The busiest season of the year has arrived for the wine industry. As I enter the gates of the award-winning winery De Grendel, I notice a buzz in the air that can only mean harvest is already underway.
Morgan Steyn, assistant winemaker at De Grendel, tells me they have already harvested Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes for the MCC and is well on its way into first fermentation. Morgan insists that as busy this time can get this is the very best time to show a fellow oenophile around the cellar explaining terms and processes with such ease.
Born and bred in Riversdale, Morgan’s exposure to agriculture growing up in the small town is what spurred him on to oenology and viticulture. Comparing his journey to grapes on the vine maturing into a ripe bunch ready for the picking makes the analogy so fitting.
Q: What has surprised you most about being a winemaker?
MS: Every season and every year is different with its own set of challenges to tackle. This for me, makes winemaking interesting. The amount of knowledge available in the industry and how forthright people are to share this knowledge is one thing that has surprised me.
Q: What do you find to be the most challenging part of harvest?
MS: Harvest is an exciting time but it does come with many challenges. Each harvest has its own set of challenges.
Q: Who do you admire most in the fascinating vast world of wine?
MS: The person I admire the most in the industry is the winemaker I work alongside currently, Charles Hopkins. His passion for winemaking and his drive to give back to the industry is extremely admirable. He has a deep understanding in winemaking techniques to produce quality wine and also what goes into brand marketing and sales in order to run a successful business.
Q: Have you noticed any changes to the crops recently in respect of climate change? How do you adapt to those changes?
MS: Generally, people do not want to believe in climate change and how it realistically affects us all. Recently in the past few weeks alone, we’ve experienced an unusual temperature and weather fluctuation in the province with sometimes four seasons all in one week. Another indication of how climate change has affected us, is that we are harvesting earlier this year as opposed to past seasons.
Q: What don’t people know about you?
MS: My passion for agriculture is what inspired me to apply for a bursary to successfully study oenology and viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch. After graduating at my alma mater, I spent time in Burgundy working as an intern learning all sorts of interesting winemaking techniques and helping to put theory into practice is what helped shaped me as a young winemaker.
Q: What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?
MS: As a young assistant winemaker, I have many goals that I still want to achieve. Right now I am focused on absorbing as much knowledge and experience as possible and to perfect the basics in making quality wine.
Q: What do you like most about the wine industry?
MS: How everyone in the industry has a different way, a different technique for doing things in the cellar to the vineyard. Most notably how a bottle can tell you a thousand stories when it’s full, the same bottle of wine can tell you just as much when it’s empty too. Another thing that fascinates me is seeing consumers describe and enjoy the experience of consuming that bottle of wine, interpreting what they taste, see and smell. It’s a privilege knowing we worked hard to carefully craft and nurture what it is in that bottle.