Women in wine - ones to watch

Wine Cellar fine wine merchants are celebrating female excellence this Women’s Month with a selection of rising and established stars featur...

Wine Cellar fine wine merchants are celebrating female excellence this Women’s Month with a selection of rising and established stars featured in a Women Winemaker Insiders’ Case for August. 

The Wine Cellar Insiders’ Case
This special edition mixed pack showcases the talent of South African women in the wine industry.

The Wine Cellar Insiders’ Case is an online wine offering designed to take the guesswork out of buying wine. Curated by our team of experts, it offers customers a 6-bottle value selection of new, exciting varieties and releases, including free, nationwide delivery.

The Women’s Month edition of the Wine Cellar Insiders’ Case includes Natasha Williams of Lelie van Saron, Jessica Saurwein of Saurwein wines, Trizanne Barnard of Trizanne Signature Wines, Marelise Niemann of Momento wines, Melissa Genevieve Nelson of Genevieve MCC and Wine Cellar’s very own Jolette Steyn with The Vineyard Party.

Jolette Steyn, Head of Sales and Imports at Wine Cellar, is well-versed in the art of fine wine and offers some insight on the Insiders’ Case and the industry at large. Not only does she hold a BSc and MSc in Oenology and Viticulture but she has real-world experience with 15 harvests across four continents under her belt and her own new wine label.

Jolette Steyn, Head of Sales and Imports at Wine Cellar

What led you to a career in wine?
I always dreamt of having a creative job where I wouldn’t be office bound, would be able to work in nature and help people. I love reading, so storytelling in any form was always on the agenda. Before getting into wine, I had been toying with the idea of studying jewellery design, fine art, marketing or medicine and, during a gap year on a train ride to Venice, I finally decided that all these passions could be channelled through winemaking. I then started my wine journey in Stellenbosch.

Have there been any challenges along the way?
Yes, as with any dream there are challenges. In the end, the times that I’ve left my comfort zone have been when magic has happened. Whilst the local industry was male dominated, more than ever, we are seeing female farmers, winemakers, viticulturists, general managers, cellar workers and farm owners. The situation is definitely improving, and the wine world is starting to embrace diversity. It’s important to continue building a new reality where different talents, abilities and points of view are celebrated.

Tell me something about your work that you love?
Through our imports and Privé (allocation wines) I get to engage with our customers on a personal level and get to know their palates and preferences. This makes selling wine so much more fun because it becomes a conversation rather than just a transaction. I also love tasting the new wines!

What did Wine Cellar want to achieve with the Women Winemakers Insiders’ case – in terms of the selection?
It was important to show variety and include new wines as well as those with a track record. The Wine Cellar Insiders’ Case has always been built around the best value fine wines, so that was a deciding factor too.

How should wine lovers choose wine to invest in – is the wine auction scene active in SA?
Wine is a collectable art form. Some call it a time capsule and, as such, any mature wine market will naturally develop a secondary market where wines are collected and traded. This is one of the reasons Wine Cellar fine wine merchants partnered with Strauss & Co.

Which is your personal favourite wine to drink by a woman winemaker?
I have always been a big fan of Marelise Niemann’s wines. At the moment, Momento (her own project) and also Anysbos (for whom she makes the wines) are my go-to wines – they’re elegant, effortless and delicious. I love buying wines from good people and she is just about one of the nicest, most humble and gifted winemakers in the industry.

Who is someone on your radar – a woman on the wine scene about to make an impact?
Alice Verburg from Luddite fame. Alice is the daughter of Niels and Penny Verburg and she has been helping out in their vineyards and cellar in Botriver since 2017. Over the past four years she’s been travelling between the two hemispheres to gain experience. She’s just brought out her own wine – Ali in Wonderfuland Grenache 2019 – which is delicious. Look out for some other reds under her own label coming out within the next few months.

