The girls have it

Wine columnist Michael Olivier, share his wisdom on why 'girl' winemakers have that magical touch.

by: Michael Olivier | 11 Apr 2007

I've never really been sure why so many of my winemaking friends give birth to one of their children during harvest! Or at wine trophy time.

The first time I met Rianie Strydom was at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show when she received a trophy for a Morgenhof Cabernet Sauvignon. She was their winemaker for ten years and the Reserve version is mentioned in the Platter Guide as being magisterial, with an almost austere power. She was very pregnant at the time and I feared that we might have a very young guest at the lunch before the meal was over.

I loved that wine and many others made by Rianie at Morgenhof, owned by Anne Cointreau of the eponymous French liqueur family and recently elevated to Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur (France's highest civilian honour for her services in promoting French wine culture). Rianie's approach to the Morgenhof Premiér Sélection was so well known, that UK wine man Stephen Spurrier, named her 2001 version of this wine as his best New World Wine.

Rianie has now found her niche as General Manager and Winemaker at Haskell Vineyards in the Helderberg with the most spectacular views over the winelands and Table Mountain. She is a believer of minimal intervention with nature in the vineyards. This allows the vines to offer the best quality of grapes for great wine and promotes sustainable use of valuable land.

Prior to being named Haskell Vineyards, the estate was known as Dombeya this name will continue in the entry level range. Haskell wines will follow in two to three years time and Rianie has some exciting plans for those.

At present there is a range of Chardonnay 2005, Shiraz 2003 and a blend known as Amalgam – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz – of the 2004 vintage.

Another lady to watch
Largely pregnant Liza Goodwin – she should be called Goodwine – is the Cellarmaster at Meerendal Estate. As a little boy I used to go there with my grandparents to visit then owners, the Starke family. Their son Kosie put Meerendal on the map as a producer of benchmark Shiraz and Pinotage. Today visiting Meerendal is a trip of nostalgia but it so filled with the energy and excitement of the developing estate.

Liza recently presided over the launch of three prestige wines, one of which is the Heritage Block Pinotage made from possibly one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in the Cape. Standing in the vineyard recently, I had such an extraordinary feeling of being in a special place. Drinking the wine with Liza later in the estate's Wheatfields restaurant and eating David Higgs's delicious warm duck and cherry salad, I realised it's not often one has the chance of drinking wine from such a venerable old vineyard.

Deeply coloured, a sort of royal purple, the wine has brilliant berry and wild bramble whiffs, fat dark cherries and blood plums and the spiciness of cinnamon and vanilla as in a rich Christmas pudding. Lovely big broad sweeps of flavour on the palate with soft, yet oh so necessary tannins and just the most superb use of oak. Still a baby as it is of the 2005 vintage but with its complexity and fullness of flavour, there's potential for development to celebrate the vineyards 75th birthday – if you can wait that long.

- None


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