Posted on Jan 24, 2017 by
The down-to-earth, charismatic winemaker at the helm of Franschhoek Cellar grew up on a Boland wine farm and jokes that, while pregnant with him, his mother would help his father with punch-downs in the family cellar, and therefore it was a career path that he was pretty much born into!
His favourite grape varieties to work with are Chenin Blanc and Shiraz. “They are both such versatile varieties capable of producing incredibly diverse wines. Both are so multi-dimensional that it is impossible to get bored with them.” His wine bucket list also includes a trip the Loire and Rhône Valleys in France, to discover and learn more about the respective roots of these two grapes.
He also loves to travel to the coast at every opportunity. JD and his wife both love the sea, and one of their ultimate holiday destinations is Mozambique. Time for travel is elusive at the moment though, juggling a busy winemaking schedule and raising a young baby. The wine grape harvest, a make-or-break period of about three months that determines a vintage’s fortunes, is a challenge he revels in. “I know it must be that time of year again, because I have been getting my annual nightmare about wine tanks spilling over and flooding the cellar!” he adds tongue-in-cheek.
How would he react if his little girl wanted to become a winemaker one day? “If it is her dream I would definitely encourage her because I think there are still many opportunities for winemakers in South Africa.I do think however, that there is a huge difference between the dream and reality for many young people wanting to study winemaking. As a career it tends to get over-romantized and many aspiring winemakers don’t realise that it is actually very hard work and not all that glamorous. Like me though, she’ll be able to make an informed decision.”
His pet peeve is arrogance. You get a lot of that in the wine industry, but JD’s philosophy is to make wines that are unpretentious, yet elegant and true to the grape and vineyard origin. The fruit has to speak for itself, he says. In South Africa, which doesn’t have the established wine culture of many winemaking countries, it is particularly important to make wine accessible to the everyday consumer. How can we get wine’s popularity up there with beer and spirits in the domestic market? It’s already happening, says JD, albeit from a modest base. “Wine is becoming trendier all the time and we are definitely building a vibrant wine culture. Going forward we just have to work together as an entire industry for the greater good of brand SA wine.”
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