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New World Wine Maker Blog - winemaker interviews

MEET JOLANDIE FOUCHE – WINEMAKER AT KLOOVENBURG

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“I am a 1987 vintage. Born in Cape Town and grew up in the platteland town of Malmsbury.”

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

“I am a graduate of the Elsenburg Institute for Agricultural Training, where I completed my B.Agric in Cellar Management & Viticulture degree and Diploma in Cellar Technology.”

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

“Each winemaker has his/her own idea how to approach winemaking, depends if you are a small or big cellar, do you make for wine for  the general consumer  or for the connoisseur, who your mentor is and , of course, if you work  with healthy vineyards. I rely a lot on instinct. I don’t believe in following a recipe . My approach is a lot hands but attention to detail is critical.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“During the year I am not nearly  enough as I would like to be, but during the harvest I am out early in the morning before picking to make sure everything runs smoothly and then late afternoon to decide what is next for picking.”

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

“Rhone style is my big love and Grenache is my boyfriend !”

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

“I worked four years  at Saronsberg  so Dewald Heyns had a big impact  on my winemaking career.  He gave me the freedom to experiment, to make mistakes and how to correct them. It’s also there where  I fell in love with Rhone varieties. I grew up in the Swartland and always knew I will come back  to my roots !  Rosa Kruger also plays a vital role in my career both as viticulture and personal mentor.”

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

She answers with a broad grin “To be a winemaker !”

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

“There are no secrets but I have one rule : Be true to yourself and don’t follow a trend and make wines according to your terroir.”

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

“Not at all. We have a very basic cellar where you  still measure  sugar with a baling meter ! I do punch downs and have a manual basket press. I believe technology makes you lazy. Winemaking is all about smell, touch and experience. In my opinion, You are not making wine if you sit behind a computer !”

Q.  In general ? 

“After I graduated  I did a stint in South Australia, where I met the man who became  my husband, and then I went to California. I came back to Stellenbosch for a while then did my four years in Tulbagh. I got  married and joined Klooveburg and moved to live in Riebeek where we still live with two beautiful Labradors, Cinsaut and Simba.  There are currently,  positives and negatives in the industry  but we choose how we see them. Through my eyes  there is more good than bad  and everybody is working  really hard  to change the world’s perception about South African wine. It’s exciting and inspiring  to see the new generation of winemakers  pushing boundaries and making exceptional wine. In a nut shell I can’t wait for the next ten years . Great things are going to come !”

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MEET ARCO LAARMAN – OWNER WINEMAKER LAARMAN WINES

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born far from the Cape and it’s vineyards. In a place called Roodepoort, not too far from Johannesburg. My mother gave birth to me on January 9th, 1977.”

Q. Where did you study ?

“I did not go to a university but learned my Trade as an apprentice ! I had wanted to be a winemaker since I was about 12 years old.  I matriculated in 1995 and my mother suggested I do a harvest first, to make sure that I wanted to be a winemaker. My first harvest was with the great Danie Steytler on Kaapzicht.” After some reflection he continued “ I ended up staying there for four harvests , and within those short four years  I also worked for Mobott (a mobile bottling company for eight months. Not only enormously valuable experience but it was a good way of meeting people in the wine industry. You would be surprised how many wineries there are that the average person never get to know about.” He continued “We had done some bottling for Glen Carlou and in the middle of 1999, David Finlayson offered me a job as an assistant winemaker, which I gladly accepted. Before starting at Glen Carlou I had enough time to do an American harvest. David organised a  position for me at The Hess Collection Winery in Napa Valley, California, where I worked for four months. In 2000 I went to France for a harvest in Beaujolais where I was for about four weeks. I also completed a harvest  in Australia in 2003 at Xanadu Wines in Margaret River. I also worked at friends  wineries in Austria and Germany. I spent 17 years, in all, at Glen Carlou and left in 2015 to start my own venture.”

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

“Since leaving Glen Carlou my approach has changed and I work my brands  from different regions as I sell my wines  as me being the endorsement  of the wines as I am person and not an estate that one can visit. So I take varieties that work best in the selected regions.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“I am very involved with all the owners  of the vineyards I buy grapes from and work together with their vineyard managers to secure the best fruit possible.”

