“I was born in Belleville on 31st July 1984.”
Q. Where did you study and what qualifications do you have ?
“I studied at University of Stellenbosch where I achieved a BSc Agric Viticulture and Oenology followed by BSc Agric Hons Cum Laude Viticulture.”
Q. Do you consider your approach to winemaking to be different to others ?
“Not particularly. Winemaking is an art-form, but for me that skill lies in your ability to anticipate the quality of a vineyard, know when to pick for a specific style and how your blends will react together. Every vintage is unique and requires a unique response. This is something that comes with experience as well as knowledge and is intuitive part of winemaking that is unique to every winemaker. In terms of the production method I don’t think it is necessary to reinvent the wheel. Most of the time your “unique” technique is simply a copy of a winemaker you have no knowledge of. Winemaking is simple, but having the correct gut feel is more difficult.”
Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?
A prompt reply. “As much as possible. I am the consultant to all my producers and I try and get to the vineyards at least once every two weeks during the important months of October, November, January and February. Obviously I visit the vineyards more regularly during harvest to establish the harvest date.”
Q. Do you have any varieties you prefer to work with ?
“There is no doubt that Cabernet Sauvignon is my first love.”
Q. Have you been influenced by any particular winemaker or region ?
“Andy Ericson, the Terroir Capital consultant winemaker, and Carl Schultz stand out to me. My father (Etienne Le Riche) has also played a major role in my development. In terms of regions I look to Napa and Bordeaux for quality inspiration, but viticulturally I look much wider. I am not a fan of one dimensional viticultural approach.”
Q. What would you consider your greatest achievement as a winemaker ?
“I am still way too young for the question !! It was great to receive a Platter 5 Star for my 2011 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, but I think some of my other wines have been better. I value the friendships and connections I have made much higher than the awards.”
Q. What “secrets” have you “developed” that make your wines different to others ?
“Intuition. My “optimal ripeness” window is unique to my experience based on my travels and the vineyards I work with. That and the use of manual open top fermentation techniques.”
Q. How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ?
“Not very important. The equipment changes every couple of years with a newer and better model. Once you have the equipment that works, stick to it, but be aware of what is on the market in case you need a change ! Take berry sorting equipment for example. It has been refined to optical jet selection, but I have lately been moving away from berry sorting because I believe it reduces the quality of my wines.”
Please give me a brief personal history and a look into the future.
“I was raised on Rustenberg estate on the Simonsberg, where my Dad was the winemaker and it was there my love for wine and vineyards was kindled. Working with my father provided me with a basis to understand the industry and know what a career in winemaking would demand from me. After my studies I travelled to Napa and Bordeaux to learn about Cabernet Sauvignon production, but also to enlarge my wine knowledge and life experience. I also worked for a few South African wineries which provided me with a strong base to join the family business from. After my travels I started working full time for Le Riche while furthering my studies with an Honours degree in Viticulture.
My hobbies include surfing, spearfishing, trail running and training my dog for wing shooting. On most weekends you will find me outside in nature. The future, for me , includes finding new and better Stellenbosch vineyards to work with. It would also be great to find a few small vineyards of outstanding quality to own. I will keep perusing the Le Riche vision of producing top Stellenbosch Cabernets and striving toward finding the best expression of our vineyards.”