Shining the Spotlight on Female Winemakers of South Africa

Words: Crush

South Africa’s wines are world-renowned. Pinotage, Pinot Noir and Shiraz are just some varietals that are made to perfection, and people travel from far and wide to experience them. In honour of Women’s Month – and our general obsession with all things wine – we thought we’d highlight some of the amazing female winemakers in South Africa that are making waves in the wine world.

Kalissa de Kok from Le Lude Estate

Kalissa de Kok was recently appointed as one of the winemakers at Le Lude Estate, a leading producer of prestigious Cap Classique wines. The family-owned winery, which is situated on the edge of Franschhoek, specialises in bottle-fermented sparkling wines. Their Venus Brut Nature 2014 was awarded ‘Sparkling Wine Discovery of the Year’ in Tim Atkin’s 2022 South Africa Special Report.

Kalissa has embraced the role of crafting award-winning wines with enthusiasm and determination. Her fascination with the meticulous art of crafting Cap Classique was sparked during her studies at the esteemed Elsenburg Agricultural College, from where she holds a Bachelor of Agriculture, Cellar Technology and Cellar Management. Kalissa’s final year at the college saw her collaborating closely with Cap Classique masters in the industry, solidifying her dedication to the traditional method of sparkling wine production. She honed her skills through harvest experiences at various cellars in the Western Cape.

We recommend… Le Lude Venus Brut Nature 2014

Kiara Scott Farmer from Brookdale Estate

Kiara Scott Farmer (31), was born on the Cape Flats and graduated from Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute, Stellenbosch. After obtaining her degree in Viticulture and Oenology, she was selected for the prestigious CWG Protégé Programme and during her three-year tenure, gained valuable experience working under industry professionals, David Nieuwoudt (Cederberg Cellars), Carl van de Merwe (De Morgenzon) and Charles Hopkins (De Grendel). International opportunities to work vintages in the Rhône Valley, Sancerre and the Russian River in Sonoma (California), further expanded her winemaking skills.

Winemaker and mentor, Duncan Savage (Savage Wines), recognised her potential and appointed her as his assistant when he was a consultant winemaker at Brookdale Estate. The maiden vintage of the Brookdale Chenin Blanc (2017) received global acclaim and secured Brookdale’s reputation as a producer of a wine of character. Kiara Scott Farmer’s experience led to her appointment as winemaker at Brookdale, where she officially took the reins from the 2019 vintage. She says: “I have a simple and minimal intervention approach to winemaking. I believe that great wines are made in the vineyard. Year on year, I am aiming to better understand our vineyards and soils to make the work in the cellar easier.”

We recommend… Brookdale Mason Road Chenin Blanc 2021

Andrea Mullineux of Mullineux Family Wines

Mullineux Family Wines was established in 2007 in the Swartland region of the Western Cape, by Chris and Andrea Mullineux. Andrea originally hails from San Francisco where she studied viticulture at UC Davis. Her early years working on harvests in Napa Valley set her up well for a fruitful career in the wine industry. She worked in Stellenbosch before moving to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, France, where she met her now husband, Chris, who convinced her to come back to South Africa.

Andrea joined the Cape Winemakers Guild in 2014, and was awarded ‘Winemaker of the Year’ by Wine Enthusiast in 2016. Andrea focuses on dry-farmed Mediterranean varietals.

We recommend… The Mullineux Kloof Street Chenin Blanc

Margaux Nel from The Fledge & Co and Bo Plaas Family Vineyards

Margaux Nel has been destined to work with wine from the day she was born. Being the 7th generation winemaker of Nels from Boplaas in Calitzdorp, Margaux’s passion for winemaking runs deep. She has a BSc degree in Viticulture from Stellenbosch University and an MBA from the University of Stellenbosch Business School. Her research is grounded in practice and experience, having travelled to many wine producing countries and regions.

We recommend… Gamka Reserve 2015

Jamie Williams from Nederburg

Jamie Williams is assistant white-winemaker at Nederburg wines, and has a wealth of knowledge built up from years of study and experience. Born in the Cape Flats to a single mother, Jamie grew up in Retreat. She always had an interest in science, and after high school she studied Molecular Biology and Bio Technology at the University of Stellenbosch, where she took up a module on wine technology. ‘The rest is history’, as they say, and she’s been working at Nederburg since 2018.

We recommend…Nederburg Baronne

Ntsiki Biyela of Aslina Wines

In 1999, Ntsiki Biyela received a scholarship from South African Airways to study winemaking. Since then, she has grown from strength to strength and has encouraged diversity and transformation in a predominantly white South African wine industry. In 2007, Ntsiki opened her own winery, Aslina Wines, which has consulted wine farms in France and has made a wine for the Winemakers’ Collection.

We recommend… Aslina Umsasane 2019

Nadia Barnard-Langenegger from Waterkloof

South African wine brands

Nadia Barnard-Langenegger spent five years as an assistant winemaker at Waterkloof before graduating to winemaker in 2013. Her passion for winemaking started from a young age and led her to study Viticulture and Oenology at the University of Stellenbosch. She has worked in South Australia, New Zealand and France, and brings her extensive knowledge to her practice to create delicious, unique South African wines.

We recommend… Seriously Cool Cinsault 2020

Charla Bosman from Sijnn Wines

Charla Bosman (née Haasbroek), winemaker at Sjinn Wines, has worked local harvests at Kanonkop, Tokara, and harvests abroad at Margerum, California. She brought her experience to the Malgas winery and delivers deliciously unique wines through natural farming and winemaking methods. The ambitious winemaker also produces wines under her personal label, Charla Haasbroek Wines.

We recommend… Sijnn White 2019

Trizanne Signature Wine

Trizanne Barnard, owner of Trizanne Signature Wines, graduated from Stellenbosch University with a degree in viticulture and oenology. She worked multiple vintages abroad and upon returning home in 2004, was offered the opportunity of starting Anwilka Wines in conjunction with Klein Constantia role-players and Bordeaux winemakers. In 2008, she decided to start her own brand, and Trizanne Signature Wines was born.

She focuses on two very diverse wine regions, namely Elim and the Swartland. Trizanne Signature Wines creates a wide and delicious range of lesser-known varietals.

We recommend… Reserve Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc 2019

Craven Wines by Jeanine Craven

Jeanine Craven’s winemaking career started with visiting the wine co-op as a child with her father to deliver grapes. The aroma of crushed and fermented grapes is one of Jeanine’s earliest memories of wine. She and her husband, Mick, first met working a wine harvest in Sonoma, California, and since 2013, have established themselves as revolutionaries. Jeanine’s aim is to make honest, bright wines that tell a story about the special site on which the grapes were grown. Craven Wines is best known for their Pinot Gris and Cinsault, and they also make delicious Cabernet Sauvignon. 

We recommend… Cabernet Sauvignon 2021

Genevieve Méthode  Cap Classique by Melissa Genevieve Nelsen

Genevieve MCC launched in 2010, and was inspired by Melissa’s passion for Cap Classique. Having once planned to become a pilot, these days Melissa is celebrated for her blue label Zero Dosage Blanc de Blancs, which is aged on the lees for 4 years. Produced from old Chardonnay vines in Botrivier, her sparkling wines embody an elegant, classic style. Her 2015 and 2016 Blanc de Blancs respectively earned 94 points and 93 points by Tim Atkin, and the critics couldn’t agree more.

We recommend… Genevieve Blanc de Blancs Brut 2017

Glen Heatlie by Joan Heatlie

Grenache Blanc lover, Joan Heatlie, set off on her own after working at Solms-Delta and Mullineux. The name Glen Heatlie traces its roots back to her 1880s family farm, where her great-grandfather produced Heatlie’s Brandy. Joan’s interest in winemaking was sparked when she helped out with pruning and odd vineyard jobs on the family grape and citrus farm during school holidays.

She’s best known for her Glen Heatlie, The Frontier Grenache Blanc, which garnered 4.5 stars from Platter’s Wine Guide and 90 points from Tim Atkin in 2021. Joan’s approach to winemaking is, “being respectful of terroir, regenerative vineyard management and natural vinification methods”.

We recommend… Glen Heatlie Grenache Blanc 2020

Lelie van Saron by Natasha Williams

It was Natasha’s school career counsellor who first identified that she would make an excellent winemaker, given her interests. She went on to graduate from Stellenbosch University with a degree in Oenology, did a stint in California and travelled through France before settling as a winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyards – the very place from which she sources the grapes for her personal venture, Lelie van Saron.

She started with a Chardonnay and Syrah and recently expanded her range. Natasha creates wines with a pure expression of the terroir and grape variety, using natural methods. Natasha believes that it’s best to “follow a minimal approach to winemaking – crafting wines with purity, harmony and balance.”

We recommend… Lelie van Saron Chardonnay

Momento Wines by Marelise Niemann

It may have been a ‘skelm’ glass of Tassies at a school dance, that kindled her curiosity for winemaking, but Marelise Niemann has since gone on to produce elegant and pure wines with sound structure and texture. Having cut her teeth in California, and as winemaker for Beaumont Wines, Marelise picked her first Grenache for her solo project in 2011 and then launched Momento Wines in 2013.

Working with old vines in Botriver and the Swartland, she’s recognised for her graceful wines, which place terroir front and centre. The vine on her labels is hand-drawn by her husband, artist Hennie Niemann Jnr., and depicts an old vine and various personal characters. “Above all, I set out to make wines that speak of the place they come from – wines that reflect the character and energy of the vineyard, rounded off by pure and natural winemaking in the cellar,” says Marelise.  

We recommend… Memento Grenache Noir 2020

VINEVENOM by Samantha Suddons

After completing her studies with the Cape Wine Academy, and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Samantha Suddons has gained a wealth of experience. She has since worked at prominent wineries such as Mullineux, Terracura, Silwervis, Smiley Wines and Reyneke. The latter made the greatest impression and exposed her to low-intervention, biodynamic and organic farming.

Samantha’s winemaking practices include, “exploring creative, minimal intervention winemaking that weaves together the grape’s terroir and my own unique approach, resulting in honest, individual wines”. As such, VINEVENOM produces wines from sustainably farmed vineyards, focusing on quality over quantity to express terroir. Oxidatively aged under flor yeast, her Shining Rosé is perhaps her most celebrated wine. “While this might sound ‘scary’ to some, it adds an intensity, richness and saltiness that is quite unexpected and intriguing,” says Samantha. 

We recommend… VINEVENOM Shining Rosé

Want to learn more about wine varietals, read up on Merlot, Rosé, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc, Shiraz and MCC.

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