A brand-new journey starts

As the 2019 harvest season kicks off, we take a moment to capture the memories that will be bottled with this year’s vintage.

Every year, somewhere during January, the pace quickens at Waterford Estate, as the winemaking team shifts their focus from waiting patiently for the grapes to ripen, to getting the fruit out of the hot vineyards and into the cool cellar at precisely the right time.

On Day 2 of the start of the 2019 harvest season, the estate grounds are buzzing from 05h30 already. The picking crew is in high spirits: today’s plan of clearing a few rows of tempranillo and merlot vines should be light, easy work. By 3pm, most will head home for a snooze.

As the team makes their way up into the vineyards, every picker is armed with a bright-red shear and a crate in which to gather the loot. A brand-new tractor glints in the first bit of morning light and, a few metres away, the Arnold family rooster is making its presence known.

Prepping for this morning’s harvest started yesterday already, when the leaves around the ripe bunches were removed to expose plump, purple-red grapes. Tempranillo, a very old Spanish grape varietal used in the Waterford Estate Rose-Mary, ripens early in the season, producing big bunches that are easy to pick.

Today, some merlot is also being harvested for inclusion in the same light wine. The difference in taste is striking: the tempranillo is already seductively sweet this early in the season, while the merlot grapes are a lot less tempting to nibble on. Yet, both grapes are at their peak in terms of adding just the right amount of flavour, sweetness and blush to the estate’s popular blanc de noir.

Most members of the picking team work on the farm throughout the year and have built a strong relationship with viticulturist David van Schalkwyk. Every summer, a few extra hands are brought in to lighten the load over harvest time, when great care is taken to pick very specific rows of grapes as they ripen.

The packers move quickly through the vineyard, clearly used to getting this job done at great speed. “Pick up, pick up, pick up,” shouts David, ducking his head to miss a crate that comes flying in his direction. “Cut the vines clean. The guys at the back can’t keep up!”

Managing partner Kevin Arnold briefly joins the harvest to see if everything is going according to plan. “It’s quite a challenging year,” says Kevin. “We had a bit of rain last week and more is expected this weekend.”

The high humidity and moisture levels, Kevin explains, create favourable conditions for downy mildew, white rust and other fungal diseases to grow. David, therefore, has to keep a close eye on the vines this year, and act quickly if a disease rears its head. Compromising the quality of the wine, and the health of the vineyard, is simply out of the question.

“It looks like our yield will also be about 15% lower than last year’s,” Kevin continues. “But, if you take the average over the past 10 years, this season’s lower yield isn’t anything to worry about. The grapes are very healthy.”

When the morning’s harvest is done, the grapes are offloaded at the cellar and whole-bunch pressed in order to preserve the elegance and finesse of the wine. Limited skin contact will ensure a stunning salmon-pink colour that speaks of a long, happy summer in one of the most beautiful corners of the world.
As David gets into his bakkie, he turns to check if all his workers are on their way to perform the rest of the day’s chores. The slogan on the back of his T-shirt catches the eye: “Live the journey; bottle the memories” – a striking reminder that every bottle of Waterford Estate wine is intended to be an authentic expression of the terroir, the season, the people and their stories.

by Waterford Estate
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Winemaking raised to a fine art


As Waterford Estate celebrates the release of The Jem 2014, we take a closer look at the different varietals that go into this one-of-a-kind red blend.

When it comes to selecting the wines for each new vintage of The Jem, Waterford Estate winemaker Mark le Roux is spoilt for choice. Like an artist who gets to work with the world’s best paints in the most brilliant colours, Mark gets to choose from several batches of eight different red varietals grown on the Stellenbosch property to create a single masterpiece.

When the winery was established 20 years ago, managing partner and cellar master Kevin Arnold carefully matched different varietals to specific areas on the plot of land that makes up Waterford Estate. He planted each varietal with the goal of creating a single, magnificent red blend – a work of art that’s a true expression of the terroir and its remarkable diversity.

This strategy bore fruit and, today, Mark is lucky enough to work with wines that are perfectly suited for inclusion in one of the best red blends South Africa has to offer. Set for release in the third week of January 2019, The Jem 2014 once again scored five stars in the Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide 2019.

Cabernet Sauvignon, the strongest varietal on Waterford Estate, serves as the backbone for The Jem – named after owner Jeremy (“Jem”) Ord. Reliable, sturdy Cabernet Sauvignon adds structure and longevity to the wine, with Shiraz also making up a significant proportion of the blend. This is a well-rounded varietal that also adds spice and richness to the wine.

With each new vintage of The Jem, Merlot, Cabernet franc, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Petit Verdot and Sangiovese are also added in percentages that range from 14% to 3%. These varietals, says Mark, are truly missed when not added, yet their addition must be carefully controlled. “Some of these Mediterranean varietals are quite potent. They’re absolutely delicious in miniscule amounts, but can quickly dominate.”

All these varietals are cultivated on the farm, in soils that echo those found in their countries of origin. Merlot and Cabernet Franc are included for backbone acidity and dry texture, while Mourvèdre brings a hint of leather and spice. Barbera, with its chunky texture and thick acidity, add more interest to the blend. In turn, Petit Verdot is included for its aroma and acidity, while Sangiovese adds bright-red, zesty fruit flavours.

“The Jem pulls together all the different elements that make up the farm,” Mark says. “It also tells our story, and speaks to the farm’s history and our day-to-day activities. It’s an expression of our winemaking philosophy and approach, as well as our climate, soils, and proximity to Stellenbosch and False Bay.”

For Mark, part of the beauty of The Jem is the fact that, 20 years ago, it didn’t came into being to serve commercial goals. “We didn’t start off by making wines that the market demanded. The Jem genuinely started off as an authentic, slightly different blend that speaks of the terroir.”

To this day, there are no other red blends in the world that combine these eight varietals in the same way.

Visitors to Waterford Estate often wonder if the different varietals that go into The Jem are aged separately. “They aren’t,” says Mark. Shortly after undergoing malolactic fermentation, about 20 different batches of the various varietals are meticulously blended to make up The Jem. “This is done to give the wine the maximum amount of time to integrate and bond.”

If you’re enjoying a bottle of The Jem 2014 this summer, it’s worth taking a moment to appreciate all the subtle flavour nuances that speak of the different soil types and slopes on Waterford Estate. This vintage also speaks of a hot harvest season and a good yield. The tannins are wonderfully soft and round, making it a very approachable drinking wine that’s both elegant and strong – another masterpiece.

If you haven’t tasted our flagship wine yet, now is the time to book a The Jem Tasting Experience. Get in touch to reserve your spot.

by Waterford Estate
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The Jem

Service with a smile

At Waterford Estate, happy, well-integrated staff members make for an exceptional experience.

There are several good reasons why Waterford Estate remains number one on TripAdvisor.co.za’s list of “things to do in Stellenbosch”. One of these, many reviewers say, is the friendly, knowledgeable staff and the exceptional service they provide.

What customers experience when they walk into a tasting room is often key to a wine brand’s success. Thanks to superior customer service in the form of helpful interactions with tasting-room staff, most of Waterford Estate’s visitors walk away feeling that they’ve had a memorable day in the Winelands and that they’ve truly engaged with the brand.

But exceptional customer experience isn’t achieved overnight; it must be built on solid brand values that are reinforced over time. And, if the owners and managers don’t practise what they preach, a wine estate might fail at achieving this important goal.

Waterford Estate, which is owned and managed by the Ord and Arnold families respectively, is built on good family values. As such, staff members are encouraged to grow into their roles, to intimately know the brand and its wines, and to truly become part of the Waterford Estate family. Over time, this translates into happy, well-integrated staff members who are able to provide a genuine, warm service.

For Caitlin Kat, one of the students who work in the tasting room, this authentic approach to service is what sets Waterford Estate apart from its competitors. “We’re never forced to fit into a mould,” she says. Instead, staff members are encouraged to relax and to just be themselves, while still providing a professional service.

As all the tasting-room managers also started off as students, they have a good understanding of how best to treat new staff members and how to help them to excel at their jobs. A key part of this process is to treat them with respect. “Just like our customers, I was also treated very well when I walked in here for the first time,” Caitlin says.

When chatting to the students, many of them mention how Waterford Estate has also contributed to their personal growth and health. For Ross Buchanan, who was diagnosed with two auto-immune disorders while studying a couple of years ago, working at the peaceful estate with its relaxed, family-orientated culture has become a lifeline. For him, working in a stressful, corporate environment simply isn’t an option.

“The fact that you can build up a relationship with customers is another important reason why I work here,” says Ross. “You greet the customers, introduce yourself, and have a conversation. The service is very personal and relaxed, which also means that the experience is really memorable. These customers are then more likely to engage with the brand in future.”

Rico Louw, another student, adds that welcoming a guest at Waterford Estate reminds him of inviting an old friend into his backyard to come and enjoy a glass of wine. “It’s all very intuitive here, and the estate’s strong family values are echoed in everything we do.”

And so, many of Waterford Estate’s visitors return to the wine estate for the wonderful experience it offers, and not just for the award-winning wines. Some spend a morning or afternoon in the magnificent courtyard, doing one tasting after the other in the company of a knowledgeable staff member, while others participate in a wine drive or walk through the vineyards.

Caitlin believes it’s the way a visit to Waterford Estate unfolds that makes it so special. “When you come up the driveway and around the corner, many visitors are surprised by the spectacular building. Then they’re greeted with a smile, and exceptional, authentic service follows. It becomes a big, beautiful experience with exceptional products. When these visitors leave, they’re once again greeted in the warm way in which they were welcomed.”

by Waterford Estate
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History in the (wine) making

Waterford Estate may be fairly young, but it has many fascinating stories to tell. One of these is how, serendipitously, a one-of-a-kind Antique Chenin Blanc came into being.

When French intern Cédric Lecareux visited Waterford Estate in 2001, he decided to try his hand at making Chenin Blanc. At the time, it was the most widely planted varietal in South Africa, for the simple reason that it provided a good base for brandy.
Cédric had some experience working with Chenin Blanc back home, the grape was in ample supply, and Kevin Arnold (Waterford Estate Managing Partner and Cellar Master) was all for experimenting. And so, when the grapes from 35-year-old bush vines on a neighbouring farm arrived, the intern made his wine.

Cédric couldn’t have known that, 17 years later, visitors to Waterford Estate would still be mesmerised by the wine he started producing back then. When he placed the Chenin Blanc in a French oak barrel, and left it to ferment naturally in a quiet, forgotten corner of the cellar, he started writing a new chapter in Waterford’s history book. But, as with all good stories, things didn’t initially go according to plan.

