Words from the Winemaker
I’m Mark Le Roux, I am the winemaker at Waterford Estate. In 2004, while I was still studying, I spent my summer holiday working in the vineyards at Waterford Estate. This was my first encounter with Waterford Estate and I have since come to truly believe in the land and the wines we produce. In 2009, after spending some time overseas and at other well-known South African wineries, I joined the cellar team at Waterford Estate.
At the end of 2012, I took over as Winemaker at Waterford. I believe my style in winemaking to be an honest, true and authentic style in winemaking. I also believe it requires a lot of planning around practicality and logistical aspects throughout the winemaking process in order to produce well-conditioned and stable wines. I have an open-minded approach to winemaking and firmly believe in attention to detail and desire to explore new grounds as key aspects in producing wines consistent in quality and style. A true sense of place is expressed by interpreting all factors and breaking away from formula farming and winemaking.
The vineyard is where it all begins, the months prior to the actual harvest season are crucial in the formation of important flavour precursors and tannins. I spend a great deal of time in the vineyard, working alongside our viticulturalist, David Van Schalkwyk, a great friend of mine. Our mutual understanding is what allows for us to take leaps towards producing fantastic wines. The sites on Waterford Estate are unique in their ability to produce 11 different varietals, driven by Cabernet Sauvignon. There are most definitely vineyards consistently producing high quality grapes year after year. This can be seen in upcoming single vineyard wines, produced in limited quantities under the Library Collection label, which come from these sites.
The 2017 harvest saw the last of our grapes entering the cellar in the middle of March, leaving me on a high from what I believe to be the best vintage I have seen in my career thus far. This harvest once again experienced a bone-dry season, with even more force than previous years. On our daily vineyard walks, monitoring the ripening patterns of the grapes, very low dam water levels or completely dry dams were quite a common sight. The vineyard teams nevertheless managed the water usage very well and, as a result our vineyards, were in top shape throughout the season.
Owing to windless and rainless flowering conditions, the yield on the 2017 vintage was carrying at full potential. This lead to record harvest levels on some varietals, and more excitingly, on Cabernet Sauvignon tonnages which were most welcome. Not quite the biggest vintage, (in fact the second biggest) for Waterford, but in my views, it was the best quality vintage to date.
The harvest was filled with creative winemaking and small parcel ferments. Open top fermenters, egg shaped fermenters and cement fermenters all playing integral roles in creating some spectacular wines. I cannot wait to start looking at the individual batches we have for blending and single vineyard bottlings.