Wine makers’ personalities shine through

Monday, 4 November, 2013
Michael Fridjhon, BDLive
There's no doubt that many of the best-known wines in South Africa are in some way driven by personality. For example, Johann Krige of Kanonkop's quiet confidence is reflected in his wines. He's not the wine maker, nor, obviously, is he the soil on the farm or the sun which shines upon his vines — but his presence is as much part of the estate as it is evident in the wines.
Since he took over management of the family farm there have only been two wine makers at Kanonkop — and probably only three through-out his adult life. It is difficult to pick up evidence of any stylistic change from one cellar master to the next. You would be told — if you asked — that this is simply because the site, rather than the man who crushes the grapes, determines the profile of the wine.

Except that this is not entirely true: a hands-on proprietor plays a key role in driving the expression of the property and the quality of what it produces.

If you believe that the market wants big, rich, alcoholic oaky wines, you employ a wine maker keen to make that style. If you want something more subtle, you build the aesthetic accordingly.

Just as a neglectful or absent owner is responsible for the decline in a property’s wines, so a hands-on manager is responsible for the quality of what emerges from the cellar.

When Wendy Appelbaum bought the property which we know now as DeMorgenzon about 10 years ago, it was an unprepossessing, run-down and neglected farm tucked away in a corner of the Stellenboschkloof. It had little going for it — except the potential of a good address, a multitude of slopes, a few blocks of very old vines — and an enthusiastic new owner determined to transform it into a great estate.

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