By the time the wine was bottled in 2003, Cédric no longer worked on the estate. As the batch was small, bottling had to be done by hand and, somewhere along the way, the process went awry. The wine turned cloudy after only a few years. “I then had the bottles opened up, put the wine back in a barrel, and added fresh Chenin Blanc from 2004 to fill it up,” Kevin recalls.
This is how the solera system of adding fresh wine to the barrel of Chenin Blanc started. By using this Spanish method of producing wine, small amounts of younger wine were systematically blended with the more mature wine. The new wine added freshness to what soon became known as Waterford Estate’s Antique Chenin Blanc.

In the years that followed, random bottlings were done under the watchful eye of award-winning winemaker Mark le Roux. Now bottlings are done regularly, and in a more controlled fashion.

The Antique Chenin Blanc, which some lucky visitors get to sample when they do a Library Tasting at the estate, has a lovely golden colour and boasts notes of apricot, spice and citrus. The palate is bold and unapologetic yet wonderfully crisp, thanks to the fresh wine that’s added every year. Fascinatingly, the wine tells a story of experimentation and adventure that echoes the pioneering spirit for which Waterford has become known.

Mark explains that the Library Collection aims to push the boundaries of natural winemaking, and that this Antique Chenin Blanc is, therefore, a perfect fit.

Generally, the wines that form part of the Library Collection are also once-offs. But, if successful, they inform the production of future wines. While the Chenin Blanc originally came into being as a simple experiment by an intern, it has now become the impetus for creating a brand-new, commercially available Chenin Blanc.

To flow with nature’s cycles, and to achieve longevity by perpetuation of what has worked before, is known as “The Waterford Way”. If there was ever a wine that epitomises this philosophy, it’s the Antique Chenin Blanc and its successor: the soon-to-be-released Waterford Chenin Blanc. Keep an eye out for this one – it’s a beauty.

by Waterford Estate
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Reserve Tasting a must if you’re serious about wine

Avid wine collector? Then book a spot at our Reserve Tasting. It’s the best way to discover the ageing potential of the Estate’s award-winning wines.

It’s been said that “wine is bottled poetry” – a much-quoted phrase by novelist Robert Louis Stevenson. While the quote itself may be overused, it certainly does ring true for the world’s best vintage wines.

While Waterford Estate is still relatively young, it’s proven over and over again that many of its wines can be kept for years (decades even), revealing beautiful, untold narratives as time goes by. But, to quote another clichéd phrase, the proof is in the pudding. And so, for visitors truly interested in the ageing potential of the Estate’s wines, the Reserve Tasting comes highly recommended.

This tasting should be done at leisure, preferably after a solid breakfast or lunch, as you’ll want to really savour and enjoy the wines. When you sit down in the courtyard for the tasting, you’ll receive two glasses: one for each of the vintage wines to be tasted, and another for a more recent vintage of the same wines. Currently on offer are the Waterford Estate Chardonnay, Kevin Arnold Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and The Jem – all produced from vines grown on the Stellenbosch estate.

As you learn more about Waterford Estate and the 12 varietals that grow on the farm, you’ll get the rare opportunity to compare the old with the new. First up is the 2011 Chardonnay – a wine that immediately reveals itself as the older member of the family, thanks to its rich, golden colour and notes of honey, roasted almond and butterscotch. In comparison, the 2016 is fresh and fruity with hints of peach pip, coconut and nutmeg.

Next, a Coravin is used to extract a taster of the 2005 Kevin Arnold Shiraz. A 2014 Shiraz is served alongside and, once again, it’s remarkable to see how time has left its mark on the older vintage.

This is followed by the 2004 and 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon – a grape varietal that grows exceptionally well on Waterford Estate, thanks to hot, dry summers, mild winters, and fertile soils. Not only is tasting the 2015 a treat (this year was one of the best for red wines from the area); but being able to compare the Cabernet Sauvignon with its predecessor is a remarkable way of discovering its ageing potential.

The tasting concludes with The Jem, Waterford Estate’s flagship wine and the jewel in its crown. The 2006 vintage offers strong lead pencil and cassis notes, backed by cedar and spice aromas, while the tannin structure is incredibly well integrated. This wine is clearly a keeper that’s best enjoyed after spending about 10-20 years in a cool cellar or wine fridge. Every sip is an adventure for the palate and proof that some of the best things in life require patience.

When asked why wines are aged, winemaker Mark le Roux explains that wine is never sealed off from the outside world: “While it ages, oxygen still interacts with the wine through the cork, adding character. Minuscule amounts of oxygen react with the tannins, phenolics and colour molecules within the wine.”

The wines that form part of the Waterford Estate Reserve Tasting are all stored under optimum maturation conditions, where humidity and temperature levels are tightly controlled. The correct humidity levels prevent the cork from drying out (which may result in wine evaporation) while tight temperature control is important, too. Below-optimal temperatures may stall evolution, while high temperatures could mean that certain reactions occur too fast.

If you’re interested in building up your collection of Waterford Estate wines, doing the Reserve Tasting is a must. Plus, it’s a great way to spend a few hours on the magnificent estate.

Book ahead to avoid disappointment.

by Waterford Estate
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Exploring new markets

Regularly touching base with overseas clients is an important ingredient in bringing world-class South African wines to new audiences. Waterford Estate’s Mark le Roux and Lynsey Barnes share their insights from a recent international roadshow.

Brushing shoulders with high-profile sports stars and actors at the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, joining some of the world’s most prominent wine expos, and doing a whirlwind tour of the United Kingdom, Ireland, Belgium, Denmark and Bermuda, are all in a day’s work for Waterford Estate winemaker Mark le Roux.

Apart from producing award-winning wines such as The Jem 2014 – which has just received a 5-star rating from Platter’s by Diners Club South African Wine Guide – Mark gets a chance to share his passion for wine with the Estate’s international suppliers every year. As such, he recently joined Waterford Estate International Brand Manager Lynsey Barnes on a fascinating trip that stretched across continents.

Every year, Mark and Lynsey get to meet Waterford Estate’s most prominent international suppliers and clients – a long list of Michelin-starred restaurants, boutique wine shops, top international hotels, and discerning private wine buyers.

“We make an effort to keep these relationships alive, but also use the opportunity every year to do our own market research,” Mark says. “We take a look at what’s trending where, and which markets prefer classic wines versus the more ‘out-there’ ones.” In addition, Mark and Lynsey get a chance to hear what international customers think about the brand, while the suppliers get the opportunity to learn from the winemaker himself.

“The opportunity to showcase our wines in front of international consumers and influential buyers is invaluable,” adds Lynsey. “It’s through this exposure that we can develop and nurture long-lasting partnerships, and hopefully play a part in bringing the world-class quality of South African wines to new audiences. Customers are floored to know the winemaker has travelled across the world to pour them a glass of what he has created.”

Currently, Waterford Estate exports around 25% of its wines, focusing predominantly on the Estate and Waterford wines that really convey the story of the farm. The Estate is lucky enough to draw a large number of international visitors to its tasting room every year, which also account for a significant number of sales to customers from other countries.

The United Kingdom and the rest of Europe have traditionally been strong markets for Waterford Estate’s wines. But, with this trip, Mark and Lynsey discovered that far-flung countries such as Bermuda are offering exciting opportunities. In the next few years, Waterford Estate will also increasingly focus on winning over the hearts and minds of customers in the United States, while Asia is an emerging market that the Estate wants to explore.

According to Mark, a fun part of the trip is always to visit countries such as Ireland, where customers are incredibly enthusiastic about Waterford’s wines. And, while it’s no doubt hard work, the award-winning winemaker also enjoys hosting wine dinners and masterclasses with private clients – a chance to share his passion for a pioneering brand that’s built around authenticity, team work, and a sense of adventure.

by Waterford Estate
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The best way to celebrate summer

Never been to one of our Sunset Sessions? Then our latest blog post might just convince you to book your spot.

Visitors to Waterford Estate often wonder why the winery doesn’t have a restaurant. Or why, like so many of its neighbours, the estate isn’t available for weddings or other private functions. After all, the generous courtyard could host a banquet fit for a king.

The answer is really quite simple. Right from the start, owner Jeremy Ord and managing partner Kevin Arnold selected to keep Waterford Estate’s wines at the heart of all its operations. Venturing into the restaurant or wedding business, they knew, could easily detract from the estate’s primary business of producing pioneering, world-class wines.

But, fortunately, there’s one exception: when the first warm days of spring spread through the vineyards, the estate’s doors are flung wide open, the wine starts flowing, and this magical slice of the Blaauwklippen Valley comes alive with music and celebration. In late October, the Waterford Estate courtyard becomes the perfect backdrop for a series of open-air gigs featuring some of South Africa’s most exciting musicians.

Most visitors never get to experience the estate’s courtyard in the evening, which is part of what makes these Sunset Sessions so unique and beguiling. Starlit skies, fresh blooms on long, banquet-style tables, candles and fairy lights transform the space into a scene from A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where couples, friends and families get to relax and unwind in the company of great South African musicians.

Last year was the first season in which Waterford Estate offered the Sunset Sessions, all of which were incredibly popular and completely booked out. “This year, the Sessions will be a showcase of up-and-coming, undiscovered names in the South African music industry,” says Waterford Estate Marketing Coordinator, Isabelle Bezuidenhout. “We’re trying to steer away from the big acts, as we want the Sessions to be a discovery of new music.”

The Sunset Sessions make for some of the best evenings one could possibly have in the Cape Winelands. And, this season, each of the artists have an interesting story to tell. A few of the artists to look forward to include:

– Vernon Barnard, who made his debut on The Voice South Africa in 2016 and who has been blind since the age of five.
– Amy Jones, who first became known when she made it into the top 16 on SA Idols Season 9. In October this year, Amy won the Dance Music Awards South Africa 2018 Best EDM Record of the Year.
– Jackal & the Wind, a South African indie band with close ties to Waterford Estate. Two of the band members are brothers – one previously worked at Waterford Estate, while the other is currently employed at the winery.
– The KinK, a unique six-piece, soul-fusion band.
– Blair Taberer, a South African solo/pop/folk/indie musician who entered the local music scene in 2012.

If you’re joining a Sunset Session this year, you can expect to have your pre-ordered wine and a set table ready for you on arrival. While you enjoy snacks from your own picnic basket, a waiter will make sure that your wine glass remains topped up. Plus, there’ll be a photographer on site, ensuring that all those memorable moments are captured by a professional.

