I spend 5 minutes with Matthew Copeland, the Award Winning Winemaker at Vondeling Wines in the Voor Paardeberg Wine Appellation, to find out the back story…
What was the defining moment in your life that set you on the path of becoming a winemaker?
In 1997 I took up an apprenticeship in Organic Winemaking in Geneva, Switzerland. I was in love with a Swiss a girl and only 20 years old at the time. The girl didn’t last, but I happily lost my heart to wine making instead.
Where did you train to become a winemaker?
My very first harvest took place in Aix en Provence and I’d like to believe that most of my training was done in some of the finest wine producing regions of the world. After my debut in France and Switzerland I chased the sun across the equator, working vintages in Barossa, Australia then Sonoma, California and back to Switzerland. In between I mostly drank beer in Zimbabwe. It was a charmed life, but fortunately I realised that the game was becoming quite serious and in order to secure a decent future in the industry, I’d need a formal scientific and microbial qualification. I started at Elsenburg in 2000.
Who would you regard as your mentors?
Charles Hopkins and Frank Meaker spring to mind. They’ve remained humble professionals throughout their long careers and are always happy to give a young winemaker a helping hand. That said, I seem to learn fastest when I bump my head. I’ve bumped heads with several people and thank them, without naming them, for their kind assistance.
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?
The enfant terrible, Merlot, is a favourite but very hard to make. Chenin is my absolute love!
Is there another wine you would like to make in your cellar with the varieties available to you there?
We’re planning to release a Barrel Selection of straight Chenin in 2020.
You seem to be quite innovative with new wine styles – what leads you there?
We’re blessed with a dynamic farm and a lot of variety. Every year I experiment with different techniques and some of them work their way onto the shelf.
If you could choose anywhere in the world to make wine other than where you are now, where would it be?
I’d like to try my hand at a more temperate coastal area, but definitely remain local.
And what grape type would you use?
Chenin and Pinotage!
I know it is a bit tricky asking a father to choose his favourite child, but which one of your wines, Matthew Copeland is your current favourite?
Babiana. [Babiana is a blend of 64% Chenin Blanc, 19% Viognier, 8.5% Roussanne & 8.5% Grenache Blanc]
Your greatest bottle of wine ever?
Chateau Haut-Brion 1996 about 8yrs back. Great wine, lovely little restaurant in London. Really blew me away and opened my eyes to the potential of Merlot based blends
Do you enjoy cooking to show your wines off at their best or do you leave that to others?
Sadly, the cooking is best left to my wife who robbed me of any illusions I may have harboured about my culinary skills very soon after we met.
If yes what do you enjoying cooking most?
I do cook a wonderful Durban curry!
What is your favourite style of food?
I enjoy Asian, but sadly don’t have a very good knowledge
Your best style of restaurant, you enjoy visiting? Why?
The beauty of Indian food is the variety and feast-like way of eating a meal.
Your favourite holiday destination?
Durban, A different curry style and place every day. [Matthew obviously loves curry!]
What is on your bedside table as reading matter at the moment?
A bit of Lee Child mind pulp after three long weeks at the auditing table
One piece of music you would take with you to a desert island?
Reggae, probably LKJ
I’m currently working on…. A single variety oak matured Chenin Blanc
My favourite weekend getaway is…. Langebaan
One day, I will…. Climb a very tall mountain
How can a visitor contact your winery?
Ring us or visit us via Facebook