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New World Wine Maker Blog - winemaker interviews

Meet Dirk Tredoux: Cellar Master at Fort Simon

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“I was born in Cape Town on 16th September 1978”

Q. Where did you study ?

“Initially I studied Agriculture at Elsenburg in 2003 and 2004. I then travelled overseas and that was when my passion for winemaking developed.  However , growing up in the Winelands  I had  developed an interest in my childhood”

Q. You went back to Elsenburg ? 

“Yes. My interest wine really evolved while I was overseas so when I returned I went back to Elsenburg to finish my cellar technology.”

Q. And after Elsenburg ?

“I then set out to gain as much experience as I could in as short a period as possible.  I worked in esteemed cellars such as Asara, Jordan, Vrede en Lust, Amani and Morgenster.”

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

“Every terroir you work with is different to another. You have to develop your own unique cellar and vineyard  methods and practice that suits the particular terroir.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“I believe quality begins in the vineyard and therefore I try to be in the vineyard as much as possible. One needs to get to know your vineyards better year by year so that you are able to read your vineyards better and  adapt and fine-tune your vineyard practices according to conditions for that specific year.”

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

“ I like working with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet  Sauvignon.”

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

“Before working at Fort Simon I have tried to place myself with leading winemakers and cellars  to learn from each of them. For the first five years in the industry I worked with  Carmen Stevens. I  also had the privilege to work alongside Rudi at D’Aria, Jacques at Morgenhof . Sjaak at Jordan and Susan at Vrede en Lust”

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

“ Bringing  out the best characteristics of the current vintage and improving on previous years.”

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

“ Well, if I told you it would no longer be a secret !”

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

“I always welcome new technology, equipment and ideas and I like to experiment which might reflect in my wines.”

Q. Before winemaking did you have any other careers in mind ?

“From as long as I can remember I have had a deep love for nature.  I had wanted to be a Game Ranger but I was told there was no future as a Ranger and certainly no money ! As it happens I feel I made my place in the world of wine.”

Q. And now ?

“Working at Fort Simon which in the heart of the Bottelary  I have the opportunity to work a range of terroir’s and hillsides that go up to 310 metres. These rising slopes give unique and  many varied  elements in my wine creating rich , layered  and complex wines.”

Q. Do you have any dreams ?

“I would like to establish a successful brand that will help raising funds for wildlife conservation”.

Q. What is your greatest joy ? 

“My wonderful family, Maryke my wife and Jean Jacques (18 months) and Philip Dirk (two months)

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Meet Carsten Miglarina – owner and winemaker of Miglarina Wines

Q. Where were you born ?

“Windhoek, Namibia in 1972.”

Q. Where did you study ?

“ I am self taught. Learning by doing!”  He continues “Although born in Namibia I grew up in South Africa and probably my interest in all things wine began at the tender age of 14 when I attempted to ferment table grapes and make wine ! I then pursued my passion for wine by entering the catering industry and was soon working as a Sommelier at restaurants that included  Le Pont La Tour in London and the Grand Roche in Paarl and then earned my winemaking stripes  as a contract winemaker in South Africa, Germany and Romania and, of course, making my own wine. My most recent winemaking adventure took me to China where I participated in the Nningxia Wine challenge.”

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

“I have developed my own style, which at times could be considered different to others and no formal training. I am different to the norm.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“I am trying to get more involved in the vineyard but as I source all my grapes and don’t own any vineyard that is not all that easy. The farms I work with are becoming more used to me and, I think, appreciate me taking an interest in the vineyard.” “Having said that all the fruit I use is hand-picked and sorted on sorting tables before crushing.”

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

“I started out with shiraz and sauvignon blanc. I still enjoy shiraz but have added Riesling, chenin blanc, chardonnay and Grenache.”

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

“Mike Dobrovic was a great influence and, of course, travelling and working in various regions, particularly Germany with their fresh, clean white wines has definitely been an influence.”

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

“Starting my own brand and growing it over the past fourteen years. To me that is really an achievement to be proud of. I started very small with a sauvignon blanc and a shiraz from Franschhoek. My first shiraz I matured in the garage of a friend ! I now have five varietal wines and export to Namibia, Reunion, Europe, Australia, USA and China and sell locally as well.”