Don’t miss the first Sunset Session of the season. On Friday 26 October, Vernon Barnard will be performing live in the Waterford Estate courtyard. Remember to bring your own picnic basket, to invite your friends along, and to share your best #waterfordsunsetsession selfie for a chance to win a bottle of wine! Tickets cost R200 per person and can be booked online.

by Waterford Estate
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Gifting Made Easy

Christmas is around the corner! Have you started gift shopping? Skip the mall and find the perfect gift for everyone on your list through the Waterford Estate Tasting Room or Online Shop.

Gifts for wine lovers

A special record of the once-off wines produced on Waterford Estate is kept in our library, where guests who book a Library Tasting are offered a taste. This year, for the first time, we’re selling a Library Collection Gift Box – the first volume in a series of “books” that each tell an interesting story.

 

In Volume 1, we’ve included the 2015 Library Collection Cabernet Franc and the 2017 Library Collection Chenin Blanc. As both wines have the potential to age well, this limited-edition gift box gives wine lovers a chance to build up their collection as each new volume is released.

 

With every new volume, the collector gets a taste of the pioneering wines the Waterford Estate team experimented with that year – a unique experience that very few people will get to enjoy, as only 200 boxes are released every year.

 

Of course, our Online Shop offers many more gift options for colleagues, friends and loved ones who appreciate good wine. From mega-sized bottles of Kevin Arnold Shiraz and magnum-sized bottles of The Jem to top-quality Waterford Estate Cooler Bags, and everything in between, there’s a gift option here to suit every budget and taste.

 

A gift for the friend who already has it all
Give someone the chance to enjoy Waterford Estate in an unforgettable way: make a booking for one of our popular Sunset Sessions, or give a voucher to come and experience our Reserve Tasting, The Jem Tasting, the Porcupine Trail Walk, or our Wine Drive Safari. Our walks and drives not only offer a chance to be close to nature; they offer a great way in which to explore the sights, smells, sounds and tastes that go into our award-winning wines.

 

We’re also famous for our Chocolate & Wine Tasting Experience, in which our wines are paired with handcrafted chocolates by Greyton-based chocolatier Richard von Geusau. Give someone the chance to enjoy Rock Salt Dark Chocolate with Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Masala Chai Dark Chocolate with Kevin Arnold Shiraz, and Rose Geranium Milk Chocolate with Waterford Heatherleigh by sending them a Waterford Estate Chocolate and Wine Gift Box or a voucher for the tasting itself.

 

Ready to shop? Visit our Online Shop or pop into our Tasting Room, where our friendly tasting-room staff are able to assist.

by Waterford Estate
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Spring Break

During the first weeks of spring, the vineyards at Waterford Estate start telling the next vintage’s story…

It’s early spring and the vineyards at Waterford Estate are slowly waking up after winter. Some blocks are showing pops of green as tiny buds start to appear; others have hit the snooze button once more, leaving their vines bare for another couple of days. Soon, however, all the blocks will be ready for another harvest cycle.

This is an interesting time of year for Waterford Estate viticulturist David van Schalkwyk, who keeps a close eye on the vines to see if the bud break will be even, as the buds are harbingers of the harvest to come.

Today, he’s a tad concerned, as fairly temperamental weather conditions seem to have confused the vines. “I don’t think we’ve had enough cold units,” he says. “We had a couple of warm days at the end of June and now it’s still quite cold and wet. At this stage, the bud break is a week late.”

David hopes that all the vines will catch up over time, and that the bud break won’t be too uneven. Then, the vineyards will flower and another sensitive period in the development of the fruit will follow. Strong winds and other factors could interfere with pollination, and only time will tell if this part of the cycle is as fruitful as the viticulturist hopes it will be.

With the many cultivars that grow on Waterford Estate, it’s at least easy to spread out the work over the growing season. The Chardonnay block that’s used to produce Waterford Estate’s renowned MCC is likely to flower and form fruit first, while some of the red varietals such as the Cabernet Franc will take longer to get going. When growing season is in full swing, David says, the different cultivars will be at different stages in the growth process.

A trip through the vineyards is a visual feast at this time of year. While the vineyards are still quite bare, the rest of the estate is covered with flowers. There’s the field of sunflowers that David planted last year, the proteas are in full bloom, and even the cover crops are wearing their brightest colours for the Wine-drive Safari and Porcupine Walk visitors. The cover crops haven’t been flattened yet as they’re helping to soak up some of the water in the soil. And so, for now, they form part of the show.

During early spring, David typically spends time researching and, this year, he is focusing on experimenting with a new range of natural products to use in the vineyards. Always remaining sensitive towards the natural fauna and flora that grow and live on the slopes of the majestic Helderberg Mountain, the viticulturist tirelessly works at improving his knowledge about farming methods and products that will have as little impact on the environment as possible.

Moving down towards the cellar after a drive through the vineyards, it’s also wonderful to see that the farm dams are once again at 100% capacity. In many respects, nature has provided generously this year, and David is looking forward to another successful harvest season. It’s without a doubt the best time of the year to be in the business of winemaking.

by Waterford Estate
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When Waterford runs in your blood

Waterford Estate may have a shorter ancestry than other farms but that doesn’t mean it isn’t fuelled by family ties.

As is the case in many other wine-producing countries of the world, South African wine farms are often passed down from generation to generation. In the process, parents pass on a legacy of their love of farming and their passion for wine and, as the family’s livelihood is closely connected to the farm’s prosperity, it’s in everyone’s best interest to make it succeed.

But when a winery is as young as Waterford Estate and held in the hands of two families with its prosperity being cultivated, too, by the many permanent staff and families, instilling a passion for the brand in its people must be achieved in other ways. This important ingredient to success has to be taught through a strong and rewarding work culture, transparent communication, and a sense of kinship.

Fortunately, this was a challenge that Waterford Estate managing partner Kevin Arnold never shied away from. From the start, Kevin made everyone who touched the Waterford Estate brand feel like family members, while nurturing the hardworking families who lived and worked on the farm. In his own authentic way, Kevin created a unique, family-orientated culture and a staff contingent that’s as passionate about the 20-year-old brand as the owners themselves.

Two families that are intricately woven into the tapestry that is Waterford Estate are the Blaauws and Engelbrechts. The Blaauws lived on the plot that became Waterford Estate in 1998 and joined Kevin’s small team when he first started producing wine here. The Engelbrechts, in turn, met Kevin at Rust en Vrede Estate, walked a path with him there, and joined him on his new wine-making adventure when he left to start Waterford Estate.

Natasha Duncan (née Blaauw, 28) still remembers collecting milk from an old shed on the farm and picking fruit from the pear and prune orchards that were spread across the property before it was turned into one of South Africa’s top wine estates. “I lived in the same house since the age of two and only recently moved away to Somerset West,” she says.

The Blaauws are a close-knit family that simply can’t imagine living their lives anywhere else. Natasha’s mom, Sannie, currently co-manages the farm crèche while her dad, Richard, forms an essential part of viticulturist David van Schalkwyk’s team.

Natasha, who first started working at the winery as a 19-year-old student, has been employed by Waterford Estate for nine years now. Slowly but surely, and with the gentle guidance of Kevin and the managers that came before her, Natasha progressed into her current role as senior tasting room floor manager. Without any formal training outside of Waterford Estate, she has managed to become a powerful asset to the team.

“I learnt everything I know about wine here at Waterford Estate,” she says. “The work continues to be interesting and challenging, and the estate’s unique approach to customer service is part of what keeps me here. It’s also incredibly special that my entire family is involved in some or other way.”

Over the years, Natasha has adopted Kevin’s philosophy of carefully nurturing the people who form part of her own team: “Like Kevin, I believe in giving everybody the opportunity to thrive, and that we should all support each other and work together as a unit.”

This philosophy has borne fruit in the tasting room, where the students and staff all have high praise for Natasha. “We all have our amazing story of progressing at Waterford Estate,” says marketing coordinator Isabelle Bezuidenhout. “But Natasha was our manager and shaped us into the employees we are today.”

Waterford Estate also runs in Brandon Engelbrecht’s blood. Like Natasha, Brandon (23) grew up on the farm and learnt most of what he knows about the winery from his mom Bernie, the estate’s creative tasting-room assistant, and his dad Hendrik, the store-room manager.

Brandon, who dreamt of becoming a soccer coach, started working at Waterford Estate as a student five years ago – and immediately got sucked in. He is now being trained to become a tasting-floor manager and recently completed his first Cape Wine Academy training course. Not only does he now love the world of wine, but he seems to have truly found his calling.

“The people here are like family to me,” Brandon says. “I also love being able to talk about my day at work with my family, and realise that being able to work so closely with my mom and dad is a rare and wonderful opportunity. I also love working with people, which is why I enjoy my work in the tasting room so much.”

Both Natasha and Brandon feel it’s been a great privilege to grow with the brand, and they have a true sense of sibling responsibility to its success. In true Waterford Estate spirit, they’re also both looking forward to many more adventures as part of this close-knit family of wine pioneers.

by Waterford Estate
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Home grown

While many wineries view their temporary tasting-room staff as a means to an end over the busy tourist season, nurturing students can generate a flow of talent for the future. We chat to four Waterford Estate employees who started their careers as students at the Stellenbosch winery.

It’s often said that a company is only as good as its people and that no company, big or small, can win over the long run without motivated employees. This is a philosophy that Waterford Estate has embraced since it was established in 1998, and one that is most apparent in the way the students who help out on the estate are treated.

From the beginning, the Waterford Estate brand was built around people, with managing partner Kevin Arnold taking great care to employ the right people and to hold on to those who are passionate about the brand and a good fit for the team.

Nurturing the students who come to work at Waterford Estate, and helping them to grow into exciting new roles, has become a hallmark of how the Stellenbosch winery operates. As much as this has benefited the estate, it has also opened up a world of opportunities for the students who were lucky enough to find permanent employment.

Four of the estate’s current staff members first joined the Waterford family as students. Jeremy van Heerden, Nick Battle and Brooke Warren all started off as temporary staff in the tasting room when they were still studying at Stellenbosch University. All three of them are now permanently employed as brand managers.

Isabelle Bezuidenhout, the estate’s Marketing Coordinator, took on her current role a few months after getting to know the brand as part of the tasting-room team. At the time, Isabelle had just completed studying at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in San Francisco, CA.

When asked why she decided to stay at Waterford Estate when she originally planned to move back to San Francisco, Isabelle notes that the brand culture and the opportunity to grow the estate’s online presence through social media and a new website made it a natural choice. A close relationship with Kevin and winemaker Mark le Roux, and their constant guidance to ensure that all digital content stayed 100% on brand, helped her to grow into the role. “Being able to work with such an iconic brand is something most people only dream of after graduating,” she says.

