I have known Lizelle Gerber for a number of years. Not only is she a brilliant winemaker, she makes a fine MCC, and some brilliant white wines too. She has a wonderful energy about her, is highly talented, professional, disciplined, and it is huge fun to be in her presence. She kindly answered some questions for me.
What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
I wanted a career that would bring me closer to nature, perhaps because I was not raised on a farm. Had I been, I surely would have been up to much mischief! So, during my first year after school, I felt extremely lucky to have been one of only a few women selected for a one-year stint with the South African National Defence Force (as part of the then SALVKOL, a military school for women situated in George). What an experience! Here I learned perseverance, persistence and precision, all elements that are serving me well in my current career in wine.
But it was after my year in the military, when I visited various educational institutions to find a suitable career for myself, that I became aware of the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute of Stellenbosch and its many fields of study. I had never before even considered becoming a winemaker, so that was it! Suddenly the idea gained momentum and not long after, I enrolled to study to become a winemaker. So, in all honesty, it was my total ignorance when it came to wine, that actually triggered my curiosity in this sacred liquid. I’ve been hooked ever since.
Where did you train to become a winemaker?
I studied for my degree in winemaking at the Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute of Stellenbosch.
Who would you regard as your mentor?
Jaco Potgieter, a very talented and knowledgeable winemaker I had the pleasure of working with during an earlier part of my career. My career has also been shaped substantially by what I learnt from workers in the cellar over the years.
You work with a selection of some of the world’s most noble grape varieties. Is there one other variety with which you would really like to work?
Assyrtiko, a white grape variety usually grown in Greece but perfect for our climate too. It could be very exciting to work with!
Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
I’m particularly excited about all the new technologies available to farmers to make well-informed decisions as to which varieties are best suited to a farm’s specific terroir. New, cool climate areas are being explored and already becoming well-known for the outstanding quality wines being produced in these regions. But that said, I do have a soft spot for Chardonnay and Pinot noir in all their various formats, and sparkling wine too.
You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
Changing trends and technologies keep us on our toes! Innovation and experimentation form part of our philosophy at Nederburg. We work to the mantra of discovery, with a deep-rooted belief that one can never stop learning or finding ways of doing things better.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
Most definitely France. Mendoza (Argentina) is another region I would love to explore and work in. Then, the English sparkling wines are garnering world interest, and I would really enjoy visiting a fully operational cellar there.
And what grape type would you use?
Depending on region, but probably Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Malbec, Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Noir.
I know it is a bit tricky asking a mother to choose his favourite child, but which one of your wines is your current favourite?
I’m just loving the recently released 2020 vintage of our rosé that’s a blend of Grenache (67%) and Carignan (33%). A stunning summer wine, with enough nuance and flavour, making it an absolute joy to drink.
What is your favourite style of food?
Depends on the season, but I love a good old South African braai! And oysters!!
Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Relaxed and easy-going bistro-style restaurants.
Your ideal dinner party guest. Just one. Tell me why you chose them.
I have huge admiration for Madame Veuve Clicquot – also known as the ‘Grande Dame of Champagne’ – for perfecting the art of bubbles. What a woman!
Your favourite holiday destination?
Yzerfontein, or an island breakaway.
What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
Tess Gerritsen’s medical thrillers.
One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
I’m currently working on….
Nederburg’s Manor House Chardonnay, in a style with elegant wood integration and a superior expression of varietal character. Grapes are sourced from selected vineyards with specific attention been given to terroir – focused viticulture management.
My favourite weekend getaway is….
Yzerfontein with the animal family!
Cap Classique with oysters and like most girls, dark chocolate – the darker the better!
How can a visitor contact your winery?
Telephone: 021 862 3104