My earliest memory of winemaking is being in the vineyards as a child watching wicker picking baskets, piled high with grapes, being tipped into a big red and white "pars bak" (harvest tub) on the back of the farm lorry. I would drive down to Kleine Zalze cellar in Stellenbosch with my dad and watch the grapes cascading out into the stainless-steel receiving hoppers, before the giant cork screw pushed them into the machines in the winery. These experiences, combined with the odd thimble sized glass of wine shared by my parents, must have sparked some interest as by the time I left school I had decided that I wanted to work with vineyards and wine.
Following a BSc in Viticulture and Oenology at Stellenbosch University, I headed straight to Chile for four months to do a harvest in Maipú. From there I travelled to Spain for the first of two stints in Penedès and Priorat. It was here that I was introduced to the concept of fine wine being made from small batches of grapes. This led me to De Trafford winery for the 2004 vintage during which I met the new owners of the neighbouring property now known as Keermont Vineyards. Fortunately for me they were looking for someone to help them plant vineyards to supply grapes to the cellars in the area and I was offered a job. We set about planting 20 odd hectares of vines and at the same time working on the existing 10 hectares of older vineyards. We also started to experiment with a bit of winemaking (in a disused spring water bottling plant on the farm) making a couple of barrels of wine every year from the older vineyards. Two more trips abroad to do harvests in Côte-Rôtie and St-Emilion, Bordeaux, further fuelled the winemaking fire.
Fast-forward to present day and we make about fifty to sixty thousand bottles of wine a year at Keermont Vineyards. We still use grapes grown in our own of vineyards exclusively, although the disused water bottling plant was upgraded to a beautiful little winery in 2010. We have been fortunate to have been featured in international publications as a leading winery in our region with our wines receiving accolades in the likes of Wine Advocate, Decanter magazine, Vineous.com, and (MW) Tim Atkin’s annual review of the South African wine industry.
Not only have I been blessed with a dream job, but also a wonderful family who maintain top priority in my life. When I’m not with my family or at work, I will be driving the length of coast to find good waves to surf, fishing at the mouth of the Breede River, or happily turning a chop on the braai with some good music playing and a glass of interesting wine in hand.