The brand managers, in turn, were all trained and mentored in the tasting room, which allowed them to grow personally and professionally with the brand. After spending three years or more in the tasting room as senior students and/or managers, Nick, Jeremy and Brooke moved into their current roles. “Having your brand represented by people who are driven by passion, and who know everything about the brand right down to the finest details, is incredibly unique,” Isabelle notes.

Nick, whose journey with Waterford Estate started as a job shadow in Grade 10, was attracted by the young, high-end brand. By the time he completed his BCom degree and was offered a job just over a year ago, the brand already had a significant international footprint. Plus, he already knew the brand incredibly well. “I enjoyed the fact that we were and are doing so many exciting things with wine. We are pioneers in many ways.”

The brand culture was always the drawing card for Jeremy. “It seemed like quite a family-orientated brand and the people here made me feel very welcome. From the start, it was also quite an easy place to learn. I never felt stupid to ask questions.”

Being able to spend time with Kevin on his first day on the job, talking and learning about wine, took Jeremy by surprise – and became part of what made him stay.

For Brooke, Waterford Estate has always felt like a safe space. After being a tasting-room floor manager for two years, Brooke recently moved into the position of brand manager in Johannesburg – one of Waterford Estate’s biggest markets. “I learnt so much since I started working here in 2015 and never felt that there was a ceiling to my growth,” she says. “Every time I was at the point of taking the next step, an opportunity arose for me here.”

These former students agree that Kevin and the rest of the management team always seem to follow a very people-centred approach in employing and growing staff, preferring to walk a path with people who are already connected to the Waterford brand in some or other way. “I started off with one guy and asked him to bring his friends, and so the team grew organically,” Kevin says.

Apart from promoting from within whenever possible, Kevin adds that he also selects team members based on whether they enjoy working with people.

Anyone who has ever had the privilege to walk up the steps towards the Waterford Estate tasting room can testify just how this approach has borne fruit. Every visitor is made to feel exceptionally welcome by the staff – all of whom are proud brand ambassadors for one of South Africa’s best-loved wine brands.

by Waterford Estate
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A TASTE OF WHAT’S TO COME

Need an excuse to visit the Stellenbosch Winelands? Here’s a great reason to pop in at our tasting room: we’re releasing three exciting new vintages over the next few weeks.

It’s a busy June morning in the cellar, and winemaker Mark le Roux is hard to pin down. “We’re taking out an old virus-infected Shiraz block today,” he explains when we finally catch up. Plus, this year’s Shiraz harvest is currently undergoing malolactic fermentation (a second, intense period of fermentation) and careful monitoring is required.

In between testing and tasting the wine, and prepping colleagues for tasks that have to be done while Mark travels to France the following week, the winemaker sets an hour aside to talk about the release of the new vintages. It’s the moment of truth when many months of hard work in the vineyards and cellar culminates in the enjoyment of the wines.

This winter, Mark is particularly excited about the release of the 2016 Waterford Estate Grenache Noir, the 2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir and the 2018 Waterford Rose-Mary. While these new vintages have remained true to the estate’s classic, restrained style, subtle nuances in aroma and taste tell interesting stories about the seasons in which these wines were produced.

2016 Waterford Estate Grenache Noir

The Grenache Noir (one of Mark’s personal favourites) is an elegant, savoury expression of the Spanish varietal grown in a small, rocky block on Waterford Estate. While this varietal has always been part of the estate’s portfolio, it took a few years for the fruit to exhibit the characters needed to produce a top-quality, single-varietal wine. With the 2016 vintage, it’s clear that the Grenache Noir vineyard is finally reaching maturity.

In 2016, temperatures were high, and the estate had some rains during the harvest season – factors that all had an influence on the wine. This was also the second year in which porcelain jar fermenters were used in producing the Grenache Noir, adding to the vintage’s earthy character.

As with previous vintages, Grenache Noir fans can look forward to plush red cherry notes and hints of spicy clove in a wine that perfectly complements venison and other meat dishes.

2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir

The grapes that go into the Pinot Noir are carefully sourced from a single vineyard in Elgin – an area in the Overberg region of South Africa that has a slightly cooler climate than Stellenbosch. After harvesting, a very natural wine-making process is followed to ensure that this delicate wine remains a true expression of the terroir.

“When compared to previous vintages, the 2017 Pinot Noir feels like a more modern wine,” Mark says, explaining that this can be attributed to the dry season. “As a result of the drought, we had more control over the growth and ripening of some of the vineyards, which helped us to produce a cleaner, fresher wine. Many of the vineyards, including the Pinot Noir vineyard, also liked the fact that they weren’t subjected to rain during the harvest season.”

In step with previous vintages, the 2017 Waterford Elgin Pinot Noir offers floral and wild cherry notes, but this time with a fresh, crisp edge. It’s the perfect pair for fish and lighter meat dishes.

2018 Waterford Rose-Mary

The red grapes used to produce the Rose-Mary, one of Waterford Estate’s best-loved wines, are always picked early in the season, and this year was no exception. However, the 2018 vintage is cleaner and fresher than previous vintages, and the alcohol content lower. These are slightly surprising results, Mark says, given the fact that the 2017/2018 season was particularly tough and dry.

The crisp, salmon-coloured wine is a blend of Shiraz, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Malbec, all of which add a soft texture to the wine. “The grapes that go into the Rose-Mary achieved ripeness at lower sugar levels this year,” Mark says, explaining that, while the season was very dry, it wasn’t particularly hot.

“The vines were under pressure from the drought, which meant that they used more of their energy to produce fruit and seeds,” he continues. As such, Waterford Estate had a good harvest season – a result that’s reflected in the wine.

This 2018 Waterford Rose-Mary makes for the perfect start to a lunch or dinner, and pairs wonderfully with winter salads and other light meals. It’s also a great wine to stock up on for spring and summer.

by Waterford Estate
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Welcome to our online shop!

If you are one of those who likes to go out of their way to find the perfect gift, but don’t always have the time to do so? Waterford Estate’s online shop now makes it easy to shop 24 hours a day, 7 days a week from the comfort of your sofa.

We offer a range of bespoke items, gift boxes and vouchers via the online shop on Waterford.co.za and will ship your hand chosen one-of-a-kind gift free of charge to any destination in South Africa. You can even add a personal note and we can make sure your tailored gift reaches its lucky recipient within 2-3 days.

There’s something to suit every budget, and occasion in our secure online shop:
– Choose a voucher for one of Waterford Estate’s famous experiences: our Wine Drive Tasting Experience, Porcupine Trail Wine Walk, Library Tasting and Reserve Tasting all make wonderful gifts for adventurous wine lovers.
– Celebrate big and small occasions by sending gift boxes or cases of our award-winning wines. Tastefully packaged in boxes and wooden crates, we’ll make sure your wine reaches its destination in the exact same condition as it left our store room.
– Still hunting for a truly memorable Father’s Day gift? Then send Dad a voucher for our Wine-and-Chocolate Experience, or purchase tickets for the ‘Waterford Under the Moon’ experience on 29 June 2018 – a heart-warming two-course dinner amplified by the energy of the full moon on this lunar occasion.
– Avoid the rush to find end-of-the-year corporate or Christmas gifts and order ahead. You simply can’t go wrong with our Waterford Méthode Cap Classique or Waterford Estate Collection gift boxes.

If you enjoy visiting the estate, you may be pleased to know that we have recently opened a pop-up gift store next to our tasting room. Extra-virgin olive oil from the estate, rose water made from our own Spanish rose bushes, hand-made chocolates specifically blended to pair with our wines, and branded corkscrews, ice buckets, wine skins, cooler bags and aprons all make for thoughtful gifts and souvenirs to take back home.

Our online shopping team is committed to making your shopping experience as convenient as possible and promise to continue offering the personal service you expect at Waterford Estate!

Ready to start shopping? Click here to browse through our gift items and feel free to send your feedback or any special requests to orders@waterfordestate.co.za.

by Waterford Estate
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Farming for the future

The Waterford Way is to flow with nature’s cycles and to farm in an environmentally responsible way that not only protects the indigenous flora and fauna on the estate, but also the winery’s future.

Have you visited Waterford Estate before? Then you might know that the estate stretches over 120Ha of magnificent land in the Blaauwklippen Valley, but that only 55Ha of the estate is under vine; the rest is kept as natural as possible.

This is done very deliberately to protect the environment and to allow for a future in which the estate continues to produce world-class wines that truly express the terroir, explains Waterford Estate viticulturist David van Schalkwyk.

If the natural fauna and flora isn’t maintained to a certain degree, Waterford Estate’s soils will become depleted over time. “Naturally occurring plants, animals and insects will start to reduce,” David says. “Fungi, harmful insects and weeds will become more difficult to manage naturally and, ultimately, the vineyard’s life expectancy will be reduced.”

Sustainable wine farming is about much more than the grapes, as Janet Fletcher and George Rose explain in the self-published book, Down to Earth: “The principles that define sustainability are a comprehensive set of environmentally sound, socially responsible, and economically viable best practices that encompass every aspect of the vineyard, winery, surrounding habitat, ecosystem, employees and community.”

As such, the Waterford team works hard at rehabilitating the areas on the estate that have been disturbed. “By maintaining a balance on the farm, we create an opportunity for natural predators and plants to influence the environment and the vines in their own unique way,” David says.

Part of Waterford Estate’s success in maintaining sustainable farming methods is the fact that David, winemaker Mark le Roux and cellar master / managing partner Kevin Arnold share similar philosophies.

“We keep things simple, both inside and outside of the cellar,” says David. “We try to interfere as little as possible, allowing nature to do its job. In this way, our wines also have the best chance of truly reflecting Waterford’s unique environment.” But, adds Mark, interfering as little as possible doesn’t mean the team gets to go on holiday more often! “Finding ways to improve or sustain wine quality without manipulation is an art,” the winemaker says.

Social responsibility also forms a key part of farming in a sustainable way, and David believes that a winery’s labour force is one of the most important elements in this equation. “You have to get buy-in from your people to make it work. We make our farm workers aware of sustainability best practices by hosting regular talks and workshops, and by educating them along the way.”

Thanks to Waterford Estate’s team of farm workers, several projects aimed at protecting the natural environment are currently underway. Every year, for example, the team replaces alien vegetation with 100-150 indigenous trees. They also make their own compost and use natural methods to protect the vines from animals (for instance, dog hair is used to scare buck away).

