In Interview with a winemaker

Q. Where were you born ?

“In my home town of Bot Rivier, the centre of the universe !”

Q. Where did you study ?

“I studied at Elsenburg and graduated in 1998 with a Diploma in Viticulture and Enology.”

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

With some thought but with that ever present hint of a smile “There are so many approaches to wine making. Some of mine I inherited  from what was already going on when I arrived on the farm.” With a more serious note “ Through Mentors like Niels Verburg, our first real winemaker and my mother I learned about the circumstance of our farm. “ Then the smile returns “we always seemed to take the road less travelled approach. Trying to discover what our farms terroir could produce best, trying new varietals and at the same time just trying to survive in an ever increasingly  competitive wine   market ! Working with what I had and relatively limited  resources , like no flashy equipment. My winemaking style has been about adapting to my unique situation.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

With enthusiasm “Absolutely. My first few years before I took over from Niels, the original winemaker, were 80%,  spent in the vineyards, taking over from  my father, absorbing his knowledge and his instinctive feel for what needed to be done whatever the situation. I consider this one of the greatest strengths of my winemaking. I have grown up with these vineyards and have travelled over these soils for 42 years !! I still work with Chenin and Pinotage vineyards that were planted in1974 ! Such a great privilege and I feel very in tune with them !”

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

With no hesitation “Chenin for sure !”. Then with serious note “I am trying to master the demi-sec at the moment !. Pinotage too, it’s almost as challenging as Pinot Noir.  Then there is the hidden beauty of Mouvédre. Might not be pretty on the outside but it has great personality and character.”

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

“Old Arthur Pillman was a very early influence and all my friends that I have made in the wine industry. They are always influencing one to look at new ideas.”.  “My visit to the Loire in 2005 showed me a lot about what great things they do and also how even they can lose the plot in a super ripe vintage like 2003 !”

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

Very serious “I think the decision I instinctively took in 2005 to focus our range and discontinue bottling Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay . Then  focus on our Chenin’s under the Beaumont range. We still make the other varietals but they go into our second label.  From a strategic point of view it helped to focus me on making sure our Chenin’s were the best.  Some thought it was a crazy decision but I will never regret it. Slowly the reds are being  focused on pinotage, Syrah and Mourvédre and a blend of these. Fortunately, I realised early on in my winemaking  that I couldn’t make wines to satisfy everyone’s taste. I had to make wines that I could enjoy and then I could sell them to just about anyone !”

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

“Nowadays I have no “secrets”. I am always happy to share ideas and learn more.”

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

With a great smile  “Oops, I was resting my head on my 1987 model 3 ton Vaslin press a few days ago and dreaming of a new press  ! Not all modern is better. I work with a wonderful  mix of concrete Kuipe and closed tanks from the 1940’s when the winery was originally built !”. “I have a way of keeping miggies off my kuipe by piping CO2 from the white fermenters onto the skins of the reds in order to give them maximum pre and post maceration.  One has to be inventive.”

Q. And the future ?

“My family is vital in my life. Nici is an amazing wife.  Farm, family, wine and surf, what else could one want ? I have just agreed to buy the farm from my mother so that is a dream come true !”

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