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New World Wine Maker Blog - winemaker interviews

Wim Truter Chief Winemaker at KWV

Q. Where do you originate from ? 

“I was born in the Strand in 1981.”

Q. Where did you study ? 

“I studied initially at University of Stellenbosch from 2000 to 2003 where I obtained a Bsc. Agric.  Then I went to France and 2009 to 2011 studied a Masters Vintage program.

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

“Fundamentally, not really.  I try to keep things simple. I believe in doing the basics well and understanding  the technical details of decision and then letting the vineyard do the talking.”

Q. You mention the vineyard. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“As much as possible. Working with our viticulturist to a common goal is critical. A right decision in the vineyard is worth ten in the cellar.”

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

“I have always loved cabernet sauvignon, but recently I am more drawn to  the lighter bodied  and styled  varieties such as Pinot Noir , Grenache and Cinsault.”

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

“I was impressed by the generosity and open minded approach of the winemakers  of Sancerre.  The impressive  and almost extreme  wines of Priorat and the elegance and refinement of Burgundy.”

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

“I’m still working on it !”

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

“Unfortunately the word secret doesn’t exist in this business. You have got to know your vineyards, pay attention to detail and work hard at it all the time !”

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

“With the very  special small batches  we are  very hands-on”  and it is not that critical. However, with the bigger volume blends it helps with managing of quality, consistency and efficiency.”

Q. I know you are  fit fellow. What do you do for fitness ?

“You have got to be fit to work in a winery and most of those I have worked in were big so you covered a lot of ground not to mention climbing up steel steps to get to tank tops and so on. I also do trail running and mountain biking and blessed that we have such great mountains at hand to do both. I love scuba diving and the reefs in Australia was great for that.”

Q.  You have packed a lot of quality experience into a short space of time. Please give a brief run-down of what you have done ?

“Well you know I studied first at Stellenbosch. Once qualified I couldn’t wait to travel where I worked for Hardy’s in McLaren Vale in South Australia , also with them in Margaret River  in Western Australia. I then spent a harvest in a small Southern Rhone cellar in France and another with Jordan Vineyard and Winery in California. I started at Nederburg in 2005  and was there until 2009 when I was accepted to do a Masters, jointly hosted in France, Italy and Spain. I returned to Nederburg in 2011 and joined the Bergkelder team  in 2013.

While in Europe doing the degree , which consisted of the study  of viticulture, wine, terroir and marketing  in the Groupe Ecole Superieurs d’Agriculture  (Groupe ESA).  I was appointed Chief Winemaker at the KWV in September 2016. I am looking forward to working with a young dynamic team with access to some of the best vineyards in the country.  I also look forward to continuing with the KWV’s pioneering legacy in creating wonderful wines that delight our consumers.”

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PHILIP VILJOEN – BON COURAGE WINEMAKER

Q. Where were you born ?

“I was  born in Robertson on 1st April 1991.”

Q. Do you get teased about being born on 1st April ?

The answer comes with that charming , trade mark grin. “There was a time I was constantly teased about being an April Fool but I think I have proved otherwise !”

Q. Where did you study ?

“I went to Elsenburg and received my bachelor’s degree in Oenology and Viticulture.”

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

“Not really. There is only so much that you can do with wine.  I do think winemakers distinguish themselves from other winemakers by the way he or she  pays attention to the finer detail. I’m a strong believer in doing  the ten small things perfectly.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

All of a sudden, very serious. “The truth be told, not enough. If I get a chance to see what the vineyard team is busy with, I’ll take it but unfortunately it happens seldom. The cellar keeps me really busy but it id definitely on my priority list to get out more.”

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

“At this stage, not really. What I really love about Bon Courage is the opportunity to work with a big variety of cultivars from MCC, Desset wines, Dry white and reds and even Mampoer !” Then continues “We have a big collection  of cultivars on the farm so I’m patiently trying to see what each vineyard  block has to offer. So far  I’m really spoiled with great vineyards with amazing character. It makes it difficult to pick a favourite, but eventually I will have to narrow it down. I don’t want to look like a jack of all trades but master of none.”