In dry years, the team also effectively makes use of drip irrigation, drastically cutting the winery’s water usage. This strategy has proved to be incredibly effective in 2017/2018, when the region’s wine production was dramatically impacted by a severe drought. While other wineries recorded low harvests, Waterford’s Cabernet Sauvignon harvest was up by 23%. The other varietals also coped remarkably well. “This just shows how the extreme drought has had very little effect on the vineyard,” Mark says. “It can survive the toughest conditions.”

David adds that, with the help of good sustainability practices, the team manages to cultivate stronger, healthier vines. By keeping the soils healthy, the plants are able to develop strong root systems that ultimately help them to cope with extreme weather conditions.

While Waterford Estate isn’t an organic winery, it certainly ticks all the right boxes when it comes to sustainable farming. “We farm with nature, for the future, and not just with vines,” David concludes. “But, of course, we also focus on producing top-quality grapes and world-class wines.”

Points to note:
– All wines currently produced at Waterford Estate qualify for the Integrity & Sustainability Seal, as the team has managed to maintain sustainable practices since the seal was introduced in 2010.
– Waterford Estate holds an Integrated Production of Wine (IPW) certificate for its sustainable, environmentally friendly production methods.
– Waterford Estate has Wine and Agricultural Ethical Trade Association (WIETA) accreditation – proof that the estate maintains a high level of good-practice standards.
– Waterford Estate is a member of the Biodiversity in Wine Initiative (BWI), which means that we’re committed to environmentally friendly farming practices, the eradication of alien vegetation, and the promotion of indigenous fynbos.
– Waterford Estate is one of 37 wine brands with WWF Conservation Champion status.

by Waterford Estate
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Enjoy a taste of Waterford back home

International wine lovers, take note: Waterford Estate’s award-winning wines can be found at restaurants, hotels, retailers – and via our agents – across the globe.

Browse to TripAdvisor.co.za and you’ll quickly notice that Waterford Estate is #2 on the list of “150 things to do in Stellenbosch,” and the #1 singular wine-farm experience. Situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, on the slopes of the magnificent Helderberg, the estate remains an incredibly popular tourist destination.

But what many overseas visitors don’t realise is that a significant portion of Waterford Estate’s wines are exported to countries like the United Kingdom, the United States, Germany, Sweden, Malaysia and Japan. So, instead of taking home just a bottle or two in a suitcase, it’s possible to enjoy more of the estate’s award-winning wines back in your home country.

With the Western Cape traditionally being a popular destination for European travellers, South African wines have always found a place on the continent. In the past, however, our country’s wines were seen as good-value rather than top-quality.

“Our biggest challenge has been to effectively communicate the message of excellent quality,” says Lynsey Barnes, International Brand Manager for Waterford Estate. “For many years, the wines South Africa exported brought in quick economic solutions to the country, but not long-term sustainability.” This created an environment that made it hard for South African winemakers who wanted to produce and sell top-quality wines, and gain a footing in the international market.

But thanks to winemakers like Waterford Estate managing partner Kevin Arnold, the perception of South African wines internationally is starting to change. “Kevin was a pioneer in the South African wine landscape,” Lynsey says. By producing Platter 5-star wines like The Jem with winemaker Mark Le Roux – and selling them at prices that competed with high-quality wines from other top wine regions of the world – Kevin helped to spread the message that South African wines could compete at the highest level.

With changing trade circumstances in the UK under Brexit, and current instability in the markets, Waterford Estate’s strategy of exporting premium wines is bearing even more fruit. “There’s goodwill out there for those who produce high-quality wines while remaining true to their ethos,” says Lynsey. “Although current trends show people are drinking less, they’re drinking better and spending more.”

Recent visits to Asia and the US have, however, shown that there’s still a great deal of work to be done in terms of the perception of South African wines in these markets. “This is a challenge, but an exciting one,” Lynsey says. “South Africa has the raw ingredients and spirit to be a world player. We just need to come together and market the best of what we do effectively.”

Lynsey believes that wine tourism is one of the most effective tools the country can use to boost international wine sales, and says that Waterford Estate has been right at the forefront of this movement since its founding.

Factors that have worked in the estate’s favour over the last few years include traceability and a sense of place from diverse soils. A visit to Waterford Estate is also an unforgettable experience, which adds to the marketability of the wines. “Both the single-vineyard Chardonnay and the Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon have been hallmarks of the farm – both grown, made and bottled on site,” Lynsey says. “Thanks to their diverse soil profiles, these wines go a long way in telling the story of the property.”

The Waterford family is excited about the positive effects of globalisation, the opening of more direct trade routes, and blockchain technology – all of which make it easier to share the estate’s wines with passionate buyers from around the world. Waterford Estate is currently working with a logistics hub in Germany that facilitates direct-to-consumer sales in locations such as Bulgaria, Spain, Greece, Hungary, France, Italy and Croatia, making it even easier for international customers to get hold of Waterford Estate wines back in their home countries.

“With the emergence of an increasing number of specialist drop shipment carriers (businesses that hold current-release stock and specialise in quickly dispatching to consumer locations), it’s become even easier to ensure our wines reach their delivery points,” adds National Sales Manager, Damien Joubert-Winn. “What’s more, the authenticity and quality of the wines remain completely intact.”

International visitor? View our export agents’ list or get in touch to enjoy Waterford Estate wines in your home country.

by Waterford Estate
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A taste of the Mediterranean

Diverse soils and the unique factors on Waterford Estate’s farm make for the production of some seriously interesting Mediterranean wines and blends – an opportunity Kevin Arnold identified and started to explore 22 years ago. Before planting the Waterford Estate vineyards, the winemaker also wouldn’t have known that these drought-resistant varieties would play an important role in years to come.

The Mediterranean people are not only known for their robust health and vigour, but also for their bold, unapologetic red wines. With a number of Mediterranean grape varieties taking up a fair share of land on Waterford Estate, the link to grapes that originate from countries on the Mediterranean coastline form an important part of our story.

It’s a chapter in the Waterford Estate history book that’s best appreciated while enjoying a glass of The Jem, our flagship wine. To understand the significance of experimenting with alternative Mediterranean grape varietals such as Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Barbera and Sangiovese on the estate, it’s also worth taking a step back in time.

When the Dutch East Indian Company established a supply station for fresh goods in Cape Town in the mid-17th century, the settlement took its first tentative steps to becoming one of the finest wine regions of the world. Soon after the Dutch settled at the tip of Africa, British and French settlers followed. And, in the late 19th and early 20th century, a significant number of Italians made South Africa their home. Along with these European immigrants came a culture of wine production, and a string of grape varieties.

For a long time, the South African wine industry focused on producing well-known varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. But, in recent years, lesser-known varietals from Europe made their way to our shores. When Waterford Estate managing partner and cellar master Kevin Arnold established the estate 22 years ago, he led the way in terms of introducing lesser-known Mediterranean varietals to the Stellenbosch wine region.

At a time when most other Stellenbosch wineries took a safer path by only planting the likes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Kevin backed himself by introducing a unique combination of Mediterranean varietals to the Blaauwklippen Valley. With Waterford Estate situated on the outskirts of Stellenbosch, yet high enough on the slopes of the Helderberg to catch the sea breeze from False Bay, experimenting with varietals that traditionally flourish in warm Mediterranean climates made sense.

Kevin and his team carefully selected sections on the property that reflected the soils of Spain, the South of France and Italy. The winemaker knew that the Mediterranean varietals he planted would flourish in what’s become known as the Stone Ridge Block on the estate – a rocky patch of earth that contains heavily weathered sandstone, decomposed granite and clay. And when a severe drought hit the Western Cape in 2017/2018, these varietals really came into their own.

But while the soils and climate of the estate mirror several key elements found in the Mediterranean region, other factors make this piece of land unique. Nowhere else on earth will you find the exact same combination of fauna and flora. Specifically, the fynbos of the area adds wonderful character to the wines, truly setting them apart from the wines produced in Europe.

Today, one only has to taste The Jem once to know that planting red varietals from Italy, the South of France and Spain in Stellenbosch was a smart move. The Platter 5-star wine masterfully expresses the diversity of the land, and encompasses everything visitors experience when spending time on the picturesque estate. The Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Barbera and Sangiovese all add subtle flavour and spice to the blend.

The Jem also echoes South Africa’s fascinating wine history. Made up of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, it gives a nod to the more traditional wines produced in the country. Yet, with the inclusion of lesser-known grape varietals from the Mediterranean region, and the unique expression of the Waterford Estate terroir, it’s a wine that simply cannot and is not replicated anywhere else.

Visit our online shop to order The Jem or any of our other award-winning wines or gift sets. We deliver free of charge in South Africa.

by Waterford Estate
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A one-of-a-kind wine

If you’ve tasted the Waterford Estate Grenache Noir before, you’ll be thrilled to know that another vintage is on its way…

It’s a few days before the Easter weekend and Mark le Roux, winemaker at Waterford Estate, is thinking about eggs. Not Easter eggs, as one might expect, but a certain egg-shaped wine tank in the cellar.

Right at this moment, the odd-looking tank is bubbling furiously with the promise of a beautiful red wine. Yes, 13 years after Grenache Noir was first planted on the estate, a 5th vintage of the Waterford Estate Grenache Noir is being born.

While Grenache Noir is relatively easy to grow on Waterford soils, Mark explains that the varietal is particularly sensitive to oak during the fermentation and ageing process, and that the wine easily absorbs the wood’s flavours. The porcelain egg, which echoes the shape of the ancient amphora, offers a practical solution: it’s neutral in flavour, yet the oval shape keeps the lees in suspension, adding subtle complexity to the wine.

Thanks to the porcelain’s unassuming character, the Grenache Noir is able to truly express the terroir – those elements that you see and feel when you walk through the vineyards on the farm. The dry, rocky soils, the sandstone, the fynbos, the olive trees, and the gentle sea breeze.

While Grenache Noir has always been part of Waterford Estate’s portfolio, it took a few years for the vines to mature and for the fruit to exhibit the characters Mark looks for when producing a single-varietal wine.

“During the first 10 years, the Grenache Noir bunches were the size of table grapes,” Mark says. “They were large and juicy, and great for eating off the vine, but they made very diluted, alcoholic wine with little flavour. In 2014, we noticed a very visual indication of maturity. The bunch weights were down, the berries were about half the size and, when tasted, they really showed their potential.”

The time had come for this grape varietal to live on its own.

