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New World Wine Maker Blog - winemaker interviews

Meet Clayton Reabow, Winemaker at Moreson

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“I was born in the very small and humble Eastern Cape town of King Williams Town in 1982. I eventually attended Dale College from Grade 1 to Grade 12. I left “King” in 2000 to pursue my dream to become a winemaker.”

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

“I completed my B.Sc Agriculture in Oenology and Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch in 2004 and set about starting my career.  In between completing some local vintages, I travelled to other wine producing areas such as Bordeaux in France and the Mosel in Germany to broaden my horizons. On returning to South Africa, I applied for the winemaking position at Moreson in 2007 and have never looked back!”  He continues  “In addition I completed a Post  Graduate in Wine Business Management, Cum  Laude at the University of Cape Town in 2011. “

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

“I have derived my winemaking from my friend and mentor, Gerald Ludwinski “Keep it simple and do the basics right.”  I personally believe that we are making the best wines we have ever made by sticking to these principles. We are constantly innovating, but also adhere to these basic rules.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyards ? 

“Luckily I pride myself on my Honesty. Most winemakers like to say that their beds are in the vineyard. This is not to say that I or any other winemaker does not spend any time in the vineyard, it is just that winemaking is an all-consuming position especially if you factor in marketing and travel. I also personally dislike winemakers who take credit away from the Viticulturists and from the farm managers who work on their respective estates. Moreson is a small estate relative to what is out there. Even if we insist on employing a Viticulturist whose sole purpose is to tend to the vines.  My role , as the  winemaker is to ensure  our stylistic approach  and direction is well communicated with this person and effectively ensure  a good working  relationship between  the two  operations. I spend as much time as I need in the vineyards  ensuring  we receive what we require  for the subsequent vintage. My role is strategic more than it is practical. I always insist that I personally visit each grower in Franschhoek myself together with the viticulturist. Manicuring a good, business relationship supersedes telling people what to do.”

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

“No doubt, Chardonnay and Pinotage. “

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

Burgundy is one of the most captivating wine regions in the world expressing their wines as single sites or single vineyards. Their history of wine production is fascinating dating back to the11th Century when the first Cistercian monks started to experiment with wine and in doing so finding the best vineyard sites suitable for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir which would later be classified as village, premier cru and grand cru.  Their vignerons are true farmers who all possess a humility and honesty which is refreshing to experience. What I respect the most is how understated they and their wineries are. There are no ostentatious winery entrances, or large winery signs. Instead they focus purely on their vineyard sites and resulting wines.”

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

“Off the top of my head, being awarded Diners Club Young Winemaker of the Year in 2009. That was very special and so was being a finalist in Diners Club Winemaker of the year in last year’s competition.” After some thought  “My greatest achievement , I believe,  has been working with in a team  for the past 11 years that has transformed the image and identity of Moreson wines”

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

“I believe what makes us different as a producer is my constant desire to challenge our wine growing and winemaking techniques. Our approach in the winery is certainly non-conventional. I dislike the conformity of wine production and wine preparation.  We are always testing ways  and means  to eradicate  the use of additives in the winery and replacing them with materials  that are more  natural and derived from our own cellar. For example, if I feel we can get away from not adding bentonite to wine without compromising the heat stability of the wine, we will do so.”

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

“Modern winemaking equipment such as automated sorting tables and optic sorting tables are an essential and expensive practice in wineries. Those wineries whose budget can afford such items and if used correctly, will add  value to their final product. Wineries whose brands are based on consistency year on year rely heavily on such machines in order to ensure and promote the health of fruit.  We make use of a pellenc automated sorting table to ensure incoming fruit is extremely healthy.”

Q.  The future ?

“South Africa is arguably producing some of the world’s best wines. No other wine producing country is gifted with a collection of talented winemakers willing to break the conformity of wine, take risks and continually strive to do better. I still we need to impress the world with just how good our wines are.

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Meet Wynand Lategan, Winemaker at Lanzerac Wine Estate

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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Meet Attie Louw – winemaker at Opstal Estate

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born in Cape Town on 23rd September 1984.”

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

“I was lucky enough to study at the University of Stellenbosch where I did a BSc Viticulture and Oenology.”