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

“I believe in the noble varieties as they will always sell but I regard  myself as a Chardonnay specialist with my 17 years at Glen Carlou. I also work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsaut and Chenin Blanc. That is for now but there are sure to be more in the future !”

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

“Having worked with David Finlayson for over ten years be fore he left Glen Carlou I would say he and Danie Steytler of Kaapzicht were great people to have learnt from. I have only dealt with Paarl grapes  for 17 years  but now on my own I am excited  to now work with grapes from Piekernierskloof , Vermaaklikheid, Stellenbosch and Elgin.”

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

“My long standing career with Glen Carlow and the accumulation of awards in those years . However, I don’t make wines with the idea to achieve awards.”

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

With a broad grin “It would not be a secret if I told you”. “ However I can share that wine is only as good as the fruit you  work with and then no need to overwork wines in the cellar.”

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

“Not that important. You must have healthy fruit and then hygiene is very important as well as protection from oxidation.”

Q. What of the future ?

“My first release on my own is the “Cluster Series” includes a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon and there will be more to follow.”

Q. Why have you called your wines The Cluster Series

“This has been my way of bringing together quality grapes, my winemaking experience, my family and friends in the industry. Not only is a cluster a bunch of grapes but it is a constant reminder that none of us can succeed in isolation. One grape cannot make a bottle of wine !”

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Meet Johnnie Calitz – Winemaker at Glen Carlou

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born in Calitzdorp in the Little Karoo on 14 September 1982.”

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

“I graduated from the University of Stellenbosch in 2004 with BSc Agric Viticulture and Oenology.  Since then I obtained the Certificate from CFPPA de Beaune for theory/practical on Burgundy wines in 2009.  And the Cape Wine Academy Diploma in 2012. I did postgraduate  Diploma in Financial Planning at University of Stellenbosch Business School , Bellville, graduating in 2015. So with all that and my years of winemaking  I think I am fairly well qualified to do what I am doing !” Then adds, “ Making wine and running my own business.”

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

“Not really. I am very involved  during all of production process. I am well organised and very particular on cleanliness in the wine cellar. I stay away from any possible oxidation, and believe that less is more . If the wine was handled well and the process well controlled, no additions will be needed. I like to get everyone involved and believe that hard work is always well rewarded.”

Q. How involved to you get in the vineyard ?

“We have a very experienced Viticulturist , Marius Cloete, with who I communicate on a daily basis regarding any developments in the vineyard .”

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

“Yes, quite a few !  Chardonnay, Merlot, Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon.”

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

“I look up to plenty of winemakers in South Africa . It is not an easy career to be a winemaker, and doing it with success takes an enormous amount of sacrifice.”

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

“I havn’t got there yet but one on my Bucket List would be the prestigious  General Smuts Trophy for the best wine at the annual National Young Wine Show. I admire and respect the long tradition of that trophy  and must also include the Veritas Wine Awards.”

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

“I guess every winemaker has a secret that works for him/her. I don’t think I am any different but those are my secrets !”

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

“Modern equipment makes life easier, but the basics  still apply.  Clean ripe fruit. Minimal handling, minimum oxidation, minimum additions, good sulphur management and total involvement throughout. Then tasting, tasting and more tasting.”

Q. What about you and the future ?

“Since finishing my BSc in 2004 I have had 13 years of quality experience in the world –wide industry. Seeing as that I am only 35 I have lots still to do. Winning several awards at top competitions  as previous head of winemaking at Anura Vineyards (10 years) and then head winemaker at Glen Carlou I have earned a vast amount “know how” in the making  top end wines  and with this keeping  in touch with the important understanding of local and foreign consumer needs.” Then after some thought, continues “I have a long background in primary production of wine coming from a family owned fruit and wine farm in Calitzdorp. Involvement in the vineyard  has been a crucial part of my success with excellent  results and experience  in sourcing of good wine grapes.”

Q. What do you think has made you so well organised ?

“I think going to Oakdale Agricultural High engraved the organisation and helped in forward thinking” After some more thought “I have been interested in winemaking  from a kid and I guess some competition from my sister who is also a successful winemaker.”

Q. To finish ?

“Apart from my academic  achievements I have good practical and communication skills combined with ability to work hard and thoroughly and perform under pressure. One of my top attributes is to be always well organised and have confidence in myself.”