This year, the Grenache Noir vines flourished during one of the driest seasons the region has ever seen. When the vines were planted many years ago, managing partner and cellar master Kevin Arnold knew that climate change would eventually affect this plot of land in the Blaauwklippen Valley. Planting drought-resistant Mediterranean varietals like Grenache, Tempranillo and Mourvedre proved to be a smart strategy.

“This year’s yield is slightly bigger than last year’s,” Mark says. “This just shows how the extreme drought has had very little effect on the vineyard. It can survive the toughest conditions.”

The Waterford team is proud of the fact that the Grenache Noir is a true reflection of the terroir. They’ve worked hard at producing a wine that doesn’t simply try to replicate what’s done in other regions of the world, but which shows purity and elegance – characteristics that are present in all Mark’s wines. The vineyards are also tended to in a way that genuinely suits the Stellenbosch environment.

For Mark, the Grenache Noir also has sentimental value. “My first work experience at Waterford Estate, back in 2004, was in these vineyards,” he says. “During my time here, we were preparing the Grenache vineyard soil for planting the following year. So, I was here when the groundwork was laid.” Being able to produce the 5th vintage of Grenache Noir is a memorable experience that Mark is unlikely to forget, as this year’s harvest also coincided with the birth of his second son.

Spend a few minutes in Kevin’s company and you’ll also learn about this legendary winemaker’s passion for the robust, Spanish varietal. Nache, the young ridgeback that’s always by his side, has been named after the burgundy-coloured grape – a clear sign that the Grenache Noir is also one of Kevin’s all-time favourites.

by Waterford Estate
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The jewel in the Waterford crown

Named after owner Jeremy Ord, The Jem is Waterford Estate’s flagship wine. As the new vintage is released into the market, there’s cause for celebration.

The Waterford Way is to be prosperous, to flow with nature’s cycles, and to achieve longevity by perpetuating what has worked before. If there’s one wine that captures this philosophy, it’s The Jem.
Almost every activity at Waterford Estate is centred around creating this Platter 5-star-rated wine. A week or two before the new vintage is distributed to restaurants and shops across the globe, there’s a sense of excitement at the estate. “This year, it feels like we’re breaking barriers again,” says winemaker Mark le Roux. “The energy we felt when we first released The Jem in 2007 is back.”

This new vintage boldly talks to past experiences, smart decisions, experimentation, and steadfast consistency. Importantly, it talks to an estate that has matured over the course of two decades and which now comfortably sits among the best in the world.

Eleven years after The Jem was first released, the blend of estate-grown red varietals remains one of the best wines produced in South Africa. But with each passing year, the wine also tells a story of vineyards that are maturing, talented people who are honing their craft, and a winery that’s prospering despite tough environmental conditions.

When managing partner and cellar master Kevin Arnold planted the varietals that go into The Jem twenty years ago, he couldn’t have known that a severe drought would hit the Western Cape in 2017/2018. Still, Kevin and his team had the foresight to plant drought-resistant varietals, and now they’re enjoying the fruit of their labour. In a year in which the drought has dealt a heavy blow to the South African wine industry, Waterford Estate’s Cabernet Sauvignon harvest is up by a remarkable 23%.

Another sign that the estate is really coming into its own is the fact that, in September 2017, winemaker Mark le Roux was named South African Young Winemaker of the Year by the Tim Atkin Report on South African Wines. The success of The Jem contributed to this accolade, as did a one-of-a-kind relationship between the winemaker and viticulturist David van Schalkwyk.

Picking the wines that go into The Jem is a team effort. Once a year, Kevin, Mark, David and the rest of the crew gather around a table in the cellar to carefully choose which batch of each varietal is good enough to go into the blend. “We steer clear of the very bold, arrogant wines,” Mark says. Instead, each wine is selected to enhance and support the other wines. The aim is to create an elegant, perfectly balanced blend.

“We get to cherry pick which wines will make it into one of the greatest wines in the world,” adds Kevin. The exact percentages differ slightly from year to year, but The Jem always contains Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Mourvedre, Petit Verdot, Barbera and Sangiovese. Many of these are unusual grape varietals for the Stellenbosch wine region – part of what makes The Jem so unique.

Despite the fact that, by South African standards, The Jem is a fairly expensive wine, the greatest volume is still sold in this country – an achievement the team is incredibly proud of. Great care goes into producing each bottle, and it’s wonderful to see how this truly South African wine is appreciated by the local market.

In Mark’s words, The Jem is “the one wine that represents all” and which epitomises the authenticity, quality and craftsmanship for which Waterford Estate has become known.
Give it a try if you haven’t yet had the privilege – you won’t be disappointed.

by Waterford Estate
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History in the (wine) making

Waterford Estate may be fairly young, but it has many fascinating stories to tell. One of these is how, serendipitously, a one-of-a-kind Antique Chenin Blanc came into being.

When French intern Cédric Lecareux visited Waterford Estate in 2001, he decided to try his hand at making Chenin Blanc. At the time, it was the most widely planted varietal in South Africa, for the simple reason that it provided a good base for brandy.

Cédric had some experience working with Chenin Blanc back home, the grape was in ample supply, and Kevin Arnold (Waterford Estate Managing Partner and Cellar Master) was all for experimenting. And so, when the grapes from 35-year-old bush vines on a neighbouring farm arrived, the intern made his wine.

Cédric couldn’t have known that, 17 years later, visitors to Waterford Estate would still be mesmerised by the wine he started producing back then. When he placed the Chenin Blanc in a French oak barrel, and left it to ferment naturally in a quiet, forgotten corner of the cellar, he started writing a new chapter in Waterford’s history book. But, as with all good stories, things didn’t initially go according to plan.

By the time the wine was bottled in 2003, Cédric no longer worked on the estate. As the batch was small, bottling had to be done by hand and, somewhere along the way, the process went awry. The wine turned cloudy after only a few years. “I then had the bottles opened up, put the wine back in a barrel, and added fresh Chenin Blanc from 2004 to fill it up,” Kevin recalls.

This is how the solera system of adding fresh wine to the barrel of Chenin Blanc started. By using this Spanish method of producing wine, small amounts of younger wine were systematically blended with the more mature wine. The new wine added freshness to what soon became known as Waterford Estate’s Antique Chenin Blanc.

In the years that followed, random bottlings were done under the watchful eye of award-winning winemaker Mark le Roux. Now bottlings are done regularly, and in a more controlled fashion.

The Antique Chenin Blanc, which some lucky visitors get to sample when they do a Library Tasting at the estate, has a lovely golden colour and boasts notes of apricot, spice and citrus. The palate is bold and unapologetic yet wonderfully crisp, thanks to the fresh wine that’s added every year. Fascinatingly, the wine tells a story of experimentation and adventure that echoes the pioneering spirit for which Waterford has become known.

Mark explains that the Library Collection aims to push the boundaries of natural winemaking, and that this Antique Chenin Blanc is, therefore, a perfect fit.

Generally, the wines that form part of the Library Collection are also once-offs. But, if successful, they inform the production of future wines. While the Chenin Blanc originally came into being as a simple experiment by an intern, it has now become the impetus for creating a brand-new, commercially available Chenin Blanc.

To flow with nature’s cycles, and to achieve longevity by perpetuation of what has worked before, is known as “The Waterford Way”. If there was ever a wine that epitomises this philosophy, it’s the Antique Chenin Blanc and its successor: the soon-to-be-released Waterford Chenin Blanc. Keep an eye out for this one – it’s a beauty.

by Waterford Estate
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A wine experience for every taste

Whether you’re a wine novice or master, a fun-loving traveller or a foodie, there’s a Waterford Estate tasting experience with your name on it.

Waterford Estate offers six unique tasting experiences, making it easy to explore the team’s award-winning wines, right where they’re produced, in a way that suits your preference.

The Waterford Estate brand was born through a sensory appreciation of the fauna and flora on the farm. These unique elements are still constantly incorporated into the wines, and flowing with nature’s cycles, seasons and chapters underpins all the experiences offered on the estate.

When Kevin Arnold found the property in 1998, and initiated the Waterford project with the financial support of the Ord family, his aim was to keep the brand and the wine-tasting experiences as authentic as possible – a goal that, to this day, guides the winery’s offerings.

“When I first came here in the 1970s, I made a mental note that this could one day become the ‘Constantia’ of the Stellenbosch Winelands,” says Kevin. “While the agriculture was in a poor state, I found a pristine nature reserve.” At this stage, a small amount of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc vines, planted in 1988, existed on the farm.

Kevin and his team set about building a brand that told a fascinating story about the terroir and its history – even before they really started getting serious about making wine.

“Everything we did was centred on where we are – the geography and the landscape,” says Kevin, adding that each wine’s story, both inside and outside the bottle, is still told as visitors make their way across the farm during the wine-tasting experiences. “When we first created these experiences, they offered a way of taking visitors away from the obvious – the cellar and the tasting room.”

To start with, guests can enjoy a wine tasting in Waterford’s handsome courtyard. With the wine cellar surrounding this peaceful, well-maintained space, it offers a fantastic way of observing the workings of the winery.

Two truly superb vineyard tasting experiences paint a picture of where the wines originate from. Kevin and his son, Lloyd, established the Porcupine Trail Walk by exploring the paths used by the porcupines on the estate. As guests follow in the porcupines’ footsteps, they get a real sense of the environment in which the grapes are grown. The Wine Drive Safari, on the other hand, allows visitors to kick back and relax in a 4×4 vehicle, while getting a view of the activities on the farm.

As Waterford Estate is situated in the picturesque Blaauwklippen Valley, the walks and drives are spectacular. Less than half of the 120-hectare estate is under vine, so there’s much to be seen: fynbos, rock formations, tortoises, birds, bucks, and views that stretch towards the Atlantic Ocean and the City Bowl.

The tasting experiences, which also include the Library Tasting and the Reserve Tasting, were all developed and refined over time. The Wine Drive Safari, for example, grew from a simple wine tasting in the vineyards with biltong and droëwors, to a more sophisticated wine-and-snack pairing that culminates with Waterford’s popular wine-and-chocolate tasting back at the winery.

Waterford Estate was the first winery in South Africa to pair chocolate with wine in a tasting experience. Kevin worked closely with Greyton-based chocolatier Richard von Geusau in developing this world-class offering – a process that took 6 months.

Every tasting experience at Waterford Estate is aimed at connecting with the visitor on both a sensory and emotional level. “I truly believe that if you discover something for yourself, and you have a feeling about it, the memory lasts longer,” Kevin says. “Everything we do is about creating that special feeling.”

If you’ve enjoyed Waterford Estate’s tastings in the past, you’ll be happy to hear that the team is busy working on other innovative experiences – from expanding the popular Sunset Sessions to creating a nursery, and offering hands-on workshops in the orchards and vineyards.