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

“Winemaker – yes. Wine region – not at this stage. I think every wine region can make any type of wine and has something unique to offer.  Lourens van der Westhuizen , winemaker at Arensig Winery, once described it correctly saying we have so many terroir pockets, for instance, Robertson. Pockets where you find ideal climate for whichever cultivar you want to grow. I also admire Charles Hopkins at DFe Grendel for his attention to detail and Bartho Eksteen for his originality. Not to mention  Jacques at Oom Andre Bruwer of Bon Courage.”

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

With a great deal of modesty.  “ I am still young, my hall of fame is pretty empty, but luckily last year I was in the right place at the right time and I received the Diner’s Club Young Winemaker of the Year award and only then realised what a big deal it was. I can honestly say after that night I do know how it feels to be in the life of Brad Pitt for one day with all the cameras flicking !! “

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

“I would not really say “secrets” but one of the main aspects that probably  differentiate  one from another  is how well you manage to extract your varietal’s character for that specific vineyard and to balance it out with the correct oak. I do think it is very important to use the right oak  with the right varietal and also  to determine the right amount of it. I personally love to smell the vineyard  in the wine and believe that oak must be used carefully and only to add some complexity to the wine.”

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

“Technology has made our lives much easier, especially when you harvest a few hundred tonnes. The two types of machinery which I am most thankful for is probably a destemmer and a wine pump, without those two you can still manage. I also have to admit I still enjoy  a good old punch down. I like to see it as an early  morning gym session and have a good work out !! During modern winemaking you still tend  to go back to the old ways  for instance picking by hand ! I like using a mixture of the two worlds.”

Q. What of the future ?

“ I grew up in Robertson with a typical countryside living style where everyone knows everybody. It is a friendly town where the majority still greet each other in the town.  My parents farm about 4 km from  Bon Courage  and I am spoiled  to still enjoy daily  lunch with my parents. If Robertson should ever host a master chef competition my mother would , without doubt, be the champion !” In a different tack “After school I got the opportunity to go to Johannesburg for a year to play rugby and became a full blooded Lions rugby supporter. I then returned to the Cape to go to Elsenburg where I received a great education. I had a very influential lecturer in the form of Lorraine Geldenhuys. After that I did few vintages overseas.” “My main challenge is to get to know the vineyards I am working with. I am very pleased with the 2016 reds  and I can’t wait to see the process through.”

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WILHELM DE VRIES – WINEMAKER AT ALLESVELOREN

Q. Where were you born ?

“In Stellenbosch”

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

“ I did I B.Sc Agric (viticulture and oenology) at University of Stellenbosch.  Graduating in  2000.  The I did a Post Graduate  Diploma  in Management practices  specialising in Wine Business Management at University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business and graduating at end of 2015.”

Q. Do you consider your approach different to others ?

“No !  But like most young South African winemakers, with great dedication.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Every day. It is just part of what a winemaker must do.”

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

“Shiraz. So Allesverloren is just perfect for me.”

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

“No. However, being here at Allesverloren the Malan influence has it’s effect ! ”

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

“Being able to make strong strategic moves in the cellar and in my duties on the estate in field of marketing. “

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

“I do not have any secrets.”

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

“It is important to have a good balance between old and new. At the end of the day one still needs to make a profit.”

Q. Are you the first Non-Malan to be winemaker at Allesverloren ?

“ There were Assistant winemakers before me but I am the first to have the title of Manager/Winemaker. So one can say that I am the first “non-Malan” winemaker but for overall marketing Danie  Malan is still the man. Also, after all the many years of Malan influence at Allesverloren things don’t just change !”

Q.  You say “many years”. How many years have the Malans been involved ?

“Daniel Francois Malan  arrived from Wellington in 1870 to take over the farm which was considered to be all lost after a raid by the San people. Slowly but surely he put the farm in order. In 1945 the farm was divided between two sons and the one who got the portion with the old farmstead began making wine specialising in Port style wines.”

Q. Now days you make a lot of non-port style wines ?

“As the demand for port declined the port varieties were used for dry red wines and other varieties were  planted hence the Allesverloren Cabernet sauvignon.” He continued “We also make a fortified muscadel but you will see the strong influence of port in our Touriga Nacianal dry red and Tinta Rose.” “We are also famous for our Shiraz.”

Q. What of the future ?

“I believe it will be possible  to get more South Africans to enjoy wine. We must all stop being so snobbish about wine, then people with no wine knowledge will feel more comfortable to drink wine .”