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

With some deep thought and then a smile. “No, nothing too special. I think I have a good mix between a sound scientific and some creative flair !”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“Not as much as I would like is the truth. It helps that in our set up at Opstal we have very reliable people in My Dad Stanley, my brother Zak and our long time farm manager, Gerhard, who spend their days in the vineyards.”  Then adds “Lucky souls !!”

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

Without hesitation “Chenin blanc for sure. The expression of this grape on different soils on our farm alone and through different conditions is continuous amazement to me.!”

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

A fairly serious answer “I really have a network of mentors. I probably learnt most from my Dad. His knowledge of our farm and the industry along with his practical ability are skills worth aspiring to. Then I also look up to my peers and fellow winemakers. I feel very comfortable in picking up the phone and discussing certain wines, techniques and ideas with friends in the industry, learning a lot from them in the process and here I should single out my good friend David Sadie who is always willing to share his knowledge.”

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

With a very serious expression “This is obviously an uncomfortable topic for a modest Afrikaans boytjie to talk about……if I have to name something I’d have to say the identification of Opstal as a wine destination and the effort of showing our Slanghoek terroir for chenin blanc in our old vine Carl Everson Single Vineyard wine and our other Chenin examples in both single varietal wines and Cape White blends.”

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

Again with a serious expression “It’s so difficult to have differentiating factor these days in such a competitive market other than the personalities involved. So with myself as with my father and the rest of my family involved, it is the heart and personality we put into and behind the wines that should add the difference. …….and, of course, being from Slanghoek!”

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

Almost matter of fact “Really not at all. We use the precious resources of time and personnel in such a way that we can plan well enough not to be drowning in grapes or juice during harvest, for instance.“

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Meet Skye Nolan – Assistant Winemaker at Origin Wines

Q. When and where  were you born ?

“ I was born in Randburg, Gauteng, in 1994.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

A straight and honest answer.  “ I did not study formally. “I had attended an Agricultural school because of my love for agriculture and nature.  When we moved to the Cape I was lucky enough to get a job in the Tasting Room at Lord’s Wine in Mcgregor”  She continued “The winemaker was Ilse van Dijk, in a relatively new winery.  She needed help in the 2015 vintage and so I was moved from the tasting room to help her.”

Q. Lord’s is an unusual name for a winery in the Cape owned by the Oosthuizen family ?

“Yes, it had been a mixed farm for about  100 years when cricket crazy Jackie took over and named the winery after what he considered the Home of Cricket, Lords.”

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

“Yes I do.  I focus far more on the creative and intellectual aspects of winemaking. However I feel  that science plays as much of a role. There must be a balance.”

 Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“Currently not, but I am learning from the farmers.  Once our vines start producing I hopefully will get far more involved.”

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

With a coy smile, “Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

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

“I think the way I started, each winemaker I had something to do with regarding winemaking, I was very much influenced. Everything I know I have learned from the winemakers I worked with.  In particular, Alwyn Liebenberg, (At Lords’ Wines), Natalee Botha and Monique Fourie. The manager and winemaker where I am now, Great Domaines of Origin “

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

With a big smile “Just making it successfully into the winemaking industry without any qualifications !!”

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

“Not sure it is a “secret” but just always being positive and enthusiastic.  I think happy people make happy wine .”

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

“Modern winemaking equipment definitely has benefits with regards to quality or our large batches of wine. Therefore, modern winemaking equipment is very important. “

Q.  What of the future ?  

“I had a lucky break getting into the wine industry and am going to make the very best of it, going forward.  My vintage at Rupert and Rothschild  for the 2016 harvest added no end to my learning. Now two vintages at Great Domains in Devon Valley have given me far more learning opportunities than I could have imagined. I will continue to learn and do whatever courses I can including SKOP and CWA. I want to be a fully-fledged winemaker “.

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Meet Monique Fourie – General Manager at Grand Domaine

Q. When and where were you born ?

“2nd October 1986 in the famous  East Rand town of Benoni.”

