Welcoming the Next Generation of South African Winemakers

Posted October 17, 2016

Stacy Brody

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Are these guys the winemakers?

Johan ‘Stompie’ Meyer and Jurgen Goews did not immediately strike me as winemakers. They came to the store in jeans. The former had on a red flannel shirt, the latter a surfer tee. It was only Meyer’s second time to the US and Goews’s first. Like any two young men, they talked about tearing up NYC on a Saturday night.

 

They were going to have an amazing time in the city.

 

I’m glad they were planning that visit for the night after their seminar here at the Wine Library.

 

The Next Generation of Winemakers

Meyer and Goews are members of the next generation of winemakers in South Africa. That country’s winemaking history dates back to the mid-1600s, when Dutch East India Company ships stopped at the cape on voyages to and from India. Since those days, the industry ebbed and flowed. For quite some time, we didn’t see South African wine on our store shelves in the US.

 

We still don’t see much, receiving only a small percentage of South Africa’s exports, and an even smaller percentage of the highest-quality South African wines.

 

Which is precisely the category Meyer’s and Goews’s wines fall into. Well-balanced, well-made wines that exemplify South Africa’s reputation as the bridge between “new world” and “old world” winemaking styles.

 

Somewhere Between Burgundy and Willamette, There's the Elgin Valley

Meyer produces elegant Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, sourced from South Africa’s hottest new cool-climate region, the Elgin Valley. As Meyer noted, you can grow Chardonnay anywhere you can grow apples. (Think about regions like Australia’s Margaret River and Argentina’s Patagonia.) Elgin Valley is a region more well-known for apples and pears than for wines. That said, the wines I have had from this region are gorgeous. Meyer’s are no exception, pure feats of winemaking gymnastics! As someone who worked at a winery that produced  5+ different Chardonnays, I have an affinity for the misunderstood variety. JH Meyer’s Chardonnay is precise, with bright fruits and well-integrated oak. The acidity is bright, yet, having gone through full malolactic fermentation, the wine is rich and full. Paradox on the palate. I love it.

 

His Pinot Noir, too, is a bit of a paradox. I thought of it this way: a silk dress with boning. That is to say, the wine is elegant, full of finesse, sexy, but there is structure to hold everything just where it’s supposed to be.

 

Meyer follows a non-interventionist winemaking style. Though a member of the new guard, he is a bit old-school, including the stems and seeds in the fermentation of his Pinot Noir. These stems, he believes, add structure, complexity, and ageability. These stems, I believe, must also hurt his poor feet! He stomps the grapes for all his red wines.

 

Get the Work Done in the Vineyards... Then, Go Surfing Post-Harvest

Goews, like Meyer, occupies that conundrum of a position: a next-generation winemaker following old school styles. Goews’s favorite place to work is in the vineyard. That’s where it all starts, and the more care you give to your vines, the less intervention is needed in the cellar and the better the wine in the end. And the more time there is for surfing post-harvest.

 

Goews crafts his wines from organically produced grapes and adds minimal amounts of sulfur. As the grapes are sourced from the warmer Swartland wine region, the Intellego Chenin Blanc is bold and full-bodied, quite in contrast to any Loire Valley counterparts. Goews employs natural fermentations and ages the wine in old French oak, not imparting any oak character, but giving the wine roundness.

 

His Kedungu red blend is Rhone-inspired. It occupies that old-world-new-world middle ground. Sweet earth, like freshly turned loam or october leaf piles, then perfectly ripe fruit, balancing in a happy spot for such blends.


The Warmest Welcome: Our Glasses Have Been Thirsting for these Wines

The UK has enjoyed for years wines we are only starting to see in the U.S. It’s time we welcomed such amazing South African wines and the Next Generation of Winemakers with eager corkscrews and open cellar doors.

 

Stay up-to-date on all Wine Library happenings - visit our upcoming events page!

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