Q. Do you have any idea how to do this ?

“We are doing our best by providing a beautiful venue at the foot of the Kasteelberg for weddings and functions. Here people can drink wine while eating good Swartland food in the most glorious surroundings.”

Q. When you were studying at Stellenbosch did you ever think you would manage such an estate ?

“No way but I will still be fully involved with winemaking and set on my goal to get more people enjoying our great South African wines.”

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Louis Van Der Riet – Winemaker a De Krans Winery in Calitzdorp

Q. Where did you originate ?

“I was born in Worcester on 13th February 1987.”

Q. Was it a Friday ?

“Funny enough it was but in my case it has been a lucky day !”

Q. Where did you study ?

“I went to Elsenburg where I  was successful in diplomas Viticulture and Oenology.”

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

“No, I think all winemakers can only strive to bring forward the heart of the wine by guiding it in the right direction.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“As much as possible , but that is not nearly enough.”

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

“I like our traditional Chenin blanc and of course port varieties where Touriga Nacional is my favourite.”

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

A very enthusiastic reply. “ Oh yes, the Douro in Portugal has definitely had an effect  on the way I think about vineyards , Wine and winemaking.  Also in South Africa we are blessed with amazingly talented winemakers from small to massive production cellars. I try to learn from everyone I meet.”

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

With a great big grin. “To get through the harvest without losing your sanity ! I have been blessed with a list of lifetime achievements, but the most special was when I released my first own label wine.”

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

Now all serious. “No secrets. A lot of hard work and long hours in the cellar during harvest to grind the work out. As soon as you think you are better  than to pull pipes around  you’ve lost the plot and never think you know everything about wine !!” It is the quest to learn  that makes your wine different.”

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

“Not really an issue. I work in an old cellar with old equipment. We have a very hands on approach to winemaking. Literally. We still empty some of our lagers  with buckets into an old basket press. However, I think modern knowledge is very important. To keep up with new research and to be able to think modern knowledge is very important. To keep up with and use new research and be able to understand what is happening and be able to change, adapt or implement where necessary is vitally important.”

Q. What about the future ?

“I’ve always had a passion for Portuguese  varieties. I think I have only scratched the surface about understanding how to plant and produce great wines  from these varieties. I do believe these varieties are excellently suited to our South African  climate and terroirs and I would, one day, like to see more wineries planting and producing great quality Portuguese varietal wines and  South Africans to understand and develop a love for these wines.”

Q. Haven’t you already  done this ?

“I suppose you refer to the Diners Club Young Winemaker of the year in 2014 when I was a finalist with a dry red wine made from Tinta Roriz . Traditionally a port variety but we have proved we can make outstanding natural dry reds from it.”

Q. That wasn’t all ?

“Yes, we have done well in a number of competitions with dry wines from port varieties. The Novare South African Terroir Awards has been kind to us when we won a National award for our 2013 Tinta Roriz.” He continues with a smile “There is a lot more to come. Just watch this space !”

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Richard Duckitt – Red Winemaker at Boschendal

Q. When and where were you born ?

“I was born on 24th September 1982 in the Somerset Hospital. However I come from Darling and from a long line of well-known farmers.”

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

“I studied at Elsenberg doing their diplomas in Cellar Technology and Viticulture.” Then added “That is a great institution and being an Agricultural College  you get to see all manner of agriculture including animal husbandry and so , I believe, their graduates are better all-round farmers/winemakers.”

Q. What was your first job when you left Elsenberg ? 

“Almost across the road with the Melcks at Muratie. That was a great experience  to start your career.”

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

“All winemakers will have similar interests and a basic winemaking foundation, but I am a technical and focussed individual always looking at the little things. I love experimenting and tasting. I also  don’t force any wine into something that it’s not.” Then adds with a grin “If that makes any sense to anyone ! It needs to express itself and I believe in natural freshness and balance.”

Q. How involved do you get in the vineyard ? 

“At Boschendal we have a designated viticulturist, but I venture  into the vineyards  as often as I can and never harvest anything without thorough prior tasting. “

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

“Shiraz has always been the top spot, but I am developing a love for Bordeaux varieties. They are definitely more challenging. “ Then adds “I really love a challenge. “ The carries on “ I found that I enjoyed working with cabernet sauvignon when I was in Sonoma, California.  In Spain Tempranillo was good while in Italy Barbera and Nebbiola filled the bill.”

