Christiaan Nigrini is such a likeable young man, so dedicated to what he is doing as part of the Asara Winemaking Team. Last year he spent the harvest in the Douro Valley in Northern Portugal.
What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
I grew up on a sheep farm about 40 km outside Beaufort West, so from a young age I knew the agriculture sector was for me. I never wanted to farm, but I wanted to create something with my hands. And here I am a young gun in the wine industry trying to work his way to the top. Making wine is not a job for me, for me it’s being an artist without paint, but with grapes.
Where did you train to become a winemaker?
I had the pleasure of studying B.Agric at Elsenburg under the guidance of Lorraine, I obtained my degree in 2016.
There are many people that I regard as a mentor for me, but one of them I have to mention. Danielle le Roux. I have learnt so much from her in these past months. Let’s be honest, I’m a young guy fresh from Elsenburg and she just welcomed me in knowing that I do not have all the experience, that is why I regard her as my number one mentor.
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?
I get excited when someone mentions varieties from Provence, Southern Rhône and Burgundy. Cinsault, Pinot noir I would love to work with these varieties one day.
Christiaan tasting his Gamay
Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
Well we do have a block of Gamay noir on Asara, and I was fortunate enough to make one barrel of wine from that block this year. So yes, I would love to make wine from that block, a light style that will pack a punch.
You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
My family and some of my friends will agree with what I’m about to say, I don’t always play by the book, and rules are somewhat meant to be broken (bend). In my eye’s this is what some of the winemakers in South Africa are doing. They are working with the grapes going natural fermented, unfiltered wine and it is amazing. One last thing, those new style wines are the true reflection of the painting that the artist created during its life time in the cellar.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
O tricky question… well high up on my wine bucket list is Provence (I’m a full on Rosé fanatic) Southern Rhône and Burgundy are on the list too, but for now it’s the Douro Valley in Portugal.
And what grape type would you use?
Verdelho would be the white variety and Touriga Naçional would be the red variety.
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?
I tend to enjoy older wine a bit more the younger wine, that’s why I would choose for red them Asara Bell Tower 2012 and for white the Asara Vineyard Collection Chenin blanc 2015. Both these wines are so bold but gentle.
Your greatest bottle of wine ever? [And you can’t say one of your own!]
This is surely the most difficult question anyone can ask me. I’ve had the privilege of tasting truly wonderful wines from South Africa, Portugal and France in my sort life in the wine industry. I have to admit that I have not found or drank that one special wine. I guess I’ll just have to explore more wine regions in the world.
Do you enjoy cooking to show your wines off at their best or do you leave that to others?
If you count baking eggs and microwaving pre-cooked meals then yes, I do cook. I’m just kidding, I’m not big on cooking but when I do I enjoy a bottle of wine with my meal.
If yes what do you enjoying cooking most?
I would have to go for something plain, like a chicken breast with some veggies and chips.
Malva, the iconic Sunday Lunch Pudding
What is your favourite style of food?
That Sunday Lunch is my favourite style of food. Vleis, rys en aartappels met die Malva Poeding wat in die oond staan en wag om geëet te word.
Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Those laid-back restaurants, because you can be who you are. Don’t need to suit up and be pretentious or anything, you can enjoy your meal knowing no one will judge you.
Your ideal dinner party table of 6, tell me why you chose them.
I will invite four people, both my grandmothers that’s still alive and then my grandfathers that passed away when I was young. I would have a deep conversation with them, get to know them and try to understand why I am the men I am today.
For 22 years we as a family have been going to the same destination and that is Hartenbos. I will forever go back to Hartenbos due to the sentimental value.
What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
Hehe, I still have some information about Chateau Petrus on my side table and then at the foot of my bed is my 2016 class notes from Elsenburg. I try and do a bit of revision every other day to keep myself on track.
One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
A song that near my heart and my friends will agree with that, Wait (Kygo remix).
An Asara French oak barrel
I’m currently working on….
I’m currently working on the Gamay noir barrel that I made just experimenting with it.
My favourite weekend getaway is….
Definitely the Karoo, and by that, I mean Beaufort West. The thunderstorm in the summer and then the cold winters, it’s like a spa to me. So many great and wonderful things that I can tell about the Karoo, sunsets, the stars at night.
You know that one takeaway shop we all love in a town, that’s my guilty pleasure finding the perfect takeaway shop and ordering from them. The food is so unhealthy but I love it.
One day, I will….
Have my own label that truly reflects who I am in life and what I stand for.
How can a visitor contact your winery?
Easy, visit us on our website at www.asara.co.za
email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contact our tasting room 021 888 8033.
My email is email@example.com