Add the right education and apprenticeship to passion, a keen palate, curiosity, and a propensity for creative thinking and you’ve got the makings of a great winemaker. Nowhere does, or should, the question of gender arise. But with the conventional family model clinging tenaciously to our society’s consciousness, the wine industry, which is, after all, rooted in farming, has remained male-dominated. This is changing. These six women and increasing numbers like them have proved that within the twin realms of the vineyard and the wine cellar, the mettle of a man is met in equal and fierce measure by women!
Saurwein Wines (Villiersdorp)
By day, Jessica Saurwein works in Sales and Marketing at Kleinood Winery in Stellenbosch; by night, she crafts wines of such an exquisite calibre that the city’s finest restaurants have adorned their wine lists with her creations. Her crowning achievements are the succulent, earthy Saurwein “Nom” Pinot Noir and elegant, perfumed Saurwein “Chi” Riesling. Made from grapes sourced from a Kaaimansgat vineyard near Villiersdorp, both wines have performed spectacularly since their maiden vintages, giving Jessica Saurwein the unofficial, yet much-deserved title of “Queen of Pinot Noir”.
Bosman Family Vineyards, Wellington
In 2018, Natasha Williams was promoted to Junior Winemaker at the Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington. Here, she orchestrates, amongst other wines, the crafting of the estate’s newly released Nero, the very first wine of its kind in South Africa. Made from the hardy and drought-resistant Sicilian red grape varietal Nero d’Avola, the silky, complex, and delicious Bosman Nero is a credit to Natasha’s palate and winemaking skills. Natasha is helping to drive an important shift within the wine industry by promoting the use of grape varietals that can withstand the Cape’s drought-stricken environment.
Lozärn Wines, Robertson
“After a full circle of seasons in the vineyard, you get to bottle your love and passion and share that vintage with others…forever captured.”
It was love at first sip when, in 2012, winemaker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen tasted a glass of Chilean Carménère, a red wine grape varietal originating from the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. Two years later, she planted the first Carménère vineyards, which would become the progenitor of not only the first wine of Lozärn’s boutique range but also the first single vineyard Carménère in South Africa. Over the ensuing years, it was joined by several other Bordeaux cultivars, including a gold Michelangelo Award-winning Sauvignon Blanc. Salóme marked her 10th year in the wine industry in 2018 and describes her work as “sensory science”. She is also, clearly, a talented wordsmith!
Carmen Stevens & Pia Watermeyer
Kunjani Wines, Stellenbosch
From humble roots, Carmen Stevens rocketed through the ranks to become the head winemaker at the award-winning Amani Vineyards and now Kunjani Wines in Stellenbosch. She is also the creative driving force behind her Naked Wines label and is a powerhouse of experience and talent, which she is dispensing to Kunjani Wines co-owner and general manager, Pia Watermeyer.
Pia’s background is in business and graphics design, but her fascination with wine compelled her to join forces with Carmen to learn the craft of winemaking. Together, these two passionate, astute women comprise a dynamic winemaking duo that has successfully turned out a gorgeous range of red and white wines under the Kunjani label.
Mont Blois Estate, Robertson
At the top of a winding dirt track in the resplendent Robertson Wine Valley, with spectacular views over the Langeberg Mountains, stands the Bruwer family home and farm. Here, Nina-Mari Bruwer lovingly creates single vineyard Chardonnays, a Chenin Blanc, and, most recently, a Pinotage under the Mont Blois label; wines that are not only a study in elegance but are wholly expressive of the vineyard blocks from which the grapes are harvested. With the boldness to experiment and the talent to succeed, Nina-Mari has created a range of truly beautiful wines that are an utter delight to taste.