Interview: Karl Lambour of Grande Provence
By Christian Eedes, 7 December 2014
From the December issue of Business Day WANTED: Karl Lambour, 46, has packed a lot into a relatively short career. After gaining degrees in both forestry and winemaking at the University of Stellenbosch, he worked at The Bergkelder, Zevenwacht, Meerendal, Constantia Glen and Holden Manz before taking on the combined roles of general manager and winemaker at Grande Provence in Franschhoek in mid-2012.
He recently acquired a farm in Wellington, where he lives with his partner and three Hungarian Vizslas, Rez, Kika and Chase. Accommodation is a beautiful H-shaped Cape Dutch homestead and there are a few hectares of old vines from which Lambour looks forward to making some wine in the future. “The joy of living in the country is that neighbours usually don’t have fence between their properties and this allows for long walks with the hounds in the vineyards and mountains,” he says.
You’re general manager AND winemaker at Grande Provence. That must mean a lot of balls to juggle.
Winemakers pretty much hit a ceiling in their careers once they become cellarmasters. I was given the opportunity of managing all aspects of the business at Grande Provence including the winemaking and I grabbed it – openings like this are few and far between. I run a restaurant, luxury accommodation and a gallery as well as a wine estate and it’s pretty much a boiler-room atmosphere. I’ve had to develop new business skill sets but I think I’ve also become a better rounded person: you need patience and kindness to keep a big staff motivated.
Wines from Franschhoek have been somewhat overlooked in recent times. Is the district capable of greatness?
Without a doubt. Greatness comes in many guises from an über-drinkable lifestyle wine perfectly made to the more expressive single vineyard offerings and we offer both. The valley floor gives wonderful fruit expression with softer mouthfeel while the mid-slopes of the Franschhoek mountains offer intensity, structure and a certain je ne sais quoi that more easily tasted than described.
Tell us a bit about your Chardonnay 2013.
We monitor the grapes until we are perfectly happy with the flavour profile and then hand pick with a short traverse to the cellar. We allow spontaneous fermentation and transfer to 500-litre French oak barrels, 60% new for fermentation and ageing. The larger barrel format allows better preservation of fruit – expect pear, citrus and subtle vanilla when you drink it.
Favourite international wine region and why?
California. Those big, bruising Zinfandels captured my imagination during a visit almost 14 years ago and although it’s not a style I would easily force on grapes in our own environment, I’m still in awe of them. Their ability to capture ripeness just a knife-edge away from overripe and richness without unctuousness is amazing.
What has been your most memorable wine experience?
During a recent trip to the Rhône, I was able to taste all the components of La Chapelle, Jaboulet’s flagship from Syrah. It made me re-evaluate the art of blending. A visit to the famous chapel on the hill afterward cemented the experience.
You recently acquired a farm in Wellington and say you’ve taken to gardening. What’s the attraction?
Vine growing is a challenge – you have to constantly guide, manipulate and coerce. My gardening style is far removed from this. I value variety, unruliness and a flow that is both natural and aesthetically pleasing. Believe you me, it takes a lot of planning to make it look like that. And I get great therapeutic satisfaction from watering!
Wine, food and good company is a great love of yours. Describe your preferred cooking style.
I like to keep things uncomplicated – three or four ingredients all held together with a great sauce. I suppose you could call it bistro-style. A perfect parsnip purée, a slice of rare roast beef and a sticky jus can’t be beat.
You also have a fascination with sous-vide as a cooking method. Explain it in layman’s terms and tell us why you like it.
I am fascinated with the science behind things and sous-vide cooking has become a bit of a diversion for me. To reduce it to its most basic, it’s meal-in-a-bag – it allows you to cook any particular protein at the most appropriate temperature and you avoid the shrinkage and loss of moisture that comes with regular high-temperature cooking.
You own three Hungarian Vizslas. Tell us about the breed.
They’re originally hunting dogs – short-haired and medium-sized. What I like about them however is that they’re incredibly affectionate – Velcro dogs – ours want a constant connection with people. They also have an incredibly protective instinct.