in in vineyards and soon put this knowledge to work in the Swartland. Andrea looked after the winery. Through minimal intervention she sought to highlight the uniqueness of the Swartland soils in bottlings labelled Granite, Schist and Quarts. Andrea says she wanted to make honest wines that represented where they came from but with a common thread of quality through them all.
In an effort to raise the profile of the area they teamed up Adi Badenhorst, Callie Louw and Eben Sadie as members of The Swartland Independent Producers and started the Swartland Revolution.
Q. Where were you born ?
Chris,” Cape Town in September 1976. Andrea, New Orleans in May 1978.”
Q. Where did you study ?
Chris : “At University of Stellenbosch where I first did a B. Comm then a B.Sc Agric (Viticulture and Oenology). Andrea : University of California, Davis, Viticulture and Oenology.”
Q. Do you consider your approach to winemaking to be different to others ?
“There are so many different winemaking approaches , so while we have a specific approach, it is not unique in the world. Our approach is to try as best as possible to bottle wines that have a sense of place. So, we try to interfere as little as possible in the vineyards and in the cellar, but we are both scientifically trained in Viticulture and Oenology, and will intervene if there is a potential issue and we feel we absolutely have to. “
Q. How involved do you get in the Vineyard ?
“WE work with Rosa Kruger, and she manages all our vineyards. Chris and Rosa have an understanding on how we want our vineyards farmed. We follow a “reasoned” approach, where for instance we prefer to use cover crops , mulch and compost rather than herbicides and fertilizers. Chris regularly , in fact every week, spends time in the vineyards with Rosa to ensure this is the way things are being done.”
Q. Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ?
“Our focus is on varieties that are suited to the sites they are planted in. So, in the Swartland, for Mullineux we work with Syrah, Grenache, Cinsault, etc. and for our Leeu Passant winery we work with Cinsault in Franschoek and in Stellenbosch we work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay.”
Q. Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker ?
Chris : “David Trafford and Eben Sadie played a strong influence on me as a student. Their approach of trying to interfere as little as possible really resonated with me at a time, late 90’s, when most of quality South African wine was made with a lot of intervention, extraction and new oak. After spending some time with David and then Eben in the cellar, I chose to seek out other producers around the world who were following a similar approach of trying to let wines show a sense of place and learn from them.”
Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as winemakers ?
In unison “Helping to change the perception of the Swartland Wine Region. Previously it was known for Bulk Wine, but together with the group of other producers we were able to change this in a relatively short time by focusing on quality, transparent winemaking, and preaching the same message when it comes to what the Region does best.”
Q. What “secrets” have you “developed” that makes your wines different to others ?
Together “There are no secrets ! Just a lot of hard work and no compromises.”
Q. How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ?
“Due to the warm dry climate, harvest is very quick and intense in the Swartland. We do not have a fancy cellar, and we only use modern equipment where it is gentle on the fruit and can make our lives easier in the cellar so we can keep fresh, focused and have time to make clear decisions on picking etc. Some modern equipment allows us to push the boundaries in the cellar a bit more by allowing us to pick grapes “earlier”. Better hygiene allows us to use less sulphur, not to inoculate with yeast, etc. , and this helps our wines have a sense of place.”
To sum up : “After meeting we worked together for a few years , which proved we could work well together and only then got married ! We started our own winery in the Swartland, Mullineux, in 2007 and then in 2013 we partnered with Anjit Singh. He had purchased a winery in Franschoek and we now make our Leeu Passant wines there and the Mullineux wines in the Swartland.
Almost as if by an afterthought they add “We were the Platter Winery of the Year in2014 and 2016 and Andrea was recognised by the USA Wine Enthusiast Magazine as their Winemaker of the Year in 2016.”