Jeff Grier: #SAWINELEGENDS

Monday, 29 April, 2019
WOSA Blog, Malu Lambert
Above the roof of Villiera’s tasting room is a cluster of demijohns filled with a liquid the colour of café au lait. The contents catch the light intermittently as the sun chases the clouds above, filtering down through the surrounding oaks. Cellarmaster Jeff Grier has colloquially called the rooftop assortment “dakwijn” which translates into ‘roof wine’.

“It’s an idea that comes out of the Roussillon where Domaine Grier is situated,” Grier explains. The family also owns a small vineyard in the South of France.

“For the dakwijn we used chenin blanc, picked ripe and it was partially fermented before fortifying, leaving some residual sugar. To add to complexity and interest it was placed in jars on the tasting room roof for eight months. There it was madeirised in the sun and allowed to partially oxidise under a light flor veil.

“After enough time in the jars it was placed in used barrels for a year and a half to settle. It will be bottled this week, the first vintage is 2017, and it has a nutty, savoury character with hints of caramel and spice.”

Grier is no stranger to innovation. He’s a founding member of Cap Classique Producers Association, and from the get-go has been thoroughly entrenched in the vanguard of the category, producing many firsts—and many resulting awards. He has been named the Platter’s Wine Man of the Year as well as the Diners Club Wine Maker of the Year and has been crowned Winner of the Chenin Blanc Challenge, among many other accolades. He is also a member of the illustrious Cape Winemaker’s Guild. 

On the personal front he’s been married to his wife, Lynne for 36 years. They have two children, Matthew and Kim. He’s also an enthusiastic golfer, loves eating out and enjoys the occasional trip into the bush.

To describe his winemaking style he says: “I believe in natural wines supported by technology and underpinned by creativity.”

And to think, all that talent could have been given over to another kind of farming entirely. For a man who puts stars in bottles, winemaking initially wasn’t in the stars for him.

Grier sits across from me in the courtyard of his Stellenbosch estate, glasses of Villiera MCC between us.

“We were chicken farmers,” he says simply. His late father Robin was instrumental in developing County Fair Chickens.

After school he went off to Stellenbosch University with the idea of studying poultry science to join the family business. But he soon found himself drawn to the alchemical world of winemaking, and promptly changed subjects. A move that would set his entire family business on an all-together different course.

“A chicken tasting is not quite as fun as a wine tasting,” he says smiling.

It wasn’t too much of a stretch.  The Griers (there are also two sisters) had been brought up in a household that celebrated food and wine. His father had studied at the Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne in Switzerland and spoke fluent French. He worked in hotels all over the world, including in South Africa, before setting up the poultry farm in Constantia.

“We were brought up with wine at the dinner table.”

Once a qualified winemaker, his first job was at (the then) Distiller’s Corporation, where he was tasked with filtering and stabilisation.

He had itchy feet. “I wanted to go overseas.”

Read more HERE online

Jeff & Simon Grier
Jeff & Simon Grier

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