I was visiting the Delaire Graff Estate about a year ago, on a fact finding mission really to taste the current wines, look at the new innovations on the Estate and to have a meal at the fine Delaire Graff Restaurant. Johann Laubser, the GM, very kindly arranged for a serious wine tasting with Riaan Schemper, the Assistant Winemaker to Morné Vrey who is responsible for the Estate’s Wines.
What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
I wouldn’t say it was a straightforward moment, I had done two harvests as summer work in Wellington where I grew up. Trust me there is nothing about harvest work that’s alluring. It’s blood sweat and tears. What totally did it for me was the idea of putting your hard work into a touchable, taste-able, physical form, and capturing a moment in a bottle. That idea truly is what captivates me about wine.
Where did you train to become a winemaker?
I didn’t have a formal education in ine making. I was fortunate enough, through hard work, dedication and self-learning to work my way into the industry.
Who would you regard as your mentor?
I would see myself having a few mentors, people that I have met and befriended on my journey in wine, but right now, I do definitely consider Morné Vrey a mentor. When you work with Wine Makers gifted like him, you cannot pass up the chance to try and absorb all you can.
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?
Pinot Noir is up on my list and I’d love to have the chance to work with Riesling again.
Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
I’d really love to delve into some Blanc de Blanc. I enjoy the MCC we currently make, bubbles are great. But we have some amazing Bordeaux varieties on site, and I am so happy just refining my skill and time with them.
You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
I think really more than innovation, it’s the pursuit of making the best with what’s provided, and with Morné and Delaire, we really have found what works, so it’s more of doing some Classics, with an innovative approach, and constantly refining and perfecting our range of wine.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
I fell in love with Germany, and the time I spent doing harvests there. It always got a soft spot, but that being said, doing a Harvest in Bordeaux, left bank if I had a choice!
And what grape type would you use?
If in Germany, Riesling without a doubt, and Bordeaux, well its self-explanatory
I know it is a bit tricky asking a father to choose his favourite child, but which one of your wines is your current favourite?
Right now my favourite must be our fairly new The Banghoek Red Blend. I really can’t get enough of the perfumed expression that Cabernet Franc brings to the table. It really excites me!
Your greatest bottle of wine ever
I very recently had the honour of tasting a 1978 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, that tops my list as of now. I can only hope that the future holds many more moments like that.
What is your favourite style of food?
I’m a bit of a sucker for Italian Cuisine, but I really love my food, so picking one style really is tough.
Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
No corkage is a style I love! But honestly a comfortable, relaxed vibe, great food, almost something smart casual is my kind of place.
Your favourite holiday destination?
It would be Scotland, because my brother resides there. However, Madagascar and South America are on my list of next new destinations.
What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
12 Rules For Life, by Jordan B Peterson
My favourite weekend getaway is….
Wine farms. I really love spending free time, just absorbing myself in what the winelands has to offer with friends.
Pretty simple, food and wine/beer
How can a visitor contact your winery?
Telephone: 021 885 8160