What about your own wine?
After more than a decade making wine for different wineries across the globe, I started my own label in 2018, which I am pretty excited about. The Vineyard Party is a new project and the goal is to source biodiverse, sustainably farmed vineyard parcels, while working with avant-garde vinification techniques (in this instance varying degrees of skin contact). Both I’m your Huckleberry 2018 and Here be Dragons 2018 are single-origin Sémillon from 18-year old vines on the slopes of the Helderberg in Stellenbosch. The goal was to make honest wines with minimal intervention and also try and get around having to press Sémillon, which can be quite tricky.

Wine Cellar has more than 35 years of industry expertise, placing them in the unique position to offer an authoritative service in the industry. Led by professional wine taster James Pietersen, winemaker and Head of Sales and Imports Jolette Steyn, together with a passionate, highly qualified sales team, they pool their extensive knowledge and expansive networks in the creation of the Wine Cellar Insiders’ Case. They’ve made buying and discovering good wine more accessible than ever.

To purchase the August Wine Cellar Women Winemaker Insiders Case, click here.

Women winemakers profiles

The Vineyard Party by Jolette Steyn
The Vineyard Party launched in June 2021 with two small-batch Sémillon bottlings from the maiden 2018 vintage. Whilst this might be Jolette’s maiden release, she has more than a decade and a half of winemaking experience, with 15 harvests on four continents, a BSc (Stellenbosch, South Africa) and MSc (Angers, France) and thesis on Garnacha in Priorat. Jolette’s goal is to source biodiverse, sustainably-farmed vineyard parcels, whilst applying a light touch or minimal intervention in the cellar – respecting the terroir, the vintage and the process.

Jolette Steyn
Lelie van Saron by Natasha Williams
Lelie van Saron (referencing her small hometown) started with a 2017 Chardonnay and 2018 Syrah which were both officially launched in September 2019. From a young age Natasha felt an affinity for science and nature, making winemaking a natural study choice. She graduated from Stellenbosch University with a degree in Oenology, did a stint in California, travelled through France and joined the Bosman Family Vineyards winemaking team in late 2014. Natasha's approach to winemaking is simple: make wine with a pure expression of the terroir and grape variety, using natural methods. The result is elegant, honest wines from cool climate sites.

Natasha Williams
Saurwein Wines by Jessica Saurwein
Saurwein’s maiden vintage was in 2015. After completing her BSc degree in Oenology in Stellenbosch and harvesting abroad, Jessica ventured into the world of wine sales and marketing before returning to winemaking with her eponymous brand, Saurwein. The aim is to achieve energy and harmony in her wines. She favours a hands-off approach, which means allowing the natural balance of the grapes to guide her. Today she focuses on handcrafting her favourite cultivars, two Pinot Noirs and one Riesling.

Jessica Saurwein
Trizanne Signature Wines by Trizanne Barnard
Trizanne went solo with her own brand in 2008 after studying at Stellenbosch and building years of experience locally at Klein Constantia, launching Anwilka wines and various international vintages. Since her own first vintage, Trizanne’s focus has always been on 2 very diverse wine regions – Elim and the Swartland. Apart from winemaking and judging on various panels, she is an avid surfer who draws patience and respect from nature.

Trizanne Barnard
Momento Wines by Marelise Niemann
After university, a stint in California, and whilst winemaker for Beaumont wines, Marelise picked her first Grenache for her solo project in 2011. She officially launched Momento wines in 2013. She has since become known for wines of purity, elegance and honesty, working with old vines in both Botriver and the Swartland with a minimal intervention approach; putting terroir front and centre. The hand-drawn vine on her labels is by artist Hennie Niemann Jnr, Marelise’s husband, showing an old vine with various personal characters worked into it.

Marelise Niemann
Genevieve Cap Classique by Melissa Genevieve Nelsen
Genevieve Cap Classique (first vintage in 2008 and launched in 2010) was inspired by Melissa’s absolute passion for Cap Classique. Whilst originally planning to become a pilot, she now keeps her feet firmly on the ground, more specifically in the vineyards in Botriver. The black label Blanc de Blancs Brut is aged for 3 years on lees and the blue label Zero Dosage is aged on the lees for 4. These are fresh, fine and refined bubbles!

Melissa Genevieve Nelson

Pictures: SUPPLIED 

© 2021 Herman Lintvelt - WineTourismZA

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