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

“For us at Boschendal the vineyards and regions play a huge role ! The different styles that the regions deliver has helped build and distinguish our different brands, and I am hugely privileged  to work with so many  different varieties and origins. It is humbling, and also makes me proud to see the variety of styles that our South African terroir can produce. My favourites  seem to come from altitude sites, or cooler coastal vineyards, but I have proved myself wrong on many occasions !” He adds with a grin.

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

He answers with seriousness.  “I didn’t become a winemaker foe awards or recognition. For me it is, however,  highly rewarding  to see people just enjoying the wine. To be a skipper of the Boschendal Red wine ship is probably my biggest achievement, and through my whole career I have been working toward this kind of responsibility.”

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

“The realisation that one cannot fiddle  too much, but gently guide with winemaking intervention. That means harvesting at the correct time, ripe tannins, natural freshness. And no dominating new oak. Also trying new things and seeing what works best for certain areas and varietals.”

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

“We have a new crusher de-stemmer that makes a huge difference in our Bordeaux varietals  by removing almost all the stalks and green berries. Much more so than conventional machines. I believe in using what works best and if there is new equipment that can have a quality impact we will most certainly look into  it. Saying that we bought a hand cranked basket press this year and it was one of the best buys ever ! So new is not necessarily best.”

Q. What brought you to be the Red winemaker at Boschendal ? 

“Well I grew up on a Duckitt farm in Darling so I am a farmer at heart. I matriculated at SACS and then went to Elsenberg followed by three vintages overseas. The a few locally before spending ten years  at Franschhoek Vineyards. I joined Boschendal in May 2015 as their Red Winemaker.” Then continues in serious vein “As you know Boschendal has been producing great wines for years and have made great strides in the market place so one does not want to change what works or re-invent the wheel, but we constantly look for ways to improve and tweak in pursuit of perfection. We also have some exciting new wines that will be released soon.” Then adds with a mischievous grin “I have been sworn to secrecy so cannot tell you more!”

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Kobus Van Der Merwe – White Winemaker at Kwv

Q Where do you originate ? 

“I was born in Montagu in the Klein Karoo  on 1st March 1983.”

Q Where did you study ?

“I was fortunate to go to Elsenburg Agricultural college where I was successful in obtaining a Diploma in Viticulture and Cellar technology which is another way of saying Oenology.”

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

“I wouldn’t say so, but I do trial a lot on experimental basis  to find the sweet spot to express terroir as best as possible,”

Q How involved do you get in the vineyard ?

“Oh dear, not nearly as much as I want to, but it is very important and key to be involved as much as possible to produce wines in the style and quality wanted. At KWV we are lucky to have some truly expert viticulturists who are very good at what they do.”

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

“I have a lot of passion for white varieties. I spend a lot of time experimenting with techniques on different varieties and to determine the versatility of each and the different outcomes are very satisfactory.”

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

“When travelling in New Zealand , especially the Marlborough region, I became very fond of their white wines. The winemakers were very open with what they did but too many to single out any particular person.”

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

“ To see how much the wine lovers enjoy  my wine and have the stock totally sold out well before the next vintage.”

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

In a humble manner. “I have no big secrets but try to be innovative in my winemaking and try all possible ways even if it sounds stupid ! You never know how a new idea will work out and , at the end,  it could become a great success.”

Q How important is modern winemaking equipment in your winemaking ? 

“We all know just how expensive modern winemaking equipment is. However, if it can work to it’s optimum it can have a very positive effect in terms of quality and also reduce losses. If a piece of equipment can enhance quality and minimise losses and through this generate payback, it is a must to have in the winery.”

Q How did you get interested in winemaking ?

Answer came with great enthusiasm.  “I grew up on a wine farm and the best time of the year was during the harvest when I helped my father to transport  the grapes to the winery. I was fascinated by the winery and all it’s machinery and the whole process of winemaking.” He continued with obvious enthusiasm.  “I bombarded my father with questions and he encouraged me  and he developed my great passion for winemaking.” And then “After school I was lucky to be accepted by Elsenberg to do my studies  and then set off  to gain experience locally and then overseas  to New Zealand and California. “All of which has helped me enormously.”

Q What about the future ?

“I don’t see myself in any other business but the wine industry. If winemaking has flowed in your veins you will never get rid of it !” “Then I have a gorgeous wife and a beautiful 10 month old daughter to look after.”

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