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

With a wry smile “It would no longer be secret if I told you! However my focus is on clean, fresh fruit driven wines and I try to employ various methods to achieve this. “

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

“Even though I generally utilise the usual machinery and equipment, some modern winemaking equipment allows for interesting experimentation.” Then continues “I keep it as simple as I can in the cellar with minimum intervention and this is my basis for ensuring that my wines are fruit driven and elegant.”

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CHRISTO LE RICHE – WINEMAKER AT LE RICHE WINES

Q. Where and when were you born ?

“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.”

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Meet Pierre Wahl – Winemaker Rijks

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“Port Elizabeth on 24th March 1974.”

Q. Rather  unique place for a winemaker to come from ?

“Yea, I know that Bruwer Raats was born there but did his schooling in Bloemfontein.”

Q. What made you go for wine ?

“I always had a passion for nature and my Dad was in citrus so as a youngster I spent hours in orchards. However I wanted something more creative and wine seem to tick all the boxes. Outdoors, creative, natural and potential to offer lots of satisfaction”

Q. Where did you study and what qualifications did you have ?

“I received my diploma in Oenology in 1995 at Elsenberg Agricultural College .”

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

“I work on gut feel most of the time. I think this is something you master  only with experience. I want to show purity of fruit and bring out the terroir in the wines .”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“I get involved from budburst until harvest.  The viticultural guys  and I work together as a team to achieve the quality of grapes needed to achieve the quality of wines we make.”

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

He answers with a smile:  “I love Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Chenin because it is such a forgiving cultivar and Pinotage  because it understands me! You want the variety to understand the winemakers thoughts, not the other way round. That’s why winemaking starts in the vineyard.”

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

“I have never worked under any winemaker so created my own signature of wine styles. If I think back to a time that may have influenced my way of thinking, it must have been the two weeks I spent in Napa and Sonoma in 1999. I learnt how they go about picking at tannin ripeness and also how they made Pinot Noir. A lot of that I implement today in making my Pinotage.”

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

“No doubt that being accepted as a Cape Winemakers Guild member.  To be seen as one of the elite  winemakers in my country. For me it is more important to be consistent than being remembered for one trophy or a couple of double gold medals.”

Q. That is quite a statement from a guy who has just won the Diner’s Club Winemaker of the Year for 2016 ?

“Well, that is undoubtedly a great honour but being invited by your peers to be a member of the Guild is still the greatest.”

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

Again with that infectious smile “If I tell you it won’t be a secret anymore ! No secrets but basically just making wine with minimum interference in the cellar. Minimum fining and filtration. pH management is of utmost importance, especially with pinotage.”

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

“ Not really important. To have whatever equipment in working condition and to have all equipment sterilised after working is more important. And, of course, adequate cooling for cooler fermentations.”

Q. You say you never really worked under a winemaker. How come ?

“When I graduated in 1995 I commenced my winemaking career at Niel Joubert Wines in Paarl as Chief Winemaker !”

Q And then ?

“I accepted a challenging appointment in 1998 at Moreson in Franschhoek. It was here I that I gained most of my winemaking experience and began to travel the world.”

Q. When did you move to Rijks ?

“After experience in Paarl and Franschhoek I headed for Rijks in Tulbagh and into totally unknown territory in 2002.”

Q. You have helped other cellars ?

“Yes , during the past 14 years at Rijk’s I have consulted for various wineries in the Tulbagh area in an effort to improve all the wines of the area.  During this time I won  numerous awards  and then in 2007  I went to the Northern Rhone in France  to work for a vintage to gain a different perspective.” He carried on “Despite the French visit I believe to this day that my wines have a unique signature which is a direct result of never being an assistant and working under prescribed winemaking conditions.”

Q. To wrap up ?”

“When Rijks started out in 2000 we made wine from10 different cultivars. In 2006 we took out all but Chenin Blanc, Pinotage and Shiraz. We believe that by doing that we can keep on being consistent in making quality wines and become one of the icons in the South African wine industry.”

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Meet Peter de Wet – Winemaker at De Wetshof

Q.  Where were you born ?

“I was born in Cape Town. On 17th  August 1984. I did my schooling at Bishops.”

