A youthful message in the bottle

Wednesday, 15 September, 2004
Marius Labuschagne
Franschhoek Vineyards recently launched its 2003 Franschhoek Cellars red wine range and it was also a celebration of a fresh start. The 2003 vintage was the very first which their youthful new winemakers and viticulturist put in the bottle as a team and they are not complaining.

Senior winemaker Stephan Smit is 26 years of age, while winemaker Jolene Calitz and viticulturist Annette van der Merwe have only 23 years behind them. Their first harvest was complimented by the fact that the supermarket with prominent quality wine and food products, Woolworths, has this year started a new range which was vinified by this young Franschhoek team.

The range was blended in collaboration with Alan Mullins, Cape Wine Master and wine selector for Woolworths, and consists of a white and red blend and is called House White and House Red. Both wines are from the 2003 vintage and have been on Woolworths' wine shelves countrywide since April this year.

Stephan Smit graduated from the University of Stellenbosch in November 2000 with a BSc degree in Viticulture and joined Franschhoek Vineyards as assistant winemaker in 2001. He was appointed as senior winemaker in August 2002. His partner in the cellar, Jolene Calitz, completed a two-year agricultural diploma and one-year Cellar Technology diploma at Elsenburg College. Jolene joined Franschhoek Vineyards in time for the 2003 vintage and is responsible for white wine production.

The third member of the youthful team, who works closely with the Franschhoek Vineyards wine farmers to constantly improve grape quality, is viticulturist Annette van Merwe. Annette graduated from Elsenburg College in 2001 and joined Franschhoek Vineyards in January 2003.

According to Stephan Smit their main aim is to produce a style of wine which particularly pleases the consumer, in other words quality wines with the fine balance between solid structure and fruit flavours to make it enjoyable for both the refined palate and the everyday wine lover.

The vibrant young ones are up to it. Besides the House White and House Red range selected by Woolworths, the Franschhoek Cellars Shiraz 2003 was selected as one of the Editor's Choice in the latest issue of Good Taste magazine of the Wine-of-the-Month Club. In addition, the Franschhoek Cellars Merlot Reserve 2002 (Stephan had a prominent hand in this wine) was selected by the Wine-of-the-Month as the Best Merlot out of 59 entries.

Approximately 90% of the grapes used for the ranges of wines made by Franschhoek Vineyards are cultivated by wine farmers in the Franschhoek region, while the rest are bought from wine farmers in the nearby Drakenstein and Simondium areas.

"Yes, we are a young team and we all agree that the grapes make the wine - it is just processed in the cellar to suit the style we need. To keep on learning more and more at this early stage your ears must always be open, while experience is also gained from mistakes - there is no better teacher. However, when all is said and done, the consumer will eventually tell you what you have achieved and on that note we are already very happy. Our wines are created for pure enjoyment rather than impressing one or two judges at competitions, although that can also happen," says Stephan.

The Franschhoek Cellars 2003 red wine range consists of Merlot (cellar price of R35 per bottle), Pinotage (R30), Cabernet Sauvignon (R35) and Shiraz (R35). The range is also for sale at Pick 'n Pay in the Western Cape, while the whole range of wines produced by Franschhoek Vineyards, namely Franschhoek Cellars, Reserve, Anvil and Forge Mill, are for sale at the cellar's wine shop in Franschhoek.

Released by ML Communications on behalf of Franschhoek Vineyards.

For more information or photographs, contact Marius Labuschagne at tel. (021) 981 8546.