Janette van Lill – Assistant Winemaker at Asara Wine Estate & Luxury Hotel….

Janette van Lill, sniffing a glass of Merlot

Janette van Lill is part of the Winemaking Team at Asara Wine Estate and Luxury Hotel. She works with Christiaan Nigrini, also an Assistant Winemaker, and Danielle le Roux. The team is producing some truly fine wines across a couple of ranges.  I asked her about herself.

Where did you train to become a winemaker?
Elsenburg Agricultural College

Danielle le Roux who heads up the winemaking team at Asara

Who would you regard as your mentor?
I have been very fortunate to have worked with big names in the industry like Albert Ahrens, Pieter Bestbier, Francois Roode and of course Bertus Fourie! But the person I regard as my mentor is Danielle le Roux!  Everything she does is for her love of wine.  She has an amazing knowledge and is always humble.

Pinot Noir Grapes, ripening on the vine

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 there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
A Cape white blend…watch this space!

You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
I think in winemaking one can never know everything, one is always learning. Even every vintage is different and is already a challenge for a wine maker; there is no defined recipe.  So, there is always a thrive and passion to explore the unknown!

Janette with Danielle le Roux & Christiaan Nigrini

If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
Phew… this is a hard one!  But after much consideration, a mental trip around the world and listening to my heart …my dream destination still brings me back to South Africa.  So if I must choose one destination in South Africa, I’ll choose my home town…Durbanville. There I can work with a variety of my dream cultivars like, as previously mentioned, Pinot noir!  Chardonnay, Chenin blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinotage, Merlot and Malbec…just to name a few.  A terroir so special with fertile soils and a cool sea breeze.  Ideal for quality grapes.

Merlot Grapes – photo by Dusan Jeloc

And what grape type would you use?
Well…after all of the cultivars named above, I would like to start with Chardonnay and Pinot noir to make the MCC I have always been dreaming of.  Then, I want to make an amazing Pinot Gris.   I think this terroir has so much potential for this cultivar!!  And I feel very strong and driven to make an extraordinary Merlot!  This valley has shown excellent examples and I want to make one of my own.

Asara Pinotage Rosé 2017

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?
My colleague’s and my special project… The Asara Vineyard Collection Pinotage Rosé 2017

Your greatest bottle of wine ever? [And you can’t say one of your own!]
A Domaine Paul Pillot, Clos Saint Jean 1999

Do you enjoy cooking to show your wines off at their best or do you leave that to others?
I immensely enjoy cooking and planning menus. So it is always a pleasure to do a menu with our wines.

Herbed Rack of Lemon

If yes what do you enjoying cooking most?
My favourite dish is a herb crusted lamb rack with a red wine jus served along with a red onion and olive quiche and an interesting summer salad.

What is your favourite style of food?

Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
Fine dining!  My mother always told us when we went out for dinner to try something new.  Don’t eat something you can have at home.

Maria Callas

Your ideal dinner party table of 6. Tell me why you chose them.
Maria Callas… And maybe she’ll sing Un bel di vedremo and we’ll talk about the production of the Carmen production she never did…
My father…and he’ll conduct Carmen when it is in production
My dearest mother…always the supportive and loving wife and supreme example
My recently departed “second mother”, darling Tannie Roelien
My Oumas… at 86 & 87, and still going strong… I don’t think I need to say more!
I know this is number 7, but somebody needs to cook right?  So my dream chef is Jan-Hendrik van der Westhuizen of the Michelin starred restaurant in Nice.  But he can just join, I think he’ll love the company!  My husband and I will cook. We are keen on trying new dishes and entertaining

Your favourite holiday destination?
South Africa’s South Coast

What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
Besides Habakkuk 3, the most recent Food & Home Entertaining.

Sergei Rachmaninov

One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
Probably one of the most challenging questions…Since classical music has been the one thing that has had the biggest impact on my life (both my parents are music teachers)…it is hard to make a decision.  I mean Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto Nr.1, Madama Butterfly and La Bohéme, La Traviata, Bruch’s Violin Concerto’s, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto to name a few.  But, I would probably go with Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.3.

I’m currently working on….
Asara Cape White Blend

My favourite weekend getaway is….
Franschhoek.  Bubbles & Trout – need I say more…

Jane-Anne Hobbs’s Gin-Cured Salmon Gravadlax with Crisped Capers

Guilty Pleasures?

How can a visitor contact your winery?
Telephone 021 888 800
Email winery-info@asara.co.za

Read more about Asara – https://www.asara.co.za