Migliarina Wines; ‘right in front of you’

“I just mind my own business and make wine”, says Carsten Migliarina. "I make wine for my customers." As a wine producer, Carsten is quite low profile, which he is happy with.

He is, though, rather too large to still  be called a ‘garagiste’, making some 40,000 bottles in a good year. Carsten prefers the term ‘boutique winery’ for himself, and says that individual garagistes have got it tough in our market, though there is a necessary place for them alongside the multi-nationals.

Carsten may be low profile, but his CV is anything but. His first ‘vintage’ was at age 14, fermenting table grapes in plastic bottles, which ended up being “uninspiring stuff”.  After training three years in hotel management he spent seven years as a Sommelier at some very special establishments, such as Le Pont de la Tour in London and the Grand Roche in Paarl. During that time Carsten travelled to many wine regions, drank some of the world’s greatest wines and was fortunate to meet people like Aubert de Villaine of DRC, Miguel Torres and Paul Draper. Carsten grew more involved in winemaking and spent his first vintage in the South of France in 1997. Many more vintages followed in Germany, South Africa, Romania and China. Carsten loves Riesling, “the king of grapes”, he says, and this is borne out by his nine harvests in Germany including a practical at Schloss Johannisberg in the Rheingau. Vintages in South Africa included Mulderbosch, Ernie Els and for Distell. Carsten has particular affection and respect for Mike Dobrovic who was central to Mulderbosch for two decades; he feels Mike is a truly special and talented winemaker.

By 2002 Carsten started producing his own wine. His first own label harvest was of 1,732 bottles, matured in a friend’s garage, which, he says, is still showing quite youthfully. For the last few years he has made his wines at the University Cellar at Stellenbosch and now sources grapes for his Chenin Blanc, two Chardonnays, Grenache, Shiraz and a Shiraz/Cabernet blend bottled under the ‘Migliarina’ label. His aim is for a low interference, pure profile, clean and honest wine and even a young Shiraz (2012!) shows a layered, unmanicured depth.

Every year, Carsten makes an additional wine, “just for fun”, it might be Riesling or Pinot Gris and he always stays flexible; if the grapes aren’t good enough, he won’t use them. He will sell off in bulk if he is not totally happy with quality. “South Africa has to be the most interesting wine country in the world, at present," says Carsten, who has built up understanding with his growers but is always looking for special vineyards.

With 70% of his wines exported, to Namibia, the US, China, Australia and the UK, Carsten enjoys good sales in Reunion, where they, “love good wine”.  His agencies understand that Carsten doesn’t make to numbers and with good On-Trade sales to some top European and South African restaurants (eg Chefs Warehouse, Aubergine, Overture and The Blue Train) there is a healthy demand for his wines.

Grenache is particularly successful and his Chardonnay by-the-glass is the best seller in UK restaurants. Carsten laments the loss of his Elgin sourced Chardonnay, gone because the growers are switching to more profitable apple growing. “There seems to be a ten year cycle, between the growers and producers and prices for grapes are tight." Carsten’s wines are not so visible either. Top restaurants, specialist outlets and interaction with the public, which Carsten loves, but no large retailers. He takes his wines to people. His introduction quotes him; ‘I am asked, ‘where are you?’… to which I reply ‘right in front of you’. Carsten makes wines he likes and they seem to be appreciated more abroad, where they are often better rated than wines selling for three times the price. Consistent Platter’s four star winners, there have been several 93 and 94 point wines from the UK’s Jamie Goode, Decanter Magazine and Greg Sherwood MW, but Carsten isn’t too concerned with chasing awards. Now in his fifteenth vintage as ‘Migliarina’, Carsten has a pragmatic, almost relaxed, view to winemaking and isn’t about to start chasing the limelight anytime soon.



Carsten Migliarina

Migliarina Chardonnay

Migliarina Shiraz

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