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Meet Corlea Fourie – Winemaker at Bosman Vineyards

Q. When and where were you born ? 

“1980 in Johannesburg”.  “However my Dad moved the family to Bloemfontein and I grew up and went to school there.”

Where did you study ?

“I did a Bsc Agric Oenology at Stellenbosch University and I was in the class 2003.”

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

“I know I have many wine friends that feel the same way about certain things we do but then our approach is personal.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“As I work for one of the most prominent vine nurseries in the Southern Hemisphere I am surrounded by an amazing viticultural team.  I’m responsible for vineyard to wine goal outcomes so I do try to get to the vineyards as much as possible. That said, it’s still something I have to work at. There is always something pulling me away!”

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

“Chenin blanc is my very dear favourite!  Some people consider me to be a chenin junkie!””

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

“After visiting the Loire I have picked up a touch of sentiment for the valley.  Many winemakers have influenced my thoughts on wine, here and abroad.  Wine is, to some extent, a social experiment with so many tastes and thoughts.  It is dynamic. ”

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

“Achievements are dynamic too. You are measured by your consumer’s pleasure by the wine in the glass. Every season brings new challenges and opportunities.”

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

“No secrets. I have a young team who work with me and madness in their methods are freely shared. I do try, and do have a soft touch though.”

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

The answer is straight and to the point. “It is.” And continues “We do not need to work harder but smarter. Modern equipment usually helps with this.”

Q. How did you come to be at Bosman Vineyards ?

“I had been doing some consulting work in the area and came across Petrus and we were both making small batches of experimental wines on a neighbouring farm.  He was busy in renovating a 250 year old cellar on his family farm and Petrus invited me to join him. It was like a dream come true although we struggled to figure out how to use all the equipment! Hard to believe that is ten vintages ago!  In that time we have made some great wines.”

Q. In general ? 

“Although growing up mainly in the Free State with no vineyards in sight I spent family holidays in the Cape Winelands where my elder sister lived. After finishing school and doing a “Gap Year” mainly in the hospitality industry, I started my studies. I was prompted by my love for biology and science which led me into wine. I did a harvest as a practical and this introduced me to my future husband who was the winemaker at the farm of my choice!   We are now raising a family with a twelve year old daughter and a pigeon pair of twins aged seven.   I look forward to achieving my personal goals as a winemaker whilst working in a dynamic industry.  Lots of good stuff to look forward to. “

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ANTON SWARTS: SENIOR WINEMAKER AT SPIER AND CAPE WINE MASTER

Q. When and where were you born ? 

Reply with generous smile “I was bred and born in the picturesque town of Paarl during the 1975 vintage on 30th January.” Then adds “The same day that Ernö Rubik applied for his patent of his “Magic Cube” which later became known as Rubik’s Cube.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

“Not a straight answer !  I studied at Elsenberg College with the Cape Technikon doing the National diploma in Agriculture focussing on Viticulture, Vegetable production and Pomology.” Then adds with a smile “I am more qualified as a viticulturist than a winemaker.  To be honest , winemaking wise I am more or less self taught with 18 years of industry experience. In 1999, I started as a general harvest hand under the watchful  eye of Chris Roux at the old Wamakersvallei Winery now Wellington Wines. Then an opportunity presented itself and moved me to their bottling and cellar facility in Epping  as the supervisor. At that stage  I knew the very basics  about winemaking and could kick myself for not paying more attention in Class ! I was immediately caught up in the whole fascination of the wine world and just wanted to know more. This led me to the Cape Wine Academy (that you started) where I began the prelim course to educate myself more about this “nectar of the Gods”. I eventually became 100th Cape Wine Master in 2017.” Then added “I must say it was the opportunities that my employers, Spier Wines, that gave me the capability of education  and the belief in me for promoting me through the years without which I could never have got to where I am today.”

Q. How long have you been with Spier ?

“18 years and counting…..I started in June 1999 as a cellar Supervisor in the bottling facility known as Cape Central  Packaging. We bottling for various customers . This became Ashwood Wines and  Winepack and was bought by Wine Corp now known as Spier. “

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

“My job requires me to source wines and blend different tiers  at different price points  so I don’t actually make wine !”