Q.  How come Cape Town when the family lived in Robertson ?

“Not really surprising as  we are direct desendants of the De Wets of Koopmans Dewet house in Strand Street Cape Town. The façade of our offices on the farm is  a replica of the building in Strand Street. Our new red blend is called  Thibault as he was the architect of the Strand Street building.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

“I Followed my Father’s footsteps and went to Geisenheim on the Rhine in Germany and studied Weinbou Engineer. (Engineering in viticulture and oenology. )

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

“I try to keep the purity of the varietal and site. This was pretty much instilled into me at Geisenheim and at various places I subsequently worked at.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“ I get very involved . We have a full time viticulturist and get some of the world’s best advice from Phil Freese from California, and also our own  Francois Viljoen. However I still get into the vineyard as often as I can and I allocate Monday’s to be in the vineyards. It is essential to know what is going on with your raw material.”  He then adds “I also have a father who was a pioneer of various varieties in the Robertson area.”

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

“Obviously Chardonnay. De Wetshof is famous for  it’s Chardonnay. But also Pinot Noir and Merlot.”

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

“I have got two great mentors. The chief winemaker  of Dr Dienhart in Germany and Peter Ferreira of Graham Beck. I worked with both for six months each.”  “In 2006 I also worked in St Emillion with Vignoble Despagne in Bordeaux. In 2007 and 2008 I spent time in Burgundy with Domaine Bertagne and Chablis with  Domaine Laroche. In 2009 I spent time in Champagne with Nicolas Maillart and 2010 in Napa and Sonoma.  Of course, most of my experience has been hard  earned on De Wetshof with my father and the De Wetshof team.” “As you know my father registered De Wetshof as the first wine estate in the  Robertson area and pioneered the role that  chardonnay  has played in high quality wine not only here but in the world.”

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

With a coy smile “I am still working on it !”

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

“No secrets. Just try and preserve what we get from nature.”

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

“Most winemaking equipment is there to make life easier. There is not much that actually improves quality.

Q. What has given you most satisfaction recently ? 

“The production of our Methode Cap Classique and the Thibault Red Blend. “ and continues somewhat shyly “….and being a runner up in The Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the year Awards .”

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ESTELLE LOURENS – WINEMAKER AT UITKYK

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“1974 in Somerset West”.

Q. Where did you study ?

“I did a BSc in Winemaking and Viticulture at the Stellenbosch University.”

Q. Your entry into wine was a bit different to others ?

“Yes, winemaking wasn’t something I dreamt about when I was younger.I happened to stumble onto it by chance. I studied Biophysics at US until it became boring. Winemaking sounded interesting. I had always loved chemistry and the idea of being outdoors in the vineyards would enable me to fulfil two passions.”

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

“I think every winemaker  has a different approach and it changes  through the years as you gain more experience and become more at ease with your own style.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Not as much as I would like. I run a 1100 ton winery without an assistant so that makes more than a full time job !!”

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

“Yes. I have always loved to work with Cabernet sauvignon and Sauvignon blanc, but Chenin blanc is a real passion for me.”

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

“No one in particular but many conversations with  many different winemakers tend to stick somewhere…”

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

“There have been many wonderful awards  throughout the years, but I think through all my years at Uitkyk I proved that this place can produce unique and powerful wines throughout the spectrum. You need to get to know where to plant what.”

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

“I try not to fiddle too much ! There are so many different products and techniques on the market to enhance and “change” your wines, it is unbelieveable !! I try to respect the fruit and structure that come from our grapes themselves. At time of blending I have learnt not to make the perfect wine for now, but to see the wine in 4-5 years down the road, because that is the beauty of Uitkyk reds, their longevity.”

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

“It is always nice to have modern equipment, but budget constraints don’t always allow for that. I have learned to work with what I have. It is always interesting to hear conversations about techniques changing  to what we used to do in earlier years…”

Q. You joined Uitkyk in 2000. What happened before that ?

“In my final tear at Stellenbosch I received the award for the best student in oenology and viticulture. This encouraged me to travel and gain international experience. I visited New Zealand, Australia , Tasmania and the USA. I returned to South Africa 1997 and was first appointed as an assistant at Neethlingshof. My “boss’ was the legendary Schalk van Westhuizen. I then worked on two sister cellars before being given the keys to Uitkyk.”

Q. …and once at Uitkyk ?

“Soon after I settled in at Uitkyk I married Ian Lourens and we have two children. We enjoy hiking and the outdoors and we seldom venture into the city. Our love for nature is very apparent at Uitkyk where various sustainability initiatives and Uitkyk was recently awarded championship status with the Biodiversity and Wine Initiative (BWI)”

“Winemaking is certainly not a job but a lifestyle. One for which I am very grateful.”

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