With the estate continuously offering better-quality experiences, while staying true to the pioneering yet authentic “Waterford Way”, it’s no wonder that, on TripAdvisor.com, visiting Waterford remains one of the “top things to do” in the Stellenbosch Winelands.

by Waterford Estate
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Linger longer – visit the Waterford Estate Library

For a truly unique experience in the Stellenbosch Winelands, book a Waterford Estate Library Tasting. A special record of the wines produced on the Estate is kept in the Library, and lucky guests are offered a taste.

“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library,” Albert Einstein once quipped. And, in the case of Waterford Estate, this certainly is true.

Yet, the Library at Waterford isn’t where you’d go to find a compelling read. Instead, it’s where you get a taste of the Waterford team’s sense of adventure – their willingness to take risks, to pioneer, to walk the road less travelled.

The Waterford Library is a wonderfully dark, cool room next to the cellar, slightly hidden away from the main tasting room and courtyard, where you can spend a leisurely hour or two tasting truly unique, once-off wines.

“The Library Tasting gives you a chance to try the ‘geekier’ wines we make on the Estate,” says winemaker Mark le Roux, who was recently named South African Young Winemaker of the Year by the globally recognised Tim Atkin Report on South African Wines.

The wines that form part of the Library Collection are an “open book”, Mark continues. These are experimental wines that the Waterford team use to teach themselves new skills. The Library wines are used as a tool to improve the current Waterford wines through vineyard or winemaking techniques, component relationships in a blend during ageing, and so forth.

A visit to the library

First up is a 2009 Bordeaux-style white, made from the first Sauvignon Blanc vines planted on the Estate. Bright asparagus, gooseberry and zesty citrus notes form a beautiful balance. And, for a white wine that’s almost 10 years old, the liveliness and clarity is a surprise.

Next, a nifty little device called a Coravin is used to pour four glasses of Grenache Blanc without pulling the cork (the Coravin replaces the wine that’s been removed with an inert gas called Argon, which protects the wine). As the Library wines are made in small batches, each drop is precious – and opening bottles without finishing them is simply out of the question. The wine is exquisite: while the palate echoes that of the Sauvignon Blanc, the floral notes and hints of dessert peach are mesmerising.

From here, an opulent 2013 Riesling that boasts a rich, yellow colour is poured. This is followed by a 2013 Pinot Noir with concentrated aromas of fleshy berries and wild cherries, and a lingering dry finish. Both wines are highly enjoyable and speak to the wide range of wines that Waterford makes with remarkable success.

The real showstopper is, however, kept for last. “Edition M”, a full-bodied blend of Merlot (71%), Cabernet Sauvignon (18%) and Cabernet Franc (11%), is the wine Mark shared with his family and friends this past festive season (his aim when he first set out to make it). It’s a truly exceptional blend with an expressive nose of ripe cherry, plum and mulberry, and a cigar-box, chocolatey finish.

We’re blown away, and there’s consensus: it was worth doing the Library Tasting just for this magnificent wine.

The great thing about these tastings is that you can do them every so often, and enjoy a unique experience every time. New, experimental wines are always being added to the list. And having a room to yourself, where you can expand your knowledge on Waterford’s offering in the company of a well-informed host, certainly is a great way to spend a morning in the Stellenbosch Winelands.

Book ahead – you won’t be disappointed.

by Waterford Estate
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Harvest Time

The day the harvest season starts is the moment the Waterford team prepares for all year. Now’s the time to put the fruits of their labour to the test.

It’s 6am on a Tuesday morning. The town of Stellenbosch is slowly starting to wake up, yet there’s already some movement in the vineyards at Waterford Estate. If you listen closely, you’ll hear a tractor grumbling, the snip-snip of fast hands and sharp cutters, and the barely audible thud-thud-thud of bunches of grapes landing in crates.

Today marks the official start of the 2018 harvest season, and the Waterford Estate team is in high spirits. A handful of pickers is moving swiftly through a single Chardonnay vineyard block. Beautiful bunches of bright-green grapes – set to form part of a new vintage of Waterford Estate Methode Cap Classique (MCC) – are ripe for the picking.

This will be the 4th time MCC is produced from this particular block, perched high up on the slopes of the Helderberg and planted in 2007. With sandstone and granite-rich soils adding back bone and minerality to the grapes, and the vines benefiting from a hint of sea breeze, the wine promises to boast characteristics typical of the French Champagne style while telling a fascinating story about the terroir.

This early in the harvest season, the grapes are still acidic – the aim being to produce a neutral, dry base wine that can develop over time. Only 2.5 tons of grapes are being picked this morning; the rest will follow a day or two later.

True to Waterford’s nature, there’s a sense of camaraderie in the vineyard as the pickers make their way through the rows of vines. “Tel op – elke korrel is ‘n borrel (Pick up – every grape is a bubble),” one of the pickers quips. “Fill it, Sarel, fill it, fill it,” another one says, as the picked bunches of grapes are added to the pile.

This may look like quick, easy work, but there’s more to it than meets the eye, says viticulturist David van Schalkwyk. He keeps a couple of rolls of bandages in the front of his bakkie, as cuts and bruises are par for the course. This morning, extra pairs of hands come in the form of friends and family who, along with the permanent staff contingent, make short work of the harvest.

When the first strong rays of sunlight hit the vines, the tractors start making their way down to the cellar. Here, the whole grape brunches are pressed and the juice is settled, as only the clear juice is fermented. The wine will be aged for about 9 months, after which bottling – and a second round of fermentation – will follow. Magic is about to be made.
Just after 8am, the team gathers in the courtyard for the blessing of the grapes. This tradition, in which glasses are raised in a toast to the harvest and MCC from a previous vintage is poured over the freshly picked grapes, is not to be missed.

It’s only fitting that Marvin Gaye’s “I heard it through the grapevine” can be heard through the speakers in the courtyard as glasses are clinked. If these grapevines deliver as they should, the bubbles may just exceed the team’s wildest expectations.

by Waterford Estate
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Family Ties

Waterford Estate’s Ord and Arnold families are well known, but scattered among the staff are other interesting families. Bernie and Hendrik Engelbrecht share their story.

It’s a week before Christmas, and the courtyard at Waterford Estate is stylishly decorated: branches, twigs, paper stars and wreaths made of “kooigoed” (aromatic herbs traditionally used to stuff mattresses) hang from the eaves. On each table, there’s a fresh flower posy.

Evidence of strong family bonds can be seen everywhere – from the Arnold family dogs that play in the citrus orchards to the Ord and Arnold family names that feature prominently on the wines. And, if you linger long enough, you’ll learn that many of the staff members around you also form close-knit families.

One such example is Bernie and Hendrik Engelbrecht, a marvellous couple who has been part of the Waterford “family” right from the start.

Bernie and Hendrik first met Waterford Estate managing partner and cellar master Kevin Arnold at Rust en Vrede Estate, where Kevin spent 10 years establishing the Rust en Vrede brand. When, in 1997, Kevin left Rust en Vrede to start Waterford Estate with Jeremy Ord, Bernie and Hendrik jumped at the chance to be part of the new adventure.

“There was nothing here then,” remembers Bernie, who patiently worked her way up from farm hand to tasting-room assistant, co-decorator (her partner and mentor is Heather Arnold, Kevin’s wife) and florist at the Estate. “We had to start by planting the vineyards, and then we built the cellar. We gradually built the Estate up to what it is now.”

Hendrik also started out as a farm hand. But, through hard work and dedication, he was promoted to store manager. He also now manages the labelling process with the help of a team (all Waterford Estate wines are bottled on the premises).

“Waterford did me a massive favour by giving me a chance to prove myself,” Hendrik says, noting that Kevin played a key role in helping him to grow on both a personal and professional level since he started out at Waterford in 1997. Now, Hendrik is a leader in his own right – in the store room and among the farm community.

Bernie’s days are busy, too: her mornings usually start with the flower arrangements. She painstakingly checks that all the posies are ready, and that the tasting room and courtyard is spotlessly clean. “The look and feel must be perfect,” she says.

Then she bakes bread for the wine drives, which start at 10am. Bernie also helps with the tastings, keeping a beady eye on her colleagues. On some days, she takes time to walk through the vineyards, gardens and orchards to pick flowers and fynbos for her displays.

Bernie and Hendrik just celebrated their 23rd Christmas together. Their two sons (one of whom also works on the Estate) and two granddaughters spent the holidays with them. “We always enjoy Christmas together as a family,” Bernie says. “But, while it’s important for us to be together as a family, I don’t always feel like cooking. Some years, we book a spot at a restaurant and spend the day there.”

The family’s favourite meal is Bernie’s legendary lasagne and, on Sundays, they usually braai after spending part of the morning at church where Hendrik is a pastor. On Saturday afternoons, Hendrik, Bernie and many of the other families who live on the farm hop on a truck to see the Waterford soccer team in action – a fun way of relaxing after a busy week.

The couple’s advice for those who haven’t visited Waterford Estate yet? “Come and spend the day with us. It’s really peaceful here, and you can linger as long as you’d like to,” Bernie says. “Back when we just started out, there were only bushes,” Hendrik adds. “Just look at it all now – it’s breathtakingly beautiful.”

by Waterford Estate
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A fine MCC in the making

The phrase “hurry up and wait” pretty much sums up the process of making Méthode Cap Classique (MCC) at Waterford Estate. The process of bottling is fast and intense, but then we kick back, relax and wait for almost a decade before we pop the cork.

On a cool November morning, there’s a buzz in the Waterford Estate wine cellar. Today, a 2017 Chardonnay is being bottled. The aim? To allow for a second process of fermentation in the bottle and, ultimately, the production of 4,000 bottles of sought-after, seductive Waterford MCC.

The day before bottling, winemaker Mark le Roux warns that emotions could run high in the cellar. This is the last step in the wine-making process that can be controlled, and Mark is anxious. Over several months, he worked side by side with viticulturist and good friend David van Schalkwyk, tending to the grapes, overseeing the harvest, nurturing the wine, and planning the end product with great care. A lot hinges on the success of the day.

David explains that, in South Africa, Méthode Cap Classique or MCC is usually produced from Pinot Noir, Meunier and/or Chardonnay – grape varietals that are fairly easy to grow and which offer only subtle fruit notes, especially when picked early in the season. The Chardonnay grapes used to produce the 2017 Blanc de Blanc MCC were all sourced from a 10-year-old block on the estate, and harvested early in the summer of 2017 to allow for the production of a neutral, dry white wine (the so-called “base wine”).