Q. What brought you to the Cape ?

“As soon as I matriculated in 2005 I moved to the Cape.   I was so  fascinated by wine. While growing up  and tasting a few sips here and there, usually around the dinner table  really aroused my interest. All those different aromas and flavours. Wine really had my attention and excited me. I had to know how to make it.  I left my family in Benoni where they still are.  !”  Then adds “I get to visit them regularly but the Winelands are now my home.”

Q Where did you study ?

“I did a Bsc. Agric (Oenology & Viticulture) at the University of Stellenbosch.”

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

With a smile “I am sure everyone tries to be different to others., however to me it is about precision and understanding from vine to wine.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“I have always tried to  get involved as much as possible. Now at Great Domaines I have a unique opportunity to grow up with new young wines and get to know them from scratch with a great farmer.”

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

Without hesitation “King Cabernet and relation Sauvignon Blanc !”

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

“I have been blessed to have worked under great winemakers like De Wet Viljoen, Pieter Badenhorst and Wim Truter. As good as you will ever get Then, of course , Stellenbosch where I started and is by far my favourite region.”

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

“I was part of a great and talented team at the KWV that won best producer more than once at the Veritas Awards. Then now being appointed the General Manager at Grand Domaine. I would never have dreamt it at tender age of 32 !

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

“I won’t call it a secret but taste, taste, taste and taste some more ! It is important to me to ensure that my wines undergo healthy fermentations and stay that way until they are safely into the bottle.”

Q How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ? 

“I like the idea of traditional winemaking that includes lots of manual labour, but modern winemaking equipment definitely has its place. I am very open to it especially, when it increases the quality.”

Q  Outside of winemaking ?  

“I really enjoy golf, not that I am very good at it !! (Laughter !!)  I love exploring different foods and the wines that go with, lots !!”

Q  Are you married ? 

With a huge smile “No, not yet !!”

Q  The future ? 

“8 South African harvests done and 80 to go !!!”

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Pieter Badenhorst – Winemaker at Bergkelder

Q Where and when  were you born ? 

“1980 in Graaf Reinett, in the north of the Eastern Cape.”

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

“I studied at University of Stellenbosch  1999 to 2002 and obtained a BSc in winemaking.”

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

“Not really .  I just love the ability  that Fleur du Cap gives me to work with an  extremely big range of regions  and grape producers with their different vineyard blocks.”

Q How involved to you get in the vineyard ? 

“Not nearly enough in the off-season, but during harvest  I do regular visits to our reserve blocks and will not harvest  before our team have tasted and made a call based on optimum ripeness in the vineyard itself.”

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

“I love working with Pinotage and Chenin Blanc.”

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

“I have a few people in the industry that I look up to. Charles Hopkins springs immediately to mind. Razvan Macici was a great influence. Most of my colleagues here at Distell are proper stand up winemakers and I love being on this journey  with them.”

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

With a big grin “When my wife and father-in-law tell me they  love drinking a wine that I make. They started drinking long before I met them and know their wines very well.” And continues “Yes, I have won a few gold medals and trophies over the years, but it is the good feedback from our everyday drinkers that make me the happiest.”

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

“I think it is the big number of “building blocks” we create during harvest .  Using grapes from different regions , using different yeasts, barrels  and a few other techniques that we have developed over the years  that help  a lot  when we do the final blending of any given wine. “

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

“In large scale wine production there is a place for modern winemaking equipment, but when it comes to reserve wines , nothing holds up to good old basics. Attention to detail and patience can’t be replaced by machinery. “

Q. What of your history and the future ?

“Although born in Graaff Reinett I grew up in the Boland . Studied winemaking. Started winemaking at Nederburg  in 2003 and moved to the Bergkelder in 2007. Here I have been part of the winemaking team responsible  for a pretty big selection of well known  wine brands including Fleur du Cap, Allesverloren, Jacobsdal, Lomond, Two Oceans , Drostdy Hof to name but a few ! I am EXTREMELY passionate about winemaking and love being involved in the process throughout the entire process. From grapes and building relationships with our wonderful farmers, working with  a dedicated cellar team to standing  in the front of a room filled with people, talking about the wine that I helped to make and getting them to taste. Hopefully our story gets  them to taste the first bottle. The actual wine will make them buy the next pallet !!

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