Q. So describe what you do ?

“I am one of the senior winemakers at Spier and form part of a winemaking team that functions in the Secondary Winemaking Department. I help with the procurement of wines from our outside, contracted cellars who make wines for our specific requirements and our  different labels. I relook the various components that we have sourced and begin to finalise the blends and plan to bring the bulk wines in for blending and bottling. This is a year long process and covers the whole range of wines  including specialty wines  such as Woolworths low kilojoule wines and others.”

Q. Do you have a preference for any particular variety ? 

“I couldn’t chose one variety over another ! However I do have a fancy for such diverse varieties like Pinot Noir and Shiraz that have totally different origins. I also love South African Pinotage.  I also love chenin blanc and believe it is to South Africa what Riesling is to Germany. Of course, it also makes some of our best brandies.” After some thought “I am also fascinated by Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Touriga Nacional and Tempranillo.

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

“Not really although  Germany, Burgundy, the Mosel in particular and the Rhone .”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Not much. We have a team of viticulturists who spend 24/7 looking after our precious vines.”

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

“Winning awards for your wines  is always a great achievement but what I really love about  my job is to produce wines  that people enjoy. To see the satisfaction on the faces of people enjoying our wine is the most simplistic way of understanding a great achievement.” Then adds “On top of that I guess becoming a Cape Wine Master is right up there. Being selected for Team South Africa to compete in blind tastings overseas two years in a row is also very special.”

Q. Have you developed any secrets in your winemaking ? 

“If I tell you I would have to kill you !!  However, seriously, I always try to over deliver in quality and the wine  must have body, aroma and flavour. I like my  wines to be mouth-watering.

Q. What do you consider your keys in the cellar ? 

”Patience, Accuracy and Attention to detail “

Q. How important  is modern winemaking equipment to you ? 

“At Spier moder winemaking equipment is essential. It helps us get the perfect berry into the cellar so that we can make it into perfect wine !”

Q. What advice do you have to wine drinkers ?

“To enjoy your glass of wine and not to analyse it.  Enjoyment is what wine is all about.”

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Meet Hattingh De Villiers, Winemaker Muratie

Q. When and where were you born ?  

“I was born in Vredendal on 11th January 1958.”

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

“I did a B-agric Cellar Technology, Oenology and Viticulture at Elsenberg and then went on to complete a postgraduate diploma in business management at the University of Cape Town’s Graduate School of Business. Also attended the Michael Fricjhon Wine Judging Academy.”

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

“I believe  in simplicity. Every vintage differs from the previous, thus working  with what nature gives you, no recipe and not getting too technical. Let the wine speak for itself.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“Muratie is a small, hands on, family farm, we do everything from grape to bottle ourselves. So I spend a lot of time  in the vineyards , and it is important, because  you can only make a wine as good as your grapes, so you need to put in  the effort to make sure the latter is excellent.”

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

“Yes. Sauvignon blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon, “

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

“ I worked at a small but high quality estate, Chateau Montelena in the Napa Valley where  their no-nonsense  approach to making wine without a recipe, according  to what the vintage and conditions yield, was very influential for me as a young winemaker.” “I also took in very different experience at Bleasdal Vineyards in Langhorne Creek  in Australia.” He continues “My local experience at Opstal in the Breedekloof, at Morgenhof in Stellenbosch and Siedelberg in Paarl all played their part.”

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

“Empowering  and hopefully inspiring my cellar staff.”

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

”No secrets. Necessarily, but I have learnt that less is more when it  comes to wood, you should let the natural characteristics of the wine shine.”

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

“Technology  shouldn’t  dictate  your winemaking decisions, but the best modern equipment certainly helps make your life easier and can improve quality.”

Q. How do you keep fit ?

“Getting around the farm and cellar and a young family keeps me pretty fit along with some jogging around the surrounding Simonsberg hills with my Border Collies .”

Q. In general ?

“I have been fortunate  to travel and work at some fine overseas cellars but I still have a lot international wine destinations on my travel bucket list  and a lot I want to learn. I also have a lot of other interests away from wine and I love golf and hunting. Very important is spending time with my wife, Leonie  and darling little daughter and family and friends.” After some thought “I really enjoy eating good food and drinking good wine and being in the company of my family and friends.”

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