The grapes spent approximately 26 days fermenting, after which it was aged for a further 9 months in stainless-steel tanks. Using oak barrels were out of the question, Mark says, as wood flavours tend to overpower the delicate, unique character of the grapes. And at Waterford Estate, the team’s goal is clear: all wines produced have to be an honest expression of the terroir – the rich, fertile environment in which the grapes are grown.

 

Time to focus
Despite warnings of slightly inappropriate language, a sense of deep concentration and silent camaraderie reigns among the team on bottling day. Bottles are swiftly added to the production line, filled with wine (and just enough sugar and yeast to allow for a fresh new round of fermentation), plugged, capped, and carefully packed in wooden crates. Safely secured with their crown caps, the bottles are now able to withstand the immense pressure that will build up in them over the next few months.

Mark allows for many years of maturation in the cool cellars on the estate, giving the yeast a leisurely 7 – 8 years to work its magic. And there’s really no rush. To flow with nature’s cycles, and to take the time to experiment with an MCC that’s matured much, much longer than most other products on the South African market, is what The Waterford Way is all about. While the team will only really know the success of the MCC when the corks are popped several years from now, they’re giving the wine all the time it needs to develop the flavours that will tell a very unique story.

To be rewarded with a crisp, clean MCC that sings with subtle notes of apple, pear, citrus and biscuit, and which boasts the most delicate of bubbles, is certainly worth the wait. But, ultimately, the team will have produced a wine that speaks to the environment, to authenticity and to adventure, and which echoes the friendships forged during the long, slow journey from farm to flute.

by Waterford Estate
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40 Under 40: Mark le Roux

Meet Mark le Roux. As a young boy who loved the outdoors, he would spend his time exploring and playing in the Stellenbosch winelands. Fascinated by nature and patiently indulged by his father who studied forestry, Mark’s world was shaped by the careful interaction between man and nature.

In the twenty-odd years since he is still exploring and this time, winemaking and terrior is his game. “The challenge of linking the soils and environment to specific cultivars and then to produce representing wine thereof is the rush I live for,” says the 32-year-old Waterford winemaker.

Mark studied a BSc Agric (Oenology and Viticulture) at Stellenbosch University. After graduating, he worked in South Africa for 3 years before doing a harvest in Carneros, California. Mark joined the winemaking team at Waterford in 2009 and took over winemaking production with 2013 being his first vintage. You can sense that Mark is truly happy in his chosen career, possibly because it stills his inherent inquisitiveness to explore and ‘play’. Named South African Young Winemaker of 2017 by Tim Atkin, he surely has a promising career ahead – and not because some critic singled him out as “an awesome talent”. Mark has talent, yes, but his disarming passion for South Africa, its wine and soils are infectious. We talked coffee and the Karoo.

What vintage are you?
1985. Augusto!

If you could bottle yourself, what would the tasting note be?
Aromatics would be classic and traditional with traces of stubbornness masking the fresh, young fruit. The palate would surprise you with emotion and sensitivity. Extremely modest and honest allowing the truth of the terroir to show.

What sparked your love for food and the drink?
As a youngster I was exposed to different foods. Winter holidays on our family farm in the heart of the Karoo exposed me to the smell of genuine fynbos and suur gras, as well as the uncontested Karoo lamb. At the age of 12, our family moved to Indonesia and Malaysia for 5 years which exposed me to a very different style of food. With these exposures I’ve always loved working with my hands, and with my father as a forester, doing a lot of woodwork and planting trees in the garden to watch them grow was a great sense of satisfaction. The delayed gratification of planting a plant and watching it grow is satisfying, but to go a step further and to make wine from the plant you grow is absolutely priceless.

Aliens come down from space and you must explain to them in one bottle of wine what it is that you do – what do you make?
There are aliens out there??? I’ll tell them that I make a natural product from grapes found on earth which makes humans live longer and happier. This product, wine, connects the world in a language spoken by all on earth.

What is still on your wine bucket list?
To tour the wine region of Chile, North to South. That’s at the top, but the list is long.

Tell us about your lucky break?
Taking up a position at Waterford Estate, its where it all started. This year I was named “young South African winemaker of the year” by UK master of wine Journalist, Tim Atkin. To me, it is recognition of my lucky break 8 years ago.

What makes a wine fine?
An honest wine. For me, this is a wine which is made without selfishness and ego. Wine that is most expressive of its terroir and unshowy, with nothing to prove, it just makes sense.

What has been your greatest mistake?
Not trusting my gut. Believe in what you know, but know that you know so little.

What is your biggest motivator?
Today’s work is hard, but only tomorrow will show the results. In the future when I’m old and relaxing in my wing-back chair sipping on the wine I made back then – I don’t want to be disappointed!

How do you measure success?
By how many Instagram followers I have (@markleroux85)! Only joking. By being able to prove myself and family with everything we need and feel a level of contentment.

What inspires you?
Tasting great wines.

It’s Wednesday night at 6:30. What’s for dinner?
As Wednesday is usually braai day, it will be Kudu/Springbok Sirloins on the kole. Sides will be chunky mash potato and if I’m feeling fancy, green beans with roasted almond flakes and cauliflower and cheese sauce. To switch off from work, I’ll have a craft beer whilst braaiing.

If you weren’t making wine, what would you be doing?
A chef or a veterinarian, but thank heavens that it did not work out!  Now, I’d be a coffee farmer and roaster.

What do you rate as your proudest achievement?
Being nominated “South Africa’s Young Winemaker of the Year” by Tim Atkin.

What is a big no-no to you when it comes to making wine?
Becoming complacent and disorganized.

What would you like to achieve over the next 15 years?
I would like to prove to the world that South Africa really does make some of the finest wines.

Who or what is your idea of oenological brilliance?
There are so many talented winemakers and viticulturists in South Africa. Oenological brilliance is creating wines which fit and taste like the story of the vineyard. If I can single out one person, it would have to be Eben Sadie. He is leading the movement in South Africa.

Where are you happiest?
On our family farm in the Karoo. There is very limited cell phone signal and freedom in the veld gathering sheep on horseback. The slow pace of simple life, smelling the unpolluted air and feasting on home grown lamb without any pretentiousness.

What flavours inspire taste memories for you?
Cloves. It takes me back to Indonesia where my family lived for 5 years. Indonesian locals smokes clove cigarettes and as you get off the aeroplane the smell fills your nostrils until you leave the country again. The smell of cloves always takes me back to the street food of Indonesia.

Biggest vice?
Wine, but with my job title it does not count as a vice.

What are the biggest challenges we face in the South African wine industry? Where would you like to see us go and grow over the next ten years?
Quite simple. South Africa can make the best wines in the world. We just need to value ourselves as South Africans, too often we undervalue our products and country and sell ourselves short.
Through trusting ourselves we can achieve this. There are so many amazingly talented winemakers and viticulturists out there and I’m very positive on the future of the wine industry in South Africa.

Your cellar is underwater. You can save one bottle of wine from your collection – what do you choose?
I only have one worthwhile bottle in my cellar at home to grab, and it’s a 1985 Trio Corda from Overgaauw. How often do you get to own a bottle of your birth year?

What is your favourite food and wine memory?
Way back in 2009 I visited a friend who was winemaker at Chateau Malescasse in Bordeaux. For my final dinner before returning home, they spoilt me to one table filled with local cheeses and foie gras, and another with about 20 incredible French wines. Wines we drunk that night included Chateau Angelus, Chateau Palmer, Chateau Rauzan Segla, Chateau d’Yquem. What an amazing dinner.

Who would you invite to your dream dinner party? What would you cook and why?
Denzel Washington, Van Morrison, Paul McCartney, Will Smith, Freddie Mercury, Michael McIntyre, Captain Jack Sparrow and my closest friends – hopefully all the guys bring good dates!

What is the best and worst thing about working in the wine industry?
The best is that there are no two days that are the same. It is forever exciting and challenging. The worst is that harvest only lasts 65 days – my family will disagree!

Looking back, what advice would you give your 21-year-old self?
Don’t let other people stand in the way of what you want to do.

http://www.wine.co.za/news/news.aspx?NEWSID=31878&SOURCE=NewsFeedDaily&MEMBERID=7546

 

by Waterford Estate
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Young Winemaker of the Year

It is with huge excitement and joy that we share this press release with you our valued partner. Waterford Estate produced its 20th Vintage this year and to have our Wine Maker, Mark Le Roux, announced as Junior Wine Maker of the Year by Tim Atkin MW, is a new milestone in our short history.

All thirteen of the Waterford wines Judged by Tim Atkin for his South African Report, received 90 points or more – see press release. This is a truly remarkable achievement and emphasizes our Brands attention to quality and consistency. Thank you for your continued support in working with our wines that we are so proud of.

Click here to see the press release

by Waterford Estate
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Cabernet Sauvignon Report

Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 Voted in South Africa’s Top 10 – 4 out of 5 Years Running

The Prescient Cabernet Sauvignon Report 2017, is the sixth Cabernet Sauvignon report conducted by a panel of three judges annually, namely, Christian Eedes, Roland Peens and James Pietersen. Christian Eedes is an acclaimed wine expert with extensive experience in judging high profile wine competitions, currently the editor of Winemag.co.za. Both Roland Peens and James Pietersen are part of the Wine Cellar team, one of South Africa’s foremost importers and retailers of fine wines.

The selection of 65 wines are chosen based on recent local or international accolades, as well as those producers Christian Eedes considers to be the best in their field. The tasting is conducted blind, and scoring is done according to the 100 point system.

The Stellenbosch region dominated with 14 out of 15 wines scoring 90 points or higher on the 100-point scale. Out of the top wines, 9 were from 2014, indicating that 2014 was a particularly good vintage for Cabernet Sauvignon. The average score of all 65 wines in the line-up was 87.8 points, proving South Africa’s potential in producing Cabernet Sauvignon.

Previous appearances of the Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon on the Cabernet Sauvignon report include:

2013 Report – Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, with 4 and a half stars,
2014 Report – Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, first place with 5 stars
2015 Report – Waterford Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, first place with 93 points

This year Waterford Estate has appeared in the top 10 with 91 points for the fourth time out of five years being selected for the competition.

by Waterford Estate
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Words from Mark

I’m Mark Le Roux, 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 the Winemaker at Waterford. I believe my style in winemaking to be a style which is honest, true and authentic. 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 never the less managed the water usage very well, and as a result our vineyards were in top shape throughout the season.

Owing to lack of wind and rain during flowering season, 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.

by Waterford Estate
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