In Interview with a winemaker

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born in the Stellenbosch hospital on 16 August 1969.”

Q. Where did you study ?

“At first I did a B. Comm and Honours in Journalism at Stellenbosch University. After four years of journalism I had decided it was not really for me. I had always dreamt of farming one day but my father was an academic at University of Stellenbosch it was never really a realistic option. Then,  after doing various courses at the Cape Wine Academy the seed was sown  and it dawned on me that a career as a winemaker actually ticked all my boxes ! Creativity, farming, marketing, business, working  with nature then doing it all close to the sea my passion of surfing could also be satisfied ! So at the age of 30 I enrolled at Elsenburg where I finished the diploma in winemaking technology in 2002.

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

“No, not really, during the years  I have learned to trust what the vineyards say a lot more . In the cellar  I also try not to overdo things, working softly and let the grapes speak. With nature, I am still learning everyday.”

Q. How involved do you get in the Vineyard ?

“I try to be involved as much as I can, luckily we have a relatively small team and reasonably small amount of vineyards so myself and the vineyard manager,  Danie Malherbe work closely together and make every  decision in the vineyard that will have an influence on wine quality, together.”

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

“Of course, Pinotage is an obvious one because Lanzerac was the first name to bottle and label a Pinotage in the world. Also Pinotage is a very hands on variety. Then Cabernet sauvignon is totally at home in Stellenbosch and almost “makes itself” and so needs minimal intervention.”

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

“I have been influenced by a lot of winemakers. I look to them all and  listen because there is always something to learn. Every region also brings something to the party. So I prefer to look and listen to everyone and everything and then find my own path.”

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

After some deep thought “Probably 5 stars in the platter  last year  for our Pionier Pinotage  2015. By the way, the first 5 stars for Lanzerac. To work at a historic property like Lanzerac is a highlight in itself.”

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

“I have learned  to trust the vineyards and our terrior and to look and listen to nature is very important to me. I try to find balance in everything.”

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

“It plays a role to make your life as a winemaker easier, but the most important thing is your vineyard. Some of the best wines in the world are made in very basic cellars.”

Q. What of the future ?

“As a Stellenbosch bred and born boytjie  I appreciate  what this unique Jonkershoek Valley has offered over the years  for the South  African wine industry and its history. I believe  the South African wine industry in terms of quality and world class wines are only just beginning to immerge. I think we are in for a very exciting ride over the next couple of  years.”

Q. You have done some interesting things in recent vintages ? 

“Yes, Lanzerac might have heritage and tradition but that does not mean I cannot innovate and develop new wines.  This can be seen in my Keldermeester  Versameling.”

Q. You used Afrikaans on your labels ?

“Well I am proudly South African and Afrikaans. The Europeans use their own languages on their labels so why not us ?”

Q. Where do you source the grapes for these wines ?

“I go to where I can get the very best for the particular variety.”  And continues “I might well do different wines in different vintages.”

Q. What have you done so far ? 

“There are three wines. The first is  Prof 2016, Bergpad 2016 and  Dok 2015 “.

Please explain …

“Well Prof is the cornerstone of the mini range and refers to Professor Perold who developed Pinotage. He crossed Pinot Noir and Cinsaut which in those days was known as “Hermitage”, hence the name Pinotage.” “So what I have done is made a wine that is 60 % Cinsaut and 40 % Pinot noir to see what the good prof had in mind. “

Q. And Bergpad ?

“This is a Pinot Blanc from a single vineyard in Jonkershoek and the name is from the mountain path that leads from Coetzenberg to Lanzerac and walked and run by thousands of students over the years. Then, of course, Dok, is named after the late “Doc” Craven of rugby fame who was a frequent visitor to Lanzerac with great dog “Bliksem” ! This is a Malbec also from a single vineyard in Jonkershoek.”

Q. And that is not all ?

“No , we have used very non-traditional packaging which is elegant and sophisticated. The white labels are embossed with the names and info rather than printed.”

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