August is South African Women’s Month, a time when we reflect on the journey of women’s rights and collectively celebrate the women making their mark in our country. At Winecellar.co.za, it’s an opportunity to honour leading women in wine by shining a spotlight on their craft – and who better to do so than the country’s foremost experts on fine wine, with a team that includes respected industry professionals and judges. Not only is Wine Cellar best placed to introduce fine wine lovers to leading South African and European producers, but also to support SA’s rising stars.
From zero dosage Cap Classique to low intervention and regenerative farming practices, these six women are winemakers to watch. To pay tribute to them and highlight their work, Wine Cellar has hand-picked and included a bottle of each of their wines in this month’s Women Winemaker Insiders’ Case and asked them, “What defines your approach to winemaking?”
LELIE VAN SARON BY NATASHA WILLIAMS
“I follow a minimal approach to winemaking – crafting wines with purity, harmony and balance.”
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 winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyards in 2014. It’s here that 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.
GLEN HEATLIE BY JOAN HEATLIE
“Being respectful of terroir, regenerative vineyard management and natural vinification methods.”
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. As a child, 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.
VINEVENOM BY SAMANTHA SUDDONS
“I explore creative, minimal intervention winemaking that weaves together the grape’s terroir and my own unique approach resulting in honest, individual wines.”
After completing her studies with the Cape Wine Academy and the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Samantha gained a wealth of experience with prominent wineries, including Mullineux, Terracura, Silwervis, Smiley Wines and Reyneke. The latter made the greatest impression, exposing her to low intervention, biodynamic and organic farming. As such, VineVenom produces wines from sustainably farmed vineyards, focusing on quality over quantity to express terroir. Oxidatively aged under flor, 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,” she says.
CRAVEN WINES BY JEANINE CRAVEN
“Wine is made in the vineyard – and should speak of where it comes from.”
This sentiment certainly reflects Jeanine Craven’s site-specific, hands-off winemaking style. She visited the wine co-op as a child with her father to deliver grapes, and the aroma of crushed and fermenting 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 have, since 2013, gone on to establish themselves as revolutionaries. Best known for their Pinot Gris and Cinsault, Jeanine’s aim is to make honest, bright wines that tell a story about the special site on which the grapes were grown.
MOMENTO WINES BY MARELISE NIEMANN
“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.”
It may have been “a skelm glass of Tassies at a school dance” that kindled her curiosity for winemaking, but Marelise Niemann has 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 hand-drawn vine on her labels is by husband and artist Hennie Niemann Jnr and depicts an old vine and various personal characters.
GENEVIEVE MÉTHODE CAP CLASSIQUE BY MELISSA GENEVIEVE NELSEN
“Working with great vineyards that allow the fruit to express itself in the wine; fine character and minimal intervention.”
These are the markings of Genevieve Méthode Cap Classique which 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. The critics agree, with Tim Atkin awarding her 2015 and 2016 Blanc de Blancs 94 points and 93 points, respectively.
Support women winemakers and order your WineCellar.co.za Women Winemaker Insiders’ Case here this Women’s Month.
About Wine Cellar
Wine Cellar is South Africa’s finest online wine merchant, delivering fine wine throughout the country. Specialising in sourcing fine local and international wines and offering specialised wine storage facilities in Observatory, Cape Town, the team regularly hosts benchmark wine tastings in Cape Town, Johannesburg and Stellenbosch, including their fun and much-loved Young Guns™ event.
Wine Cellar also hosts private and corporate tastings with the option to create and tailor your own. Wine Cellar not only offers clients access to the best South African and European wines, but also introduces them to exciting new producers and rising stars on the scene. The team includes the most knowledgeable people in the wine industry and is always happy to provide personal recommendations, whether you’re a newbie, a seasoned taster or somewhere in between. The team is led by wine aficionado James Pietersen. Jolette Steyn heads up sales and imports and together their passionate staff hold decades of fine wine experience.
About James Pietersen, CEO of Wine Cellar
James, CEO of Wine Cellar, was enticed into the world of wine while studying law at the University of Stellenbosch. An encounter with some Château Lynch-Bages 1982 led to an epiphany and a life-long journey in wine ensued. His 25 years of experience in the SA wine industry includes retail, wine buying and working as Head Sommelier for a leading restaurant group. As a professional wine taster, he also has experience with Platter’s Wine Guide (since 2007), Winemag.co.za, Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show, and as Panel Chair for the Standard Bank Chenin Blanc Challenge. Few pundits taste more wines than him.