After living and studying in the Cape Winelands, and travels to some of the planet’s other exciting wine regions, I’m yet to find something not to love about the world of wine.
From the first hours spent poring over The World Atlas of Wine during quiet shifts at the tiny local wine store, between Oenology classes at the University of Stellenbosch, I was hooked. Then, harvests with three outstanding winemakers (Lukas Van Loggerenberg, Chris Alheit and De Morgenzon’s Carl van der Merwe) sealed the deal.
It was during my second harvest, while studying for WSET3 and tasting incredible wines from all over the world, that I got it: every vineyard has its own story to share! And I was blown away by the Syrahs of the Northern Rhone – from Cornas to the Cote Rotie – with all their distinctive nuances. Right then, I knew I wanted to focus on making Syrah and use its elegant power to showcase South African terroir, especially in the Cape’s under-appreciated cooler climate vineyards. (An obsession that’s going to take more than one lifetime.)
Interning with Lukas van Loggerenberg as he made his legendary wines from a shed in Stellenbosch’s Devon Valley, showed me that making really good wine is mostly about working with good grapes … and good people. So after harvest, I spent every cent I’d ever earned on the best fruit I could afford, rented a bit of cellar space at the University’s historic Welgevallen Cellar and, with the generosity of some very special wine farming friends, borrowed the equipment to make a small batch.
I’d just come out of a long episode of depression and, strangely, even when I felt totally numbed out and nothing else made sense, great wines could still reach me. So calling it Stars In the Dark made sense and bottling it with my family, on my 21st birthday, was the best beginning I could ask for.
I’m sure I’m not the only winemaker who gets attached to my grapes but, once they’re in barrel, they get a name. For fun I chalked Thunderbirds Are Go! on my first barrel of Stars In The Dark and somehow it stuck. That’s why there’s a little rocket on every Minimalist Wines cork and, once it’s popped, the journey to the vineyard begins!