1. How did you get into wine?
I’m not really a winemaker. I studied Wine Biotechnology (the science of wine) and I’m actually just learning more about the process of making wine.
2. What is your current favourite wine?
I’m more of beer drinker – being Belgian you know! But I do like a good Italian Sangiovese.
3. Is there such a thing as a typical day in the life of a winemaker?
Well, during harvest it’s pretty much early mornings, late nights, lots of manual labour and lots of noise. In the cellar there is sorting, settling, punching down, pumping, blending and adding yeasts.
4. Any specific personality traits that would help you in winemaking?
It will help to be a morning person! And you should be willing to work long days during harvest.
5. What’s the most rewarding part of your job, and what’s the most challenging?
The blending process. It’s a great feeling when you were involved in the fermentation of two varietals and when blended, the winemaker is happy with the result and it tastes even better than before. Lots of things can go wrong with fermentation and the wine can easily be contaminated.
It’s hard work. White wine cellar staff don’t have shifts so work long hours during harvest. I’m also a bit of a neat-freak so all the chaos during harvest gets to me a bit.
6. Where did you first hear about Spier and what made you choose Spier?
My father is the agent of Spier in Belgium and although I heard the name thrown around a lot, it didn’t really mean anything to me until we came to Spier on holiday. I didn’t really choose Spier – it just kind of happened. But I am grateful for all the things I’ve learned.
7. Was your experience different from what you expected?
I worked at a small, traditional, biodynamic boutique wine cellar in France – and there were only four cellar staff so it was very quiet. This was quite a different energy from Spier where things are bigger and quicker.
8. What will you miss the most?
The scenery, weather, people and wine tasting. In Europe you don’t randomly decide to go wine tasting – you have to make an appointment beforehand, so I have been enjoying the freedom of wine tasting on weekends here.
9. What can you share about the process of winemaking that most people don’t know about?
Yeast is an undervalued team player. I would say it’s the third most important factor in winemaking. You can experiment a lot with it. For example, you can add a different yeast to the same wine and get a completely different result. Some add fruitiness, some add greenness.
The process also varies from wine farm to wine farm. It all depends on the winemaker. Some blend before fermentation while some believe you only blend after fermentation. There’s a lot of experimentation going on.
10. If you could drink wine anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
It doesn’t really matter that much where — all I need is good company, some grass and of course they all need to enjoy the wine!
11. What’s next?
I’ll be here in South Africa until the end of the year – working in tasting rooms and getting a feel for the customer side of the business. I’ll also need the spending money. Then it’s back to Belgium for me where I’ll soon join the family business. So this is my last year to be a student and have fun.