From the May issue of Business Day WANTED: Waterkloof is the rather handsome property on Schapenberg Hill near Somerset West which former British wine merchant Paul Boutinot selected as being capable of “truly fine wine with a defining sense of origin” after a worldwide search.
The winemaker is 30-year-old Nadia Barnard who despite her young age seems to be handling the responsibility with aplomb – she worked as an intern at Vergelegen and then two harvests at Flagstone before starting at Waterkloof in December 2008, becoming head winemaker in 2013.
Waterkloof is now officially certified as biodynamic. What does this involve?
Our vineyards are chemical-free and we make all our own compost using traditional biodynamic recipes – this ensures healthy soil full of bacteria and oxygen and as a result a balanced vineyard.
Tell us a bit about the Percherons. How many do you have on the farm and what are their names? What are the benefits of using them?
We have five Percheron horses on the farm. Lady G was our first and now we have Jack, Morgan, Louis and Monty.
They are working horses that substitute for tractors – they weigh around 600kg and can pull 1.2 tons. Their hooves are a lot smaller than tractor wheels so they don’t compact the soil as much, they’re not as expensive relative to running a tractor, they don’t need maintenance and carbon emissions aren’t an issue.
You make two versions of Sauvignon Blanc – your flagship wine and then one under the Circumstance label. How do they differ?
The Circumstance Sauvignon Blanc is spontaneously fermented partially in tank and then 30% in older 600-litre barrels. We use a variety of different blocks from the farm to produce a wine which is as well balanced and elegant as possible.
The Waterkloof Sauvignon Blanc is our flagship white. It is produced from a single block. This is the first block that we started to convert to organic and biodynamic farming in 2005 – it was already very good and we felt that it will only get better by using these traditional methods. In terms of the production we basket press the grapes and have it spontaneously ferment in older, large-format barrels. The wine is left on the lees for about nine month before bottling. Look for something with lots or richness and depth.
Some people love super-green Sauvignon Blanc and others are not so fond of it. How do you feel about this particular style?
Some people enjoy tomatoes and others don’t. I can appreciate the style but won’t typically buy a bottle for myself as I prefer something more oxidative.
What has been your most memorable wine experience?
Emptying a wooden fermentor in Burgundy that had Charmes-Chambertin grapes inside of it. This is my favorite Grand Cru appellation and it was a wonderful feeling to be a part of making a wine from such a legendary site.
You’re into mountain biking. What’s the appeal?
It completely takes my mind off anything else. You have to focus a lot not to fall and that is the main goal… to stay on the bike. It is also great to cycle in areas where it is just you, nature and your bike.
What make of bike do you have?
Favourite track to ride?
Oak Valley farm. They have great obstacles and beautiful tracks in between the trees. It helps that the Pool Room which is one my favourite restaurants is on the property – it serves good